TV Ad Clutter is Worse than Ever


Broadcast and especially cable are squeezing in more

By Bill Cromwell,

October 9, 2015

Cable shows, such as ‘Duck Dynasty,’ are seeing bigger ad clutter gains than broadcast.


Ad clutter has long been one of the pet peeves of media people.

They believe, and studies have borne this out, that the more ads that are smashed into a commercial break, the less people will pay attention.

A client’s message can become lost amidst the noise as ad after ad unspools.

So it seems counterintuitive, at a time when TV networks are struggling to keep buyers’ attention amidst a flood of new media options, that TV clutter is going up.

Yet it is, to historically high levels.

Kantar Media reports that during second quarter of this year, both cable and broadcast saw significant gains in commercial time, which is as high as it’s ever been.

Minutes of paid ad time for broadcast networks went up 2.8 percent over the same time last year, while cable was up even more sharply, by 4.6 percent.

The decline in ad spending on TV has made the networks panicky. They’re stuffing more spots into programs in an attempt to offset lower ratings and avoid revenue declines.

And advertisers are suffering.

“For the advertiser, the impact of greater clutter is obvious: more noise, more messages and more people are out there, so potentially the effect of your message gets diluted,” says Jon Swallen, chief research officer at Kantar Media.

Kantar says two-thirds of the networks it surveyed during second quarter increased their commercial load year over year.

And of those, five networks averaged more than 20 minutes of ads per hour, though that also includes their own promotional messages.

“We’re continuing to see big declines in linear TV audience ratings, and some of that has been attributed to competition for second-screen attention from OTT services or any of the other sources of entertainment that are available,” Swallen says.

“But let’s be honest– a more cluttered commercial environment makes TV less appealing to the viewer.”



  1. The more you watch netflix the less patience you have for the clutter on cable. netflix charges 9 dollars a month but doesn’t waste your time. Not only do you pay to watch cable networks you also pay with an hour of your time for every three hours of content you watch. It’s a bad deal and audiences are voting with their eyeballs.

  2. If you work at a commercial radio or tv station, and there is no “clutter” dont be surprised if the station lays you off, one day.

    Clutter means revenue, the sweet smell of money.

    No clutter = no radio or tv station.

    On the other hand, if you don’t work in the business, or are retired, you cannot understand “clutter.”

    That does not mean that your opinion has no value, but clutter is inevitable.

    The clock has only 24 hours in it and there is only so much space.

    It’s either clutter or playing the ads at 3 am, when no one listens or you’re fired ! LOL

    Oh, well !

  3. All of us who are or were in the business made our living from “spots”. So…what Real Deal said. So if you have a problem with this, you have either never been in an industry related to broadcasting, and you just don’t get it or…….

  4. Ad clutter is driving people away from cable and broadcast TV, especially when they realize how much they have to pay for the privilege of being advertised to.

    I cut the cord a year ago and now put up with commercials only when I stream sports. Otherwise, my viewing is ad free. I won’t even download free apps that load up on commercial messaging.

    So, Old Boss Jack, I do get it — in this day an age, I have a choice to not be abused as a mindless consumer. I remember the days when ads were kept to a reasonable number.


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