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Please Embrace This Commercial Interruption


In a plot twist worthy of Lost, it turns out that TV commercials aren’t obnoxious interruptions after all. They’re helpful interruptions, which increase your enjoyment of TV by periodically reminding you how much you’d rather be watching your favorite show.
That’s according to a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, which found that commercials restore a sense of novelty to TV programming by breaking up the cycle which we become bored with following what’s on the screen.
In one of several experiments, the study’s authors screened the sitcom Taxi for two groups. One group saw an episode with commercial interruptions, and the other saw an episode with no interruptions. Those who saw Taxi with commercial breaks enjoyed it more, by a decisive margin.
In the authors’ words: “[A]t every given moment, watching the sitcom will still be more enjoyable than watching a detergent commercial.” That contrast could be one factor that kept the show fresh for viewers in the experiment.
But aren’t TV shows more fun with commercial breaks included precisely because they’re written with these interruptions in mind? Filmmakers don’t seem to need commercial breaks to keep audiences interested. Or could Sam Mendes have pushed his Revolutionary Road into a Golden Globe for best drama by chopping it up with a few well-timed words from his sponsors?
(Hat tip: Ars Technica, via Sam Kallen)