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TV advertising, psychological momentum and the inter-show gap
Advertising on television is the way that many channels are funded. While viewers watch for the programming, for the channel owners, adverts are really what it's all about. The shows are simply the means to get viewers to sit through the adverts. A consequent question about viewers that programmers want to know, is how many advertising breaks they can insert without losing viewers, and how long these can be.
This is not an easy question to answer.
What shows need to create is a kind of psychological momentum, where the person is so captivated, they remain glued to the TV all through the advert break. In reality, this is a statistical thing, where the longer the break is, the greater the chance of viewers abandoning the channel, trying other channels or doing something else.
Quite simply, better shows not only attract more regular viewers (between-show momentum), they also keep them watching through the adverts (within-show momentum).
What do shows do to create that momentum? The classic easy is simply to create enjoyment, so the person wants to keep on feeling good. They may also create suspense, so the person wants to know what happens next. A trickier way to create momentum is to hypnotise the person, sending them into a trance that will keep them watching for longer. A way to do this is with flashing, either with lights on the show or a sequence or rapid scene changes just before the break.
Another problem is that after the show and before the next one, the audience may well be in a state of completion, having awoken after the trance of the previous show and before the next can stuck them in. This is where many channels make the mistake of losing viewers by throwing in not only a bunch of adverts, but also promoting other shows. The goal here should be to hang onto the viewer by getting them engaged in the next show as quickly as possible, And the obvious way to do this is to significantly reduce inter-show adverts and talk.
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