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« Large-Picture Books | Main | Are You Seeing True Colors? »

October 13, 2005

Facts for the Day

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Lest we be too, too impressed by the speed at which the Internet is changing life as we know it, some fun facts about early television:

  • Number of TV sets sold in America in 1946: 10,000
  • Number of TV sets sold in America in 1949: 2 million
  • Percentage of American households owning a TV in 1956: 73
  • TV advertising revenues in 1949: 12 million dollars
  • TV advertising revenues in 1952: 300 million dollars

Now that's one fast media-life transformation.

(Source: a History International documentary about RCA honcho David Sarnoff. Has anyone else been enjoying History International as much as I have, by the way? What a resource. History International's programming is very different than the usual History Channel fare, and includes lots of low-key, informative British shows. I'm currently enjoying an excellent Melvyn Bragg series on the history of the English language, for example. Here's the book version of Bragg's work.)

In semi-related news, USA Today reports that ads are eating up more broadcasting time on network shows than ever. A typical one-hour prime-time show today consists of only 42 minutes of actual show, down from 48 minutes in the 1980s.



posted by Michael at October 13, 2005


Is there any statistics showing growth/decline of sales for the products advertised on TV breaks? I have a feeling except 3 y.o's who take action immediately after watching the newest toy after their cartoons, nobody pays slightest attention to merchandise intruding into the shows.
If anything, I'd rather NOT buy it, by reductive reasons: if this car or that cereal would've been good, it wouldn't need loud shouting about, so I'd better stick to the brands I already tried and liked. Or is it just me?

Posted by: Tatyana on October 13, 2005 10:26 AM

When the Tivo/DVR penetration reaches 50% in a few years, how many commercials per hour will there be?

Posted by: Paul N on October 13, 2005 1:29 PM

I'll bet there are those kinds of stats, Tatyana, although I'll also bet much of it is proprietary info. These measurement companies have to keep themselves in expensive post-consumer electronic goods.

My unquantified hunch is that you're right on the money. I just read Seth Godin's The Purple Cow (okay, I'm a little behind in my reading) and it talks much about how the combination of us living in a post-consumer society (where we have everything we need and inciting to purchase is about appealing to wants) and the proliferation of media outlets has caused most people to become very sophisticated at tuning out these mass-market messages. As you say, it's more about word-of-mouth (or word-of-blog, or what have you) filling you in on what's so stupendous it will change your life than a bunch of Madison Avenue cats telling Mrs. American Housewife (or other large demo) what she should buy.

Posted by: Colleen on October 13, 2005 1:37 PM

Marketers at advertisers (like P&G, GM, Clairol et al) don't rely on Nielsen ratings or what their advertising agencies tell them to determine the effectiveness of advertising. They have their own tests which measure the effectiveness of the media spend. In general, it is true that TV advertising has declined in effectiveness relative to the amount spent, but at the same time, it is still an effective investment for marketers.

Posted by: jult52 on October 13, 2005 2:25 PM

Television is probably the only reasonably effective way of advertising to a large and/or nationwide audience. Newspaper readership is on the decline and in any event almost all newspapers have a limited geographical reach; most magazines appeal primarily or almost entirely to narrow demographic or interest groups; direct mail has an extremely low response rate; and Internet advertising is a perennial Next New Thing whose day never quite arrives.

Posted by: Peter on October 13, 2005 4:08 PM

What's even more remarkable about the pace of TV adoption is that the 1949-56 period emcompassed a Federal ban on new stations 1949-52. The number was capped at something like 104 while some sort of tech-related stuff (I forget what) got sorted out.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on October 13, 2005 7:32 PM

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