Clutter rules the airwaves

Clutter doesn't rest, even as the economy does. That's according to this year's clutter study by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, which annually measures the average minutes of non-programming material shown on television per hour.

The study was released last week at the Four A's Media Conference in Orlando, Fla., and it showed record amounts of hourly ad and promo clutter in early morning (18 minutes, 2 seconds), daytime (20:57) and local news (17:10).

For the second straight year, prime time clutter was down, but only by about nine seconds. Average hourly prime time clutter at ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox was 16:08, down from the 16:17 recorded in the same study a year ago. The study showed that 11 of 19 measured cable networks also posted increased clutter in November 2001 vs. the previous year.

During Nov. 12-18, 2001, UPN was the most cluttered network in prime time, averaging 17:03 of non-program time per hour, up from 16:18 in November 2000. The UPN total included an hourly average of just over 10 minutes of network commercial time, a little more than 21/2 minutes of local commercials, and some 4 minutes and 10 seconds of on-air promos and credits.

The report found syndication programs (35 were monitored for the study) to have even higher levels of clutter than UPN. Syndication averaged 18 minutes 12 seconds of average hourly clutter last November, up slightly (1%) from November 2000.

NBC remained the most cluttered network in prime time among the Big Four (16:32), although that was 43 seconds less per hour than the study found in November 2000. Fox came in at 6:16.

Fox also showed a decline, of about 19 seconds per hour, to 16:16. The study showed CBS's clutter time was up about 26 seconds per hour to an average 16:04 per prime time hour. ABC was flat at 15:45.

None of the networks was particularly magnanimous about airing public service announcements. In prime time, UPN aired an hourly average of six seconds of PSAs, and that was the best
of any of the broadcast networks. NBC was second with an hourly average of five PSA seconds, followed by ABC (three seconds) and CBS (two seconds). The report found that Fox and WB didn't air any PSAs during the sampled period in November.

Daytime appears to to be crammed with more commercials than any other daypart. In November of last year, it averaged 17:14 per hour of commercial units, a new record high for any daypart. Late night was the second-most cluttered, with almost 16 minutes worth of commercial spots per hour. Early morning was third, with almost 15 minutes per hour of ad spots.