Thursday, June 21, 2012

How All Radio Stations Go to Commercial at the Exact Same Time

Picture this: you're driving down an open road, singing along to a catchy tune on the radio.  Suddenly the station goes to commercial, so you reach over and press one of the preset buttons to switch to a new station.  Yet you hear commercials again.  On to preset 3 for more commercials, preset 4 commercials, presets 5 and 6 COMMERCIALS!!!!  This happens on TV a lot but that seems more acceptable since in general most shows start and stop on the hour, and thus follow a relatively predictable pattern of advertising (also with DVR it is much easier to skip around).  I do not understand how this phenomenon occurs on the radio, however, since it's not like radio shows follow such a strict format.  Various stations will say "40 minutes of rock, coming your way" or "55 straight minutes of uninterrupted smooth jazz" and so their commercial breaks should not line up.  AND YET! They do.  How does it happen??  Maybe radio DJs text each other and say, "Hey, it's 11:30am now, wanna do commercials in 5 minutes? I gotta piss."

I actually found a 43 page paper and subsequent economics PhD dissertation that describes the financial incentives for doing this (I'll save you some time and summarize: commercial timing discourages channel changing and advertisements are more likely to be heard).  I guess I understand why it happens, but that doesn't mean I don't hate it.  I guess there's always NPR...

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