It could be time to put down the remote. A new study claims that TV viewers who sit through commercials actually enjoy the TV show they’re watching more than viewers that don’t. According to the research, conducted independently by the NYU Stern School of Business and reported by The Live Feed’s James Hibberd, “People often adapt to the experience of watching television such thateach successive minute is slightly less enjoyable than the previousone. Advertisements, although independentlyaversive, disrupt this adaptation process and can therefore make theoverall experience more enjoyable.”
Besides hindering the numbing effect, the study theorizes that the commercial break can also build suspense and intensify the resolution to plot points, as well as give you time to process what has just happened and “savor what is still to come.”
Those arguments sound valid enough to me. I have, on the rare occasion that I’m watching something live, experienced a jolt of excitement returning from commercial — just giddy to be jumping back into whatever other world the show I’m watching exists in. But there are some questions left unanswered: (1) Who has the time to watch commercials? Can we just hit pause for 30 seconds? Will that keep the novelty of the show from wearing off? (2) As Hibberd points out, what about the showrunners’ belief that episodes are best viewed on DVD, sans interruption? Would these researchers suggest filmmakers start using intermissions? (3) Which shows are best and worst at dealing with commercial breaks? I’ll hand it to NCIS: Each time the show returns from commercial, it begins the segment with a black-and-white flash/freeze frame of the last moment you’ll see before the next commercial break. That’s built-in suspense — what are Michael Weatherly and Mark Harmon (pictured) going to be looking at? — that you still get to appreciate even if you fast-forward through the ads.
Has the study affected the way you’ll watch TV?