Surprisingly, given the competition from other advertising channels, US television does not appear to have cleaned up its act and created a better advertising platform. In fact, TV is more cluttered than ever.

Commercial and other non-program time are on the rise on US TV, a trend that is unlikely to drive up audience numbers.

The numbers are clear. Both broadcast and cable television are losing ad dollars to the Internet and other forms of alternative media.

The audience of the major networks has been falling steadily for years. Last month Nielsen Media Research reported that while online advertising spending in the US rose by 23% in 2005, network TV spending fell by 1.5%.

It’s true that cable TV revenues were up 11% last year, but at a time when advertisers and media planners are actively exploring media other than television, why would TV execs decide to increase clutter (commercial and other non-program time as a proportion of on-air minutes)?

According to the annual Mindshare "Clutter Watch" report, not only is the clutter problem getting worse, as MediaPost reported, "broadcast and cable networks [are] reaching the highest levels of prime-time commercialization ever."

The Clutter Watch analyzed prime-time commercial minutes and non-programming (commercials, promos, PSAs and station IDs) data provided by TNS Media Intelligence and found that on average broadcast network commercial minutes in 2005 rose by 2% over the previous year, and cable network commercial minutes rose nearly by 5%.

According to recent Mindshare analysis, MTV added more clutter last year than any other channel on cable, tacking on 21% more commercial minutes to its prime-time hours, and raising the total non-programming time 18% — to a record 16 minutes and 13 seconds per hour.

"The current data on clutter is disturbing," Debbie Solomon of MindShare told MediaPost. "It highlights the continuing concerns about the messaging and communications value of the TV environment caused by the increasing number of distracting elements present in prime-time."

More here.