Have you been watching television recently?! Does the experience of watching entertainment coupled with a boatload of advertising not want to make you reach for the nearest blunt instrument and slowly gouge your eyes out?!! Had this been 2006, I’d have probably begun this article by saying I’m a television addict because it used to be the main source of entertainment. But these days, live sporting events are all that I use the television for. The internet with all its torrents of latest shows without advertising to clutter it up has taken over as my primary avenue for entertainment. Speaking of sporting events, the recently concluded India-South Africa series was a much anticipated one for cricket fans. And yet the fun and excitement of watching a game was totally destroyed by the channel’s almost obsessive need to fill out every available space with some form of advertising. In their hurry to squeeze in adverts, one would often miss the final ball of the over or in case the ad break overran, then one would miss the opening ball of the over. For someone who doesn’t follow cricket or for that matter any sport, this might seem trivial but for a fan every little bit of the action counts! Another example of shoving ads into the viewer is when the camera zooms out and there are a bunch of either static (but more often than not, moving) graphics shown against the backdrop of the ground. Even when the bowler is coming into the bowl, there are ad graphics superimposed onto the visible bits of the grass between the batsmen and the slip cordon. It seems, in their quest to earn revenue; channels have forgotten that they are there for the viewer’s entertainment and not just an advertising vehicle.
The irony of all this is that I actually understand where the channel is coming from because of my previous job of selling airtime. That’s right… I used to be one of them! Entertainment is like any product sold in the market. It costs money to make good programming and you recover it through subscription and advertising revenue. It’s one of those typical cycles you’d see in any business except that in the above mentioned cases, the viewer is literally held hostage to the advertising. You cannot change the channel because the game is still going on! Advertising accounts for over 85% of the revenues made by a channel because the subscription model hasn’t really taken off yet in our cablewallah dominated households. While set top box and satellite dish options have provided a bigger bouquet and better audio-visual quality (mostly), it hasn’t provided a option for viewers to opt-out of adverts altogether which is a choice available abroad.
I shudder to think what lies in the immediate future with the ICC Cricket World Cup starting in the latter half of February. So here’s a heartfelt plea from a sports fan to the TV channel – Don’t ruin the World Cup for us!
Blackfayth is just another soul living in the big bad Mumbai. On the rare occasions when he’s not being lazy, you can find him scribbling at http://blackfaythscorner.blogspot.com.
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