Alphabet ups spots sharply; Fox still leads

NEW YORK — Oscar viewers may not notice it tonight, but ABC is steadily increasing the amount of non-program “clutter” on its airwaves.

The Alphabet web, long the least cluttered of the major networks, posted the sharpest gains in primetime last year, according to an annual study from two ad-industry trade groups, which monitored network and other programming during May and November.

Clutter, defined as commercials, public-service announcements, promos and show credits, has steadily climbed from a recent low of 13 minutes and 26 seconds per hour of primetime during 1992 to 15:21 on average last November.

No one’s clutter-free

But some networks are more cluttered than others. Fox, historically the most commercial-interrupted network, had 16:07 of non-program minutes per hour, up from 15:22 a year earlier. But ABC added 55 seconds on average, for a total of 15:19, tying for second place with NBC, which added 34 seconds from 1995 to 1996. CBS was the least cluttered primetime network, with 14:53, a gain of 20 seconds, but was the most cluttered in daytime, where the Big 3 networks air commercials and promos in fully one-third of every hour.

The most cluttered primetime shows in November were “Married … with Children” on Fox, and “Monday Night Football” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos” on ABC.

Of course, the increased noise doesn’t please advertisers, who wind up paying more money each year for programming where their ads are increasingly buried among others.

“We’re all concerned that clutter is diminishing the value of their product, and down the road, (viewer) attentiveness will show that,” said Robert Igiel, exec VP-director of broadcast at Young & Rubicam.

Careful kudocast

But at least the Oscar advertisers, paying a record $830,000 for 30 seconds, won’t have to worry. The Academy tightly controls the amount of ads and promos on the kudocast, and only a lucky few get the 43 spots on the show. With ABC grossing $36 million at those rates, who needs clutter?

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