The People Who Watch ABC World News Tonight Must Have All Sorts of Health Care Problems

We were watching ABC’s World News Tonight earlier this evening, and my wife and I were both struck with how many health care related commercials there were, particularly drug-related.

So once it was over I decided to watch it again, and write down how many commercials there were, how long each one aired, and what the commercial was for.

Here’s a summary:

The news started at 6:30 and was finished at 6:59. During that time period, there were 13 commercials, totaling about 8 minutes and 15 seconds. Considering the first commercial did not come on until about 17 and a half minutes into the 29 minute show, that meant that 72% of the last 11 and a half minutes of the news were commercials.

Of the 13 commercials, 9 were health-related and featured the following pharmaceutical and over the counter products: Rinvoq for rheumatoid arthritis, Entyvio for Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, Otezla for psoriasis, Eliquis for a-fib, Dulcolax for constipation, Aspercreme for aches and pains, and Trulicity for type 2 diabetes. The other two health-related commercials featured an ad from Merck encouraging adolescents to get an HPV vaccination, and an ad from the American Red Cross encouraging people to donate blood.

If you’re curious, the other four commercials were for Geico, Celebrity Family Feud/Press Your Luck, IBM, and The Bachelor. These ads were about 90 seconds of the 8 minutes 15 seconds of total commercials.

I am sure these advertisers know who their target audience is, and I’m sure ABC knows what their demographics are for the nightly news. So the two join forces and overwhelm us with their messages.

My takeaway is that people who watch ABC World News Tonight may not be the healthiest people in the world, but they have do have access to doctors and drugs.

I need to start watching shows that have ads for cool stuff like iPads and juggling equipment.

I’m sure both the ads and the shows such cool stuff would be associated  aren’t nearly as depressing as the news and its commercials.

If you are interested, here is the rough timeline of the commercials on World News Tonight, where the numbers represent the number of minutes and second into the show that the ad was on.

Commercial 1 – 17:35-18:35 Rinvoq for rheumatoid arthritis

commercial 2 – 18:35-19:05 Geico

commercial 3 – 19:05-19:35 Merck for HPV vaccination

commercial 4 – 20:40-21:40 Entyvio for Crohns ulcerative colitis

commercial 5 – 21:40-22:10 American Red Cross for blood donation

commercial 6 – 22:10-23:10 Otezla for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis

commercial 7 – 23:10-23:30 Celebrity Family Feud and Press Your Luck

commercial 8 – 24:15-25:15 Eliquis for afib

commercial 9 – 25:15-25:35 Dulcolax for constipation

commercial 10 25:35-26:05 IBM for Watson

commercial 11 26:05-26:15 Aspercreme for aches and pains

commercial 12 26:15-27:15 Trulicity for type 2 diabetes

commercial 13 27:15 to 27:35 The Bachelor

69 thoughts on “The People Who Watch ABC World News Tonight Must Have All Sorts of Health Care Problems

  1. Those drug commercials are eye-opening. After they talk about all of the potential side effects, it’s a wonder anybody wants to risk it.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I am struck by a number of things from your research. First, I watch ABC World News each evening and noticed there seemed to be a disparity to the timing of the commercials compared to regular broadcast TV, but had never put the effort into to researching my theory. Now you have made it so obvious. It makes me think that they are banking off the ratings of the news as compared to the rest of their programming. Second, I have always thought that pharmaceutical advertising had begun to dominate commercial breaks, but when you put commercials that close together it becomes painfully obvious. Third, I don’t know when, we as a society, decided that we would replace lifestyle choices to find better living through chemistry. I better understand why after the news I was always sure there was some ailment I needed to attend to. Last thought, although I continue to be heterosexual, if I ever decided to change teams, it would be because of David Muir. That man is beyond handsome and bordering pretty. Great post, Jim! You have validated many of my own suspicions. Thanks for putting in the hard work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First – I agree with you about David Muir. He could be the next Bond…
      It is amazing how many drug commercials are on TV – says something about our health and our health care system. And I’m curious how much ABC news charges for a one-minute commercial – maybe something for me to do today! Have a great one – looks like a good day for a ride…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. jim, your logs and stats are to be admired. having worked in the advertising business for a number of years, I can tell you that your conclusions are on the right track. they’ve tracked their demographic, clearly a ‘more mature’ audience, who suffer from a list of ailments/issues, that could potentially be dealt with by these products. the companies are spending on these ad buys, because they know the numbers support this. the news is in high overdrive right now, and the clients are capitalizing on this. the network is pleased as punch to fill their ad space and rake in the revenue, while many other businesses are struggling, they are booming. people are trapped in their homes and worried about what is going on. a win-win for the tv news business. in contrast, just look at the printed news, a shadow of its former self, all due to loss of ad revenue having moved to an online format, and lack of volume of people who read a real paper anymore, other than a demo of mostly oldies like myself. all that being said, I’ve considered this myself, when watching my cable news channels and casually watching what pops up in the ad space, and I wonder silently, ‘hmmm, they must not know that I’m not in this age range, but clearly I am, and just not thinking I am. they don’t spend without knowing the demos and numbers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Beth. I’m jealous of your time spent in advertising, it’s always seemed like a fascinating field. And I agree that news watching is probably up righT now, a boom for the tv stations. It is sad to see the decline of newspapers, since I enjoy reading them, although now it is done mostly online. And yes, I don’t like to think I am in the demographic that the advertisers are targeting during ABC news, but I guess I mist be…


