Monday, September 24, 2007

Dear Network Execs: Stop Already!

An article that ran in the NY Times today talks about how TV screens are becoming more cluttered with promotional ads called "snipes" that run along the bottom of the screen.

Referred to as the "lower third" of the television screen by those in the biz, these snipes are usually used to promote an upcoming show.

Not surprisingly, network execs claim that they're using these snipes judiciously, doing their best not to intrude on the viewer's experience.

C'mon, you're blocking a third of the screen. What exactly is your definition of intrusion? We both know that if you truly don't want to intrude, you wouldn't run the snipes at all.

But that's not going to happen, is it? Now that snipes are here, they're not going anywhere. Chances are, they'll only get larger, maybe taking up half the screen in the near future. (This still won't be defined as "intrusion" by the network execs.)

This isn't to say that snipes are all bad. In fact, they probably would work pretty well in the right context.

Let's say Budweiser's running a commercial on ABC. Perhaps ABC can sell a snipe to Coors to run along the bottom of the Budweiser commercial. Coors would probably pay a lot for that placement.

At least that way, we would have advertising interrupting advertising, instead of programming.

Viewers are saying that snipes are degrading their TV watching experience. No kidding. Network execs, on the other hand, are saying that the trend towards busy screens is an attempt to cater to (yes, they actually said "cater to", as if they're doing us a favor by running snipes) the tastes and habits of younger viewers who are busying toggling back and forth between TV screens, computer screens and cellphones.

The article even quotes a sociologist from the University of Pennsylvania who says that "screen clutter can be extremely eye catching". Yeah, but so can a car crash.

But the rationale I like best is the quote from the ESPN EVP of programming who said, "Viewers today are conditioned to have a lot going on at once."

Right.

What I suggest is that the TV execs go to the most frequently visited site online and take a look at how cluttered that screen is. They might learn a thing or two.

The address? google.com

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