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Lost Remote –

by Cory Bergman

Ball State’s Center for Media Design conducted a study to find out what really happens when viewers are confronted with a commecial break. About 45 percent of the breaks were interrupted by either channel changes, program guide surfing or leaving the room. Call it old-fashioned commercial skipping. Study follows…

PRESS RELEASE — MUNCIE, Ind. – The good news for the advertising industry is that nearly a third of television commercial breaks are watched from start to finish during prime time, but the bad news is half are watched for 60 seconds or less, says a new study by Ball State University.

The results are from “Remotely Interested: Exploring TV Viewers Advertising-Related Behaviors,” a behavioral study that was unveiled Sept. 27 by Ball State’s Center for Media Design (CMD) research staff in New York at the Forecast 2007 Conference: Media on Internet Speed.

“The debate to define a commercial minute is currently a major point of discussion for advertisers, media owners and agencies,” said Mike Bloxham, CMD’s director of insight and research. “This study has enabled us to provide insights to what really happens during an average person’s prime-time viewing such as the percentage of commercial breaks we observed where attention was compromised through channel-changing, using another medium like a magazine, talking to someone else in the room or leaving the room altogether.

“Watching television is not as simple as it seems at face value,” he said. “There are a number of choices that viewers can make that compound the complexity of ‘watching television.’ If advertisers and media owners want to keep up with these changes, they need to understand complex human behavior, which will only become more complex as we have more options available to us on screen.”

CMD researchers shadowed 49 Muncie and Indianapolis area residents in their homes as they watched three to four hours of prime-time television. The average observation was 3.7 hours, resulting in 179.2 observed viewing hours.

Researchers gathered data via touch-screen devices that allowed observers to record, in five-second increments, changes in channel, television content types, use of the electronic programming guide (EPG) and other behaviors.

The study found:

The average ad break exposure was 2.2 minutes with 32.7 percent of the study’s ad breaks watched in their entirety

Nearly half of the ad breaks were watched for one minute or less with 15.4 percent of commercial blocks viewed for 31 to 60 seconds before interruption; 12.1 percent lasted 16 to 30 seconds; 11.8 percent were between 6 to 10 seconds; and 9.1 percent lasted 5 seconds or less

About 45 percent of advertising breaks were interrupted by scene-shifting behaviors, including channel changes (50.5 percent of scene shifts), EPG use (31 percent) and leaving the room (18.5 percent).

“Obviously it’s good news for advertisers that nearly a third of the observed ad breaks were watched from start to finish,” he said. “On the other hand, it is not so good where viewers are only watching part of a commercial break. If their attention has been lost in less than a minute, advertisers need that much more airtime to reach the kind of numbers they want often enough to stand a chance of getting their message through.”

More information about the study and other CMD research is available at

Who Are We

Insight and Research at the Center for Media Design (CMD) has begun to receive quite a bit of attention from industry publications and mainstream media outlets in the last several years as a groundbreaking and reputable media research organization. This archive is only for educational purpose, if the content involved any copyright issue, please contact: Michelle Prieb:
March 2021



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