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2.21.2010

How Commercials Helped TV

I'm not a fan of commercials. That's not to say there aren't several I enjoy. An excellent 30 second story is nothing to scoff at. But to interrupt my 42 minute story with a few lame sales pitches or "brand awareness" pieces is annoying. That's why I love watching shows on DVD or streaming over the internet with no interruption.

There are stations, however, that use a subscription or some other method of raising money that they can forgo advertising. These stations can run a show for the full hour without taking up time to tell us about their sponsors. So instead of a 42 minute show we get something closer to 55 minutes.

And it's horrible.

If you give a television producer 13 full minutes more every hour, they seem incapable of adding more story. Instead, they just toss in stuff we don't need. Giving them almost 25% more time is a waste because they don't know what to do with it. In fact, if anything, the shows I've watched that come out of non-standard-broadcast stations have far less content per episode than my favorite shows that are packed full of wonderful story goodness their entire 42 minute duration.

I think commercials have helped television by forcing filmmakers to stick to their story. Those who do not have that pressure wander because they don't have the self discipline necessary to keep their tale moving forward. They've become lazy.

Next time you edit a piece, try to cut out a forth of it. Then see if you can cut a little more.

I shot a short in college that was originally 6 minutes long.

A week later I cut it down to 4.

After I presented it to my audience I realized it should have been 2.

Using that as a baseline, I think many TV producers need to combine two episodes for every one they current turn out. That means they need to write more too, but that's good for the audience.

And don't forget: Your audience is what matters.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

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