86% Skip Commercials (14% Can’t Find Remote)

Most people who record television shows skip the commercials. Despite that, TV remains by far the most effective form of advertising.

A whopping 86 percent of those who record television programs fast forward through the commercials.

Nearly 90% of television viewers always skip through the adverts on their digital video recorder but TV still remains the most memorable form of advertising, according to new research published today.

More than half (52%) of respondents said television was more memorable than any other form of advertising medium, followed by 10% who said newspapers and just 2% for online video adverts and 1% for online banner ads and on iPhones and iPads.

While digital or personal video recorders have increased the amount of television people watch, the research suggested that 86% of people always fast-forward through adverts while watching timeshifted shows.

Respondents said shorter ad breaks (highlighted by 48% of people), more memorable campaigns (32%) and shorter ads (17%) would encourage people to watch more advertising.

While I try my level best to skip commercials, programmers have gotten savvier at thwarting me.    Even two or three years ago, it was easy:  There was a break after the lead-in, a break at the 15-minute mark, a longer break at the 30-minute mark, and another break at the 45-minute mark.  And the last commercial was almost always a network promo, giving a good visual cue as to when I would need to hit PLAY.    Now, commercials are much more frequent but of shorter duration and they’re doing a clever job of making some of the ads look like part of the programming, creating more false stops and accidental glimpses of the infernal ads.

I’m not sure whether this will ultimately result in more people watching the ads or more people bypassing them altogether by illegal downloads or just waiting for the DVD to come out.   My wife and I and many people we know are already doing the latter with increasing frequency.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Herb says:

    I was thinking about this watching football this weekend. I guess over the summer, I’ve gotten used to watching Hulu (with their short, intermittent commercial breaks) and Netflix (with no commercial breaks) that I found it absolutely unbearable to sit through a block of commercials that never seemed to end.

    If it wasn’t for sports, I’d get rid of my TV altogether.

  2. john personna says:

    I think we’d see a lot of interesting solutions if the local cable-internet monopoly could be broken.

    I know people who go data-only and use Hulu, etc. This obviously creates a disincentive for the cable-internet providers to offer higher speed on the data side.

    Either way, product placement and old-style sponsored shows seem the only thing bulletproof for skipping.

  3. Dodd says:

    While I watch most of the shows I DVR much later, there are a few I watch on a 15-minute delay so I can skip commercials. Since I got my DVR, I’ve noticed a lot of what appear to be ads designed to get one to stop FWDing: Actors from the show (i.e., Evangeline Lilly doing shampoo spots during lost) or spots that look like the show (60s era clothing and design during Mad Men). And, of course, a lot more on screen text and logos that linger long enough to register. It’s interesting.

  4. Dustin says:

    Did anybody ever notice the early episodes of Fringe on Fox, they would tell you at a commercial break, “Fringe will return in 60 seconds” (sometimes 90), and I found that I tended to not bother fast forwarding the commercials as much, because I’m just as likely to over shoot them, and have the start/stop time as well, or maybe just knowing it was one minute didn’t seem as annoying. Also they did a good job of getting advertising that appealed to their audience I thought. It was an interesting technique.

    It’s a tough problem, because as a culture we’ve more than grown tired of advertising, yet, we want bigger and bigger budget television, and we don’t want to have to to pay beyond our monthly cable/satellite bills, in which case studios need advertisers.