Thursday, July 28, 2005

Cars drive local TV

Yesterday I made a half-hearted attempt at yard work followed by a pitiful excuse for a bicycle ride. The heat index was still 143 degrees at 8 p.m. , so I decided to go inside and enjoy some good old American broadcast television. I tuned my TV set to a station affiliated with the Fox network and watched a program called "What Makes You Think You Can Dance?" Or maybe it was, "Who Told You to Start Dancing?" Or it could have been, "You Can Dance if You Want to."

At any rate, this program featured a dancing competition, judged by a three person panel: a British man, a British woman, and another British man, who seemed relegated to the role of agreeing with whatever the first British man said. Also, he appeared to be in charge of cuing the music on the CD deck. I never could figure out what the dancers were competing for, other than a place in the Pantheon of unforgettable former reality show stars, alongside the Bedazzler lady from "The Apprentice," the woman with Lyme disease from "Real World: Seattle," and the dude with the beard from the second season of "Survivor."

But that's not important. I wasn't so much interested in the popping, locking and Krumping demonstrated by the dancers. I wanted to see the commercials. For one long hour of this 90 minute program, I cataloged the commercials I saw into three categories: Car (includes automobile manufacturers and dealerships) Car-related (includes auto insurance companies, title pawn shops and auto parts stores) and Tangentially car-related (includes Checkers and other fast food restaurants that don't have dining rooms, far-flung real estate developments that can be reached only by car, and attorneys who specialize in auto accident claims). Here's the score:

Total commercials: 32
Car: 5
Car-related: 1
Tangentially car-related: 0

By my calculations, car and car-related commercials represented about 19 percent of the advertisng content of this prime time network program.

But what about a local broadcast? During the 30 minute newscast that followed "Dance Dance Revolution," the results were much different:

Total commercials:
Car: 7
Car-related: 1
Tangentially car-related: 1

Car or car-related commercials represented nearly 70 percent of the spots aired during the newscast.

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