Americans Spend 4 Years of Their Lives Watching Commercials

kid watching tv commercialsCommercials during network programming are more than just an inconvenience as you try to enjoy some entertainment. In truth, commercials are time burglars, vampires that drain away a shocking portion of your life — roughly 4 years over the course of a normal American life. The data doesn’t lie. What follows are some stunning statistics about how much of your time you’ve wasted watching commercials as well as some extrapolations about the rest of your life. Spoiler: you’re about to feel depressed and more than a little bit angry.

You Watch Over an Hour of Commercials Every Day

To decipher how much time you spend watching commercials during the course of your lifetime, the first thing you must calculate is simple. How much television do you watch on a daily basis? While people are snowflakes and everyone’s answer is different, statistics show that Americans watch 282 minutes each day. That’s four hours and 42 minutes spent in front of the boob tube or, for anyone under the age of 30, in front of a computer monitor or smart phone. In other words, we as a people watch waaaaaay too much television.

How many commercials do we watch during this viewing time? As our society moves toward over the top television programming, the logical conclusion is that we’d experience less exposure to commercials. Alas, that’s simply not true. Broadcasters are more desperate than ever to monetize a dying industry. That’s why commercial usage is rising steadily. In 2009, an hour of television included only 13 minutes and 25 seconds worth of ads. Only five years later, the number increased to 15 minutes and 38 seconds on cable television. That’s more than two minutes of extra commercials every hour!

More Ads Means Less Programming

The worst part of the increase in commercial length is that networks are reducing shows at a corresponding ratio. You’re getting less of the programs you love, sometimes as little as 20 minutes for your favorite sitcoms, in order to load them with additional advertisements. What’s especially brutal about this financial decision is that the most popular shows are the ones most likely to suffer this fate. They’re the rainmakers for networks, which means that The Big Bang Theory and The Walking Dead will feature more commercials than a program that’s constantly on the verge of cancellation. In fact, one of the reasons why The Walking Dead has oversized episodes on occasion is not due to having larger stories but instead more opportunities to insert commercials.

How does a shady business practice like this impact you? Let’s start with some basics. If you’re watching 15 minutes and 38 seconds of commercials every hour, that’s 31 minutes and 16 seconds every two hours. Doubling that is 62 minutes and 32 seconds for four fours. Since the average American watches another 42 minutes, the calculation winds up being about 73 minutes and 30 seconds of advertising during the average day.

What Would You Do with That Extra Hour?

Before we go any further, stop and think about that for a moment. You are spending an hour and almost 15 minutes each day watching commercials. Let’s presume that you want to live a healthier life with that time. If you went to a gym that required a few minutes of travel to and from the facility, you’d have roughly an hour to work out each day.

The Mayo Clinic suggests that the average human should aspire to work out half an hour, so you’re already doubling the recommended daily exercise allotment. You could burn 398 calories during this hour simply by jogging at the gym. A more strenuous workout would mean at least 50 percent more calories thanks to the enhanced cardio. I’m not saying you’d be able to best the Mountain in a physical competition after that sort of daily workout, but you’d be lean and mean. Instead, you watch creepy commercials about abdominal pain.  The next time you look in the mirror and don’t like what you see, remember that it’s not your fault. It’s the commercials, dammit!

An Hour a Day Adds Up Quickly

The scary thought is that we’re only discussing a single day. Let’s now consider how many commercials you watch during a year. That’s 365 days when you’re spending almost an hour and fifteen sitting through ads about cars you don’t want to buy. That’s almost 450 hours’ worth of commercials. What could you do with that free time?

You don’t even have to be productive with it. You could spend 30 hours of that time beating Doom. Do you want to get caught up on some of the most popular literature of the day? Sixty hours would allow you to knock at least a dozen of these suggestions. Maybe you’d like to write a book, too. Spending an hour a day writing 1,000 words would mean you finish what I’m sure would be the next great American novel in two months. You could also add another 30 minutes of sleep to your routine. And even with all these positive changes in your life plus some sleep and gaming time thrown in, you’d still have another 120 hours of free time to splurge on something else! Alternately, you could spend all 450 hours working out and get RIPPED. Beefcake! Beefcake! The choice is yours. What’s clear is that commercials are slowly sucking the life out of you.

Also, while broadcasters are making money through your eyeballs, they’re robbing you. Think about how much you make an hour. Now multiply that number by 450. Even if you’re working at minimum wage, that’s $3,262.50 you could have earned if you’d charged somebody else for your services. Instead, the television channel used you to sell advertising to somebody else. The numbers are even scarier when we consider the national averages. Americans earn $24.57 per hour, which is just over $11,000 over 450 hours. Think about the exotic vacation you could take with that money. Your massive umbrella drinks would get you drunk in no time, and you could buy coconut bras for everyone you meet at the swim-up bar.

How Much Of Your Life Is Wasted on Commercials? Well…

If the above hasn’t made you angry yet, you’re about to fly into a Hulk rage. Consider those 450 hours of advertisements as a part of your entire existence. The life expectancy for the average American in 2016 is 79.26 years. At 450 hours of commercials each year, you’re going to suffer through more than 35,000 hours’ worth of advertisements in your lifetime. That’s about 1,450 days. You’re going to spend roughly four years (!) of your life watching advertisements for erectile dysfunction that won’t even apply to you until the autumn years and only then if you’re a dude.

If you found out right now that you had four bonus years to spend, what would do with them? Would you learn a foreign language? Develop a new skill like painting or woodworking? Take up a hobby such as sailing? You could build houses as a part of Habitat for Humanity each weekend while learning to play the piano during your downtime. Instead, you’ll suffer through Puppy Monkey Baby again.

I say again that commercials are vampires that drain away your life. The only difference from the start of the article is that you realize it now. Final pro tip: if any OTT service like Hulu offers commercial-free programming, pay the extra money to get it. You’ll live a more rewarding, fulfilled life.

David Mumpower

David Mumpower

David Mumpower has covered media and television analytics for 15 years now. A self-described content omnivore, he owns literally thousands of movies and television shows on Amazon Video and Vudu. Email him at info@streamingobserver.com.
David Mumpower

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