Television Companies Are Stealing the Internet's Ad Countdown Clocks

Image: AP
Image: AP

Online streaming platforms like YouTube and Hulu have a method to keep viewers interested throughout commercial breaks: countdown clocks. Now, traditional TV broadcasting companies are getting in on the action.

According to a report from Variety, Turner Broadcasting has started testing out an ad countdown clock during the show “Animal Kingdom.” Shows like “Good Morning America” and “Today” have reportedly used timers in the past, but Turner is apparently the first to do so in primetime television.

The thought behind a countdown clock—and the benefit that Turner is presumably trying to replicate—is that it holds a viewer’s attention for longer, which conceivably means they’ll focus on the ad for longer. It makes sense, to a degree: If you know you only have 60 seconds of an ad left, you’re more likely to stick around. If you don’t know how many ads are left—there could be three minutes’ worth!—you might walk away.


The 60-second countdowns that have appeared during “Animal Kingdom” supposedly haven’t deterred marketers, but as Variety notes, the implication behind them (“Don’t worry, you don’t have to watch these fucking ads for too much longer”) isn’t particularly advertiser-friendly. Still, Turner says it hasn’t yet ruled out using the clock during other shows.

Ultimately, it’s a smart gamble. Broadcasting companies must now compete with streaming platforms for views and ad dollars, and stealing their tactics isn’t the worst idea. It might be slightly embarrassing for established TV networks to follow in the footsteps of newcomers, but anything that gets those dollars in the door, eh? Everyone hates commercials, but at least it’s comforting to know when they’ll be over.

Sophie is a former news editor at Gizmodo.

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At this point, I may just go back to network TV.

I love Youtube and Hulu, and I don’t mind the targeted ads, but I am sick and tired of watching THE SAME DAMN COMMERCIAL every five minutes, or every time my phone connection hiccups, If you’re going to put ads on my paid service, at least give me variety.

Happy teeny tiny Friday.