Cable networks — like Time Warner Inc. properties TNT and TBS — have been found to be using compression technology on movies and TV shows in order to squeeze in more commercials, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Viewers say they have been able to notice the difference because voices sound noticeably higher.
Among the shows found to be sped up: the popular sitcom “Seinfeld,” and “Law & Order,” which also has a much shorter opening sequence — 24 seconds versus the original 1 minute, 45 second opening that aired on NBC — to accommodate more ads.
This is done, the Journal says, because cable networks still need to “meet audience guarantees made to advertisers,” and throwing in more ads helps boost revenue as ad prices keep getting lower.
A Nielsen study of primetime cable TV from December 2014 seems to bolster these facts: The A&E Network, for example, showed almost three more minutes of commercials than it did a year ago. The History Channel had two-plus more minutes of commercials than it did in 2013.
On many cable networks, including Viacom’s MTV and Spike, “non-programming content” accounts for one-third of each hour. The WSJ says broadcast networks have also added more commercial time per hour, but the increases aren’t quite as large as what you’d find on today’s cable networks.
But, some experts say speeding up content to fit in more ads will only hurt cable, driving down ratings and motivating people to start watching TV through non-traditional “cord-cutting” services like Netflix. The head of one major TV studio told the WSJ, “it has gotten completely out of control. I’m concerned when you look at the performance being diminished and hurt by their running the shows that way.”