TV shows are being ‘sped up’ by some networks in order to save time on the shows’ duration so that they can fit in more money-making advertisements.
And they’re hoping you, the viewer, won’t notice.
The Journal notes that TBS used compression technology to speed up the Wizard of Oz during its airing last November, causing pop-culture writer Stephen Cox to notice that the munchkins’ voices were pitched higher than normal. TBS, TNT, and TV Land have also sped up shows including Seinfeld and Friends.
Speeding up shows isn’t the only way networks are trying to fit in ad time. On TNT, reruns of Law and Order have truncated opening credits—once a minute and 45 seconds long, the introduction is now just 24 seconds. “It feels wrong,” Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman told the Journal about the show’s “squashed” opening and closing credits. “It is not how it was shot, written, or imagined. It wasn’t meant to be that way, so don’t make it that way.”
In 2014, A&E averaged three more minutes of commercial time per hour than it did in 2013. The History Channel averaged two more minutes year-over-year. The changes come as cable TV is struggling to maintain viewership and fighting for valuable advertising dollars. Still, packing more commercials in per hour may be self-serving to the detriment of networks’ relationships with both viewers and advertisers. Commercial clutter not only makes it more difficult for advertisers to get their message across to viewers, it also turns viewers away from the cable TV experience.
“It is a way to keep the revenue from going down as much as the ratings,” a top executive at one major cable programmer told the Journal. “The only way we can do it is to double down and stretch the unit load a little more.”