Pick an arbitrary episode of a popular-but-arbitrary US TV show, say, on Netflix. I can easily find the original air date of this episode, and presumably can find the time it originally aired as well.

I'll also know that the show itself is about 40 minutes but when broadcast with commercials ran for an hour. Given that information; is it possible to determine how long a given commercial break was and therefore figure out the exact time a given scene might have originally aired?

I'm assuming that I can generally identify commercial breaks by looking for fade outs in the TV episode, and am also assuming that commercial breaks will differ in length.

If this isn't possible for any popular-but-arbitrary US TV show, but is possible for a specific show or network, I'd be interested in hearing about that as well.

  • I'm extremely doubtful if this image is available. – Paulie_D Sep 18 '17 at 17:18

I would be very surprised if it were possible to figure this out for an arbitrary show in general. However, I can think of at least one specific show where you could get an idea of how long the breaks were - or at least how long they should have been - 24. The big gimmick in that show was that each episode represented one hour of "real time" and they showed that by having a ticking digital clock that appeared before and after each commercial break.

Watching it on Netflix, of course the clocks won't line up without commercials, but you can use the amount of time transpired between the two clocks bracketing any given commercial break to see how long the show runners intended/expected the break to be. I can't really say for certain that there were never discrepancies between that clock and the real-world clock, except to say that I never noticed any such discrepancy in the seasons I watched on-air, back in the day.

  • Ha, this is perfect! Not what I expected but good enough to play around with some data. – Nicholas Sideras Sep 20 '17 at 0:47

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