At some point, you've probably noticed a joke or two cut from a beloved movie or sitcom rerun—for those watching cable, at least. The reason being commercials and capitalism and America, etc.. But cable channels do more than just chopping. They are speeding up the very shows themselves.
It's hard to tell how long this practice has actually been in use, but according to The Wall Street Journal, compression technology lets channels like TBS deal with drops in ratings by trimming as much as three minutes off shows in some cases. For instance, an episode of Seinfeld that originally ran 25 minutes was crammed into 22. Or in cable channel terms: six more glorious ad spots.
A YouTube user who archived the entire series on Fox Chicago about 10 years ago compared a modern-day running to the same episode as aired in 2003. According to his post on AVS Forum:
After 202 seconds of playback, the TBS live feed had advanced a full 15 seconds over the recording. This amounts to nearly 2 minutes over the course of a full episode.
I lined up the windows as closely as possible so you can also see cropping. Between that and the extreme speed increase, TBS is butchering a classic.
While the speeding up of classics might normally fly under the radar, some people are taking note. Stephen Cox, an author and Wizard of Oz expert, told The Wall Street Journal that he could actually tell something was off. Describing a recent cable airing, he said, "Their voices were raised a notch. It was astounding to me."