First week in Rio: Are Clutter Complaints on the Mark?

What is the most popular Summer Olympics sport among TV viewers tuning in to the Games? Gymnastics, swimming and track and field would certainly fare well in a popularity poll and not surprisingly, NBC’s prime time coverage has and will give plenty of coverage to these events.

But in addition to the 306 official Olympic events that will award medals in Rio, there is another sport that many viewers have passionately embraced and discussed on social media: complaining about the interruptions from TV commercials. As found in Kantar Media’s analysis, commercial load isn’t breaking any new records – but audiences may still be on to something.

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Perception may be more important and enduring than reality, but commercial monitoring data are an objective basis for evaluating what is actually happening. We’ve analyzed our data in two ways, tabulating both the amount of ad time and the number of commercial breaks in NBC’s prime time telecasts. Both dimensions can contribute to viewer perceptions of commercial intrusion.

Through the first seven days of the Olympics (August 5-11th) there has been an average of 15 minutes, 37 seconds of advertising per hour. This figure is inclusive of ALL commercial messages a viewer is potentially exposed to – paying sponsors plus station promotional announcements; national ads plus local market spots. The comparable amount in the 2012 London Olympics was nearly identical at 15 minutes, 38 seconds. Regular NBC prime time programming typically has about 16-17 minutes per hour.

While the overall amount of commercial time has been normal, the number of commercial interruptions has been atypical. There has been an average of 7-8 ad breaks per hour compared to a norm of 5-6 in regular prime time programming. More frequent breaks fuel the perception of over-commercialization even as the duration of these pods has been a bit shorter.

Kantar Media will continue to track and report on commercial loads during the Olympics.

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