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!

  • Justin

    In a related story, The Sun is Hot.

  • ToXiX


    Lmfao @ swiffer

  • Fringe Fan

    Sports Preemption, no one is denying that things are exactly as you say at the moment. The older generation of television viewers and those that simply don’t particularly care about what they watch are a significant enough portion of the audience to maintain the status quo right now. That won’t be the case ten years from now though. As technology improves and as more and more people become used to its presence, there will be fewer and fewer people who treat television the way that you suggest. I mean, how many of today’s teenagers do you really think aren’t already treating DVR and online viewing as the normal state of affairs? That won’t suddenly change when they join the work force. In fact, they will likely depend on it all the more.

    Technology doesn’t allow for stagnation, certainly not for very long. There was a time when the VCR seemed like something that the majority of people would never take to, and now it’s an out of date piece of machinery that most people who still own one keep in a cupboard to watch old tapes, when they have the desire. One way or another, DVR tech and online resources will soon become the way that television shows are consumed by the vast majority, and if the networks take too long to figure that out, they will cease to exist. I’ve absolutely no doubt about that.

  • Jon

    I’ve given up on just about ALL tv ‘drama’ (NCIS & Person of Interest are the only exceptions). Commercials just make them unwatchable. If they are good enough to last for a 3-4 seasons THEN I’ll go rent the dvd’s.

    It’s even worse if you’re FOX, those fools don’t let you fast forward commercials with ‘on demand’ services. Results: – I’ve stopped watching shows on FOX.

  • JJ

    You draw a false picture of Jeff Gaspin. He was one of the driving forces behind Hulu, and served on their board, and he’s been on top of technological advances in TV for a couple of decades. Seems he was saying to fellow tv execs, “Hey, if commercials even bug ME, you’d better rethink your strategy.” As opposed to having a eureka moment 5 years after the rest of us.

  • Potato

    I like product placement much better than characters going out of their way NOT to say what brand they’re using or the production team making a fake one. That takes me out of the show.

  • Bill Gorman

    “Seems he was saying to fellow tv execs, “Hey, if commercials even bug ME, you’d better rethink your strategy.” As opposed to having a eureka moment 5 years after the rest of us.”

    No chance.

    Had the article been about the ad supported TV business model being called into question, and “what are we going to do about it?” I could *almost* see making that big stretch, but given the context and the quotes he just sounds like a chucklehead.

  • SarahL

    I have to say that I am the opposite of the DVR anti-commercial crowd here. I don’t know how you stand waiting to watch your favorite shows. I am all about instant gratification so I watch everything live. I have little or no patience and refuse to wait one minute to watch my favorite shows. I count down the minutes until Eureka, Grimm, etc. come on. The commercials are minor inconveniences to me.

  • The Big Toe

    The Walking Dead is an okay show, and I do agree about the commercials, but if they cut out the commercials, the show would be rated TV-MA, and I don’t like TV-MA shows

  • sofaspud

    Funny that Gaspin singles out THE WALKING DEAD given his background with Hulu. TWD is one of the shows that is unavailable on Hulu or Hulu-Plus. I was doing the DVR trick a long time ago (close to 10 years I figure) and was always worried cable would bow to ad pressure and disable the FF feature. Then online streaming took big steps forward and I’ve spent most of the last year or two watching exclusively online. Buh-bye to my monthly $150 cable bill. I think broadcast and cable channels will eventually go on-demand streaming and hopefully without commercials.

    BTW, a Hulu Plus subscription ($8/mo) still comes with commercial interruption.

  • Rebecca

    But what’s cool about Hulu (adding to what @sofaspud said) – and it might just be with Hulu Plus but I’m not sure – is that sometimes before your show streams it’ll come up with options for you to pick, such as whether you want to see a full trailer/preview for “x” movie and then see your whole show commercial free after that (I always pick that option even if I don’t care about the movie). Or you pick from amongst two or three commercials for the same product, and it times out and picks one for you if you don’t choose one. Usually while the commercials are on, I’m on another screen checking my email or other sites anyway, unless the ad really interests or amuses me. I got hulu to remove a certain commercial from its lineup once, back when they showed a graphic (violent) video game ad during Last Man Standing – I told them I considered it to be a family show and it’s not good to suddenly have a graphic video game ad (along the lines of Grand Theft Auto but not that one) play and all I can do is turn down the volume and have my 6 yr old look away from the screen since you can’t skip ads. She wanted to see the family show starring the guy who does the voice of Buzz Lightyear, and it’s usually “okay” for her. A few emails back and forth from Hulu, to determine which ad it was exactly, and the ad was gone. Not while watching the show that one time, of course, but later. I almost dropped cable entirely recently, ready for just streaming shows online instead – but the hulu plus service on the Wii doesn’t let you watch all the shows they have available (Off Their Rockers and 30R, for example, are “web only”). But in that instance you can hook your laptop up to the TV and watch it that way, through the site on your computer but on the TV screen. Certain members of the household didn’t want to just sit in front of the computer screen and watch their shows – they wanted to relax comfortably in the living room with the big TV screen and see the shows there, which is why we STILL pay $20 or whatever it is for the most basic of cable services (networks and PBS only, to get reception and now the digital quality, or else the channels wouldn’t appear at all and we don’t want an antenna). Plus the $8 for hulu+, and the $18 or whatever it is for Netflix (and while a lot is available for streaming, a lot of things are still just “disc only”). If anything, I’d still drop the cable some day if the other adult in this HH would approve, and only pay for hulu plus and Netflix. It’s the wave of the future, lol.

  • Geordiegirl1967

    @Jay S
    House set the standard for product placement earlier this season when they actually had two characters riding in a Ford and commenting on what an awesome car it was. It wasn’t done as a joke, either.

    Product placement may not be the answer for the networks but we’re going to be seeing a lot more of it anyway.

    Didn’t see that but it can’t have been as toe-curlingly embarrassing as the Subway scene in Hawaii 50. They had a whole scene around discussing the fillings, the freshness, the variety, the low price. It had absolutely zero to do with the plot. I couldnt believe my eyes. White Collar has done some blatant car ads too.

  • sofaspud

    @ Rebecca

    Not to hijack the thread, but I’m mostly content with my choice to drop cable and only pay for highspeed wireless, hulu-plus and Netflix. Everything is pretty much covered, and with H+, you can still watch on the big screen if you get a Roku ($50 one time, very easy install) and stream Netflix as well as pickup other streaming sites. I miss about 5 shows, but I can wait for the discs or let them go. Frankly, with a show like “Walking Dead”, I much prefer to watch all the episodes in a mini-marathon than weekly.

    BTW, Hulu+ does not offer everything that hulu does (web only) which they say is contractual. And I seldom get the option to choose a 2 min commercial upfront for none later, but when I do I say hells yeah. That’s time enough for me to go get a beer form the fridge. ;)

  • RexCraigo

    I would never, ever watch a commercial. Not a chance, ever.

  • Rebecca

    Yeah, I would miss the Ellen show since I watch daily and there are only clips online and not full shows. And I wouldn’t see important local news as it happens….but otherwise I’d be okay giving up live tv. I’d miss certain awards shows but those are online too. I pay more for internet than tv so some day I’ll make it work more for me. My sister just quit cable altogether this week, so she only streams now.

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