Former NBC Entertainment Chief Discovers Watching TV With Commercials Really Sucks!

Categories: 1-Featured,TV Business

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April 23rd, 2012

The same NYT piece that was surprised by spring ratings declines did yield a revealing (and amusing) quote from former NBC entertainment chief Jeff Gaspin.

After watching earlier seasons of The Walking Dead on Netflix, iTunes and recorded on his DVR he caught up and watched an episode live and had this reaction:

“We watched that live,” he said. “It was not nearly as good. The commercials broke the tension. We had watched the other episodes with blankets over our heads. I hate to say this to the AMC executives and everybody else in the business, but I will never watch ‘Walking Dead’ live again.”

So, when you're running the entertainment business for an ad supported broadcast network, ads are just fine! But when you're a viewer, they're not?

Film at 11!

Tip for Mr. Gaspin: Pause a one hour live show for about 20 minutes when it starts and then you can watch the rest without commercials. Take that extra 20 minutes to bone up on other electronic wizardry from the 21st century!

  • Hoose

    Oh, but I could watch that new Mustang commercial all day long. :drool:

  • Kyle7

    I figured out the “wait until 8/18 minutes into the show (comedy/drama) before starting” trick on my own a long time ago. When I feel like skipping commercials, that is; I usually don’t wait on 8 pm shows since I often finish dinner at about 8 and don’t feel like killing that little time.

    Product placement is a mixed bag for me. When it’s appropriate and not in-your-face, such as someone drinking a Pepsi or eating Cheerios without really commenting on it, I tend to not mind. Characters going on and on about features of their new car sticks out like a sore thumb. Hoose, I agree that comedies or dramedies can get away with blatant product placement easier because they can make fun of it (the early 30 Rock bit about Snapple comes to mind, as does Chuck with Subway). It’s hard to be entertained by Fringe lingering about 5 seconds longer than necessary on the giant Sprint logo on everyone’s phones, however.

  • Bill Gorman

    “Was there a reason why the Fringe experiment of extending the show to 50 mins and have one sponsor for the whole show didn’t work?”

    It worked, and it didn’t work.

    Viewers did watch more of the commercials, but Fox was unable to get advertisers to pay more for what was watched to make up for the lost ad time.

  • Rebecca

    Usually with something like OUAT or Grimm, we start watching about 15 minutes after it starts (20 would work better) so we can fast forward through commercials while the show is recording. You still see a couple seconds of each commercial (our “commercial skip” button on the remote doesn’t work any more, so FF has to suffice) and if there’s one we WANT to see we’ll stop and watch it. Otherwise this helps to watch good shows (the ones you don’t want to lose any momentum, with breaks) essentially commercial free.

  • One @ Hoose

    But they would need you to respond to EVERY commercial that way. Flip to me for a second – video game advertisers LOVE me, but no one else does…

  • edward2012

    I DVR all my shows if its one hour I start it about 18 minutes after it starts so I can fastforward it and if its half an hour I wait 10 minutes

  • SMP Belltown

    Personally, I think that watching commercials now is a lot more entertaining than it was in the past. Although most commercials are still overplayed and uninteresting, there’s usually at least one commercial or two an hour during the shows that I watch that I find to be really watchable, even if the product isn’t something I plan to purchase anytime soon. (Which counts as successful product branding, I guess.)

    For instance, there’s currently a :60 spot out there for Bahrain Airlines and an AmEx spot for the Main Street campaign that are both really beautiful little films, I think. So for me anyway, commercials aren’t something that I totally dread these days.

  • Hoose @ One

    I agree, but one thing I have figured out is that it’s not so much that I hate commercials, it’s seeing the same one over and over again during one show (Once again, Mustang being the exception and Mass Effect 3). I didn’t realize it until I watched an episode of House online that got preempted here. The same exact commercial came on at every break. I’m pretty sure it was a dog food commercial, and by the end I wanted to strangle the poor animal.

    Surprised that DVR manufacturers haven’t implemented a similar system to online viewing where the commercials are forced on. (With a little payoff under the table from advertisers of course). It’d be real easy for Dish, Directv and cable companies to all get on the same page.

  • Fringe Fan

    Been saying this for a long time but it’s nice to see someone who was once on the other side of the problem finally seeing what viewers have known for years. There is soon going to be no place for an advertisement supported method of entertainment. There are too many other (and better) options for watching your favourite shows to even consider planning your day around watching an episode live. Why would you want to a) sit down at a specific time and b) waste fifteen or more minutes of an hour watching ads you don’t care about when you can sit down and watch the same show whenever you like without those same ads? It makes no sense that people would choose to do that.

