Stop Cluttering Up My TV

Viewers of last night's excellent episode of Lost were up in arms about ABC's promotional tactic of placing a "countdown clock" and a V logo on the bottom corner of the screen to hype the sci-fi series return immediately after Lost.  It fulfilled the ABC marketers' goals, succeeding in grabbing viewers' attention, but it also distracted from the content of Lost, especially during a poignant scene between Sun and Jack, in which the logo and countdown clock intruded on the shot of Sun's handwritten notes to Jack. (Whether the tactic helped or hurt the ratings for V, or had no impact at all, is difficult to prove one way or the other.)

Many have already commented on this, including this article in the Star-Ledger. My two-cents on the topic: I side with those who want a clutter-free screen when watching television programming.

There are certain times when on-screen graphics, tickers, crawls, swipes, etc., might be valuable to the viewer, like emergency updates, or scores and stats during sporting events.  News channels, however, have gone overboard with all the clutter, having so much information zipping across the screen, I cannot imagine how most of it gets absorbed by the audience.  And regarding sports stats, I still sometimes would just like to see the athletes playing the game without all the fancy information on the screen.  With all the interactive digital TV technology being developed, can't they offer home viewers the option to turn those stats off and on themselves as they need them?

But the clutter is often marketing oriented, not information oriented.  The ad folks want to sell us something or make us tune in to another program.  All that does is distract us from the content we are watching.  With ever-evolving animation techniques, the clutter is becoming more and more intrusive and annoying.

Pop up ads and intrusive animation is a nuisance on the Internet, so I definitely do not appreciate it on my television screen.  As people TiVo their shows and skip commercials, such in-program ad placement is one option to continue to grab viewers attention, so I see the problem only potentially getting worse.  I do not know what the solution is except to have viewers voice their displeasure when their viewing experience is ruined by such tactics.