Survey Shows Loud Commercials a Turn-Off for Majority of TV Viewers
New Technology Can Make Shockingly Loud Ads a Thing of The Past
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A vast majority of U.S. television viewers are so annoyed by loud TV commercials that they reduce or mute the volume, or change the channel altogether, according to a just-released national survey. But help is on the way — the U.S. Congress is considering legislation requiring broadcasters to keep commercials’ audio levels more in line with their related programming.
The telephone survey of 1,000 TV viewers, conducted for Harris Corporation (NYSE:HRS), showed that 89 percent are bothered by the often dramatic variation between regular TV programming and advertising volumes. Eighty percent of those bothered take matters into their own hands by:
# Turning the volume down — 41 percent.
# Completely muting the volume — 22 percent.
# Changing the channel altogether — 17 percent.
The survey respondents also cautioned advertisers that the louder commercials approach may be backfiring — causing them to tune out the advertisements rather than attracting viewers to them.
# 61 percent said the loudness difference negatively impacted their perception of the product or their ad-viewing habits.
# 38 percent reported they are less likely to pay attention or consider the product
# 23 percent of those surveyed are changing the channel to another program.
# Only 5 percent reported the louder volume makes them more likely to pay attention to an ad and consider the product.
Although viewers were vocal about their reactions to loud ads, they were split on the prospects of the government resolving the perceived problem. Thirty-three percent believed that legislation should be passed to solve the problem, while 29 percent said legislation is not needed.
The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC), the standards agency for the nation’s 1,800-plus broadcasters, recently developed a Recommended Practice for television broadcasters to address the loudness issue. The recommended practice outlines the target dialogue level at -24 on a -1 to -31 decibel scale - with -1 being the loudest and -31 being the softest.
If properly followed by broadcasters, the Recommended Practice will keep the loudness of commercials at or near the loudness of the programming they accompany, thus preventing startling variations of audio when commercials come on. Several TV networks already have begun implementing this practice.
The U.S. Congress, responding in part to the thousands of viewer complaints received each year, is considering legislation known as the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act, which is intended to reduce the allowable volume spread between programs and advertisements. The proposed law — H.R. 1084 in the House and S. 2847 in the Senate — requires broadcasters to follow the ATSC’s recommended practice and is expected to be approved by both chambers sometime this month.
Communications and information technology leader Harris Corporation and digital technology company DTS Inc. are collaborating to assist broadcasters in their efforts to adhere to the ATSC Recommended Practice. They are providing products that measure and correct the audio levels of commercials and ensure audio content stays within the specific range.
Additionally, several test and measurement products offered by Harris have loudness monitoring built into them. These cutting-edge products — along with new standards for loudness measurement techniques — can help “level out” the differences and maintain natural sounding programs and commercials.
“As the survey shows, television viewers are clearly tired of being jolted out of their seats by loud commercials,” said Brian Cabeceiras, vice president of strategic marketing and technology for Harris Broadcast Communications. “Broadcasters now have access to simple solutions that can help make the era of shockingly loud commercials a thing of the past.”
About the Survey
The survey was conducted for Harris Corporation by Wakefield Research among 1,000 nationally representative Americans ages 18 and older between November 16 and November 22, 2009, via telephone using Random Digit Dialing. Quotas were set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total U.S. population age 18 and older. More details on the survey are available at the following link: Wakefield Demographic Report.
About the Legislation
H.R. 1084/S. 2847, the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act, directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to prescribe a regulation prohibiting advertisements accompanying video programming from: (1) being excessively noisy or strident; (2) having modulation levels substantially higher than the accompanying program; and (3) having an average maximum loudness substantially higher than that of the accompanying program. The full text of the bills can be found at tinyurl.com/nrbnn7 and fwd4.me/8Af.
About Harris Corporation
Harris is an international communications and information technology company serving government and commercial markets in more than 150 countries. Headquartered in Melbourne, Florida, the company has approximately $5 billion of annual revenue and more than 15,000 employees — including nearly 7,000 engineers and scientists. Harris is dedicated to developing best-in-class assured communications® products, systems, and services. Additional information about Harris Corporation is available at www.harris.com.
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