US TV Networks Awash With Ad Clutter, Reports MindShare

16 April 2004

Advertising clutter is rife across America's major broadcast and cable TV networks, reveals media agency MindShare in a new report out this week.

Using data from TNS Media Intelligence/CMR, MindShare surveyed all prime-time programming, every day of the year, across fourteen networks. It found that three of the big four networks -- ABC, Fox and NBC -- last year exceeded the 15-minutes per hour barrier for non-program content.

Comments MindShare group research director Debbie Richmond, who authored the report: " Every single study that has examined clutter on TV has shown that it has negative effects on both advertising and programming. Every year clutter is up between one and three percent. Cumulatively, it's an enormous amount, at some point you alienate the viewer."

Avoiding clutter pays dividends, it seems. The study cites the Fox serial 24 and its Ford F-150 sponsored premiere, which doubled brand recall for the time period last fall.

But that message appear to be unheeded by most of the fourteen networks tracked by MindShare. Nor does it seem to faze their advertisers.

King of clutter was Disney's ratings-trailing ABC network, while Viacom's ratings-topper CBS was the least cluttered of the big four. NBC was the only member of the dominant quartet to register a decrease in commercial minutes during the year.

There were high levels of clutter across all broadcast networks, the same being true for cable where all but two operators posted clutter increases. MTV had the highest rates with twelve minutes of commercials and over fifteen minutes of non-program material in prime in 2003. ESPN was the lowest.

The report covers all prime-time programming across fourteen networks for every day of 2003.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff