TV Clutter Continues to Worry Advertisers

MindShare Study Finds High Levels of Non-Program Minutes

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NEW YORK ( -- It's upfront time and marketers' fears about advertising on TV might be coming to fruition. Clutter continues to remain high during prime-time network programming and increased by 5% on cable overall, according to MindShare's 2005 Clutter Watch survey. For the first time since Mindshare began tracking in 2000, cable ran more clutter than broadcast networks.

At an Association of National Advertisers TV Ad Forum on March 22, attendees from major marketing firms and agencies were asked what their biggest issue with TV advertising was. Despite all the talk this year about the time-shifting consumer, the issue that topped the list was clutter.

"The current data on clutter is disturbing," said Debbie Solomon, group research director, MindShare. "It highlights the continuing concerns about the messaging and communications value of the TV environment caused by the increasing number of distracting elements present in primetime. Not all broadcast and cable networks are to blame, some -- and we praise them -- have held their clutter in check."

Comparing networks
Among the broadcast networks, ABC gets the prize for the most non-program minutes (a category that includes network commercials, local commercials, PSAs and promos) -- 15 minutes and 26 seconds per hour. However, Fox beat out ABC when it came to total commercial minutes. Fox had 11 more seconds of commercials than ABC, at 12 minutes 55 seconds.

UPN has the least clutter, but not by much. UPN's total non-program time was still up to 14 minutes and 26 seconds and total commercial minutes were nearly 12 minutes.

MTV was the cable clutter leader, with more than 16 minutes of non-program material. But close behind with more than 15 minutes of non-program material were Discovery, Lifetime, USA and Spike. ESPN had the least non-program minutes, while TNT had the least minutes of commercials.

Variation in cable
The amount of cable clutter has fluctuated more than network clutter in five years, the study found. Cable levels have dropped to less than 13 minutes and reached highs around 16 minutes, while the broadcast networks have had a small increase, but for the most part remained stable around 14-15 minutes.

Even though TV is less cluttered than print and online, viewers believe TV has too much advertising, according to MindShare's research.
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