When you watch things on streaming, there are some services with commercials and some without. This is not news. That’s fine; it’s no different than the assorted cable TV channels. Honestly it’s better, because I don’t wonder why I’m paying my internet provider for access to them. The problem is that those commercial TV channels all basically understand the concept of “put commercial breaks at a logical stopping point.” It’s a little more challenging with movies, of course, but at least they don’t interrupt those in the middle of sentences. Streaming sites presumably rely exclusively on timers and therefore don’t respect that.
I mean, I get it, I guess. There’s a lot of content, and the sites likely don’t have enough human employees to logically insert commercial breaks themselves. Especially when it’s things like public domain movies uploaded by Some Random Person or long-form YouTube videos of one person talking to the camera. You could argue that a human would do a better job than an algorithm or a timer, and you would be right. And I don’t know; maybe that’s a job that would be a good replacement for a lot of jobs replaced by automation. I’m sure a lot of people would rather watch YouTube videos or what have you and tag them with “stick commercial here” than work the counter at a fast food place, you know? Or just have the system insist that the person uploading it label good places for a set number of commercial breaks?
But what really, really bothers me is the places where there were already commercial breaks, and for whatever reason, the system has put the commercial break a minute or so off from wherever it was. I’ve been watching The Rockford Files on the Roku Channel. This is a show that aired on network television in the ’70s. Logically, this is a show with commercial breaks as part of its structure. As with all shows of its ilk, you can see where the commercial breaks were; presumably this is even more noticeable on those shows that don’t trust you to remember what happened before the commercials and give you back the last line or so of the bit we went to break on.
Okay, the thugs have broken into Jim’s trailer. They’ve roughed him up and gone looking for whatever it is their boss wants them to find. Maybe they’ve knocked him out, and there’s an obvious commercial break there. In the next shot, Rocky is standing over Jim, trying to help him up and telling him that he done told Jim he should’ve become a trucker. Jim talks about liking his work . . . and the Roku Channel cuts to commercial. Jim’s not done, and there’s a strong possibility he’s not done with his sentence, but sure, tell me again how great distance learning has been for my family, commercial I’ve seen too many times.
It’s not just that it’s a terrible commercial, though Lord, it’s a terrible commercial. (“Distance learning is great actually because now you know what your kids are doing all day!”) It’s that it’s crystal clear that the original show had a commercial break while Jim was on the floor. It makes sense for it to go there. Putting the commercial where they did interrupts the flow, and there’s no earthly reason to put it where they did. Even if they’re not going to put it where it was, they can at least put it at a different scene break.
There are a lot of other problems I have with streaming. There’s a reason I still buy so much physical media (which you can help me do by supporting my Patreon or Ko-fi, if we’re talking awkwardly placed commercials), after all. My preference is to watch things I’ll watch repeatedly on disc, in no small part because I’ll always know they’re there. But I can’t buy everything I want, after all, and there are also things I’m only going to watch the once. It would be nice if the services made one simple change to make the experience better.