    Ad supported television networks have got to change with the times or they’re going to be left behind like the dinosaurs they currently appear to be. Nielsen ratings are pretty soon going to become obsolete.

  • Richard Bauer

    yet another clueless, out of touch NBC employee, or former employee. what a rotten network.

  • KattyKit

    I DVR everything and, if for some reason it fails or I miss it, I watch it ‘On Demand’. THAT is great! You can’t fast forward them anymore, but most are chopped down to one 10/15 second commercial every other break. Perfect! Those actually say they’re 43 minutes, which makes the show a bit shorter. That’s pathetic!!

    If I’m watching an hour show, I expect it to be nearer an hour than a half!

    Also, product placement annoys the bejeezus out of me! NO! I do NOT want to see my people from White Collar, Psych, Fairly Legal, Royal Pains (all USA shows aka NBC network), or even Community, Bones, or Knight Rider (during it’s short life) talk about how “neat” whoever’s car is, etc, while they’re traveling somewhere and so on. Seriously??? Putting your lame car in a tv show and having the poor actors waste precious minutes discussing it is NOT going to make me want to go spend thousands and thousands of dollars and the next 3-6 years of my life buying one!

    Come on!!

  • Bill Gorman

    “yet another clueless, out of touch NBC employee, or former employee. what a rotten network.”

    Always easy to single out NBC (and we do!), but my guess is that other network execs might not be that different.

  • Fleur

    Wonder if he liked the pop-ups. I hate, hate, hate those things, and the stupid logos (although this ‘go green’ week they were okay). Why oh why do they have to exist? (especially the pop ups). I wonder if people who work at networks enjoy watching their own channels, pop-ups, logos, ads and all.

  • Andrea

    Yeah, reading that was funny. Guess Gaspin won’t be heading another network anytime soon!

  • Lamdog

    Sorry to write some of these commercials are bordering on pure genius.

  • Matt

    Jay, they already do product placement. Why do you think all the vehicles in some shows are only one brand?

    It’s honestly hard to do product placement and not have it suck so hard. (see Bone’s failed attempts at clever Toyota banter). I prefer the method Comcast uses with certain on-demand programming- Forced commericals (FF disabled) but half as many, averaging 2-3 per break. Reduce ad space, increase content, increase value of ads. boom. solved.

  • Kevin

    Lol I agree. I don’t even remember the last time I’ve watched live tv. Everything I watch is through the DVR.

  • Joseph

    It won’t work for serious drama shows, but comedy shows could take a page from Jack Benny and do “integrated” commercials that are technically a part of the show (but also would be done in such a way that they could be removed for syndicated reruns without ruining the continuity of the show.

    Such commercials can be very entertaining.

    But all-in-all, perhaps the commercials need to be better and more interesting/entertaining.

  • Jonas

    Well from the sounds of these comments, it seems like even people with satellite TV don’t watch commercials anymore.

    But until Ad companies realize it’s become an ineffective marketing practice and decide to stop forking out money to Ad supported networks, the network execs might as well keep producing shows catered to the Ad companies desires (the 18-49 dem).

    Now once commercial supported shows stop being financially plausible(and with DVR’s & the Internet it will inevitably happen); I would like to see TV shows become available via a system like Apple’s itunes or like what Xbox has with XBLA. Where you pay for what you want. So then the viewer really has a ‘vote’ on whether the show is renewed or not.

  • Sports Preemption

    Two things. One, you guys overplay the death of live television too much. You have to take into account the audience you’re dealing with. We are all avid television watchers, making it one of our premier forms of entertainment, and thus will plan around and take time out of our day to put television shows into our schedule.

    The average person doesn’t have a list of shows they will actively consume online, disregarding all others. Most people just have channels they like to watch or just turn the TV on and try to find something that catches their eye. The number of random eyeballs versus the number of focused viewers skews heavily to the random IMO. Old people and working people don’t necessarily have the technological savvy to do the online viewing, and not everyone has a DVR. People just cone home, plop down, and turn on the television. They are passive and not active viewers.

    Second, DVR with forced commercials isn’t DVR. It’s just On Demand. I don’t think there is any way a company can get away with removing the basic functionality of the DVR system in order to further target ads to the viewers. There’d be an immediate and significant backlash. DVR functions as a VCR would, and you’d be darned if you had some company tell you what you could and couldn’t fast forward and rewind through. The best they could do is replace DVR with Instant On Demand, but people would still clamor for the need of DVR for the ability to rewind live television and record live events with potential overruns or limited On Demand viability, such as sports.

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