    1. We have had a DVR for 10 years or so. This allows us to fast forward through the ads.
      Last Sunday we tried to watch the ABC Sunday night Movie. I think that’s the network.
      When an ad came on my wife looked at me to fast forward through the commercial. When i reminder her that it was live TV she went to bed.
      I think the days of showing a movie on commercial TV are over. Between HBO, Netflix and the DVR, people are done with commercial breaks.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know I am in the minority, but commercials have never bothered me. I am always on the lookout for a clever or funny commercial. To think what the advertisers can create and pull-off in one minute has always impressed me. I love the Super Bowl for both the game and the commercials, and I love the British Christmas commercials. They have become like mini-films…


  4. Your audit of commercials ranks up there with my counting bricks. Maybe we both need an additional hobby to fill the hours? Aside from that, I’m intrigued that there are enough men suffering from Peyronies Disease to warrant a recurring commercial starting with, “Is your penis curved…?”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have not seen that commercial, but it is strange that they feel there is a need for a commercial. But I am glad you reminded me about the brick-counting – I’ve got to get back to that… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Love the analysis. My wife and I occasionally comment on just this topic.
    Do many of the drug names sound the same?
    Half the time I’m not sure what condition they seek to address because the ads are ambiguous and then the name of the drug sounds like the one from the previous commercial.
    I guess anyone who is watching ABC News fits into their demographic. Maybe we are all that old and broken down!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also get the names of the drugs confused and what exactly each one is for. Plus the laundry list of side effects is mind boggling. I guess my wife and I are getting old. I am guessing at some point we’ll just be watching CNN all day… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. After reading, I googled “global pharmaceuticals market” … about $1 trillion dollars. And this: “In 2016, the U.S. spent $3,337 billion, or 17.9 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).” The Boomers are an aging tribe. Great piece, Jim.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is really interesting, Jim. Of course companies would target the products at the right market, that makes sense. I don’t watch much TV but I have asked my parents to take note of the change in commercials with the lockdown. Gone are adverts for restaurant chains, holidays, airways and now we have health insurance and all other insurances and banks. Can you imagine if we only have all these boring institutions left after lockdown.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s surprising that they actually find time for any news amongst all those ads! I find that I start to worry about myself if I watch daytime tv, which seems to be full of ads for aids to daily living – I must be getting old! I guess Fox News is stuffed with ads for Trump and the Klan?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I watch more in the day than I should, but often just keep it on for background noise. Some of the programmes are mind-numbing so I try to avoid those! Fox used to be on our main satellite provider but pulled out of it as ratings were very low – it seems we do have standards here 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I love how you broke all this down. Very clever. My beef with World News Tonight is that they tease you endlessly with what you are going to be seeing. They tease every single story at the top and some 3 or more times during the show. I had to switch to Lester Holt, lol (and they’ve got a full medicine cabinet too of drug ads.) Thanks for an interesting read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Melanie. I’ve noticed the same thing with the teasers; it seems like a good five minutes of the news is talking about what’s coming up later in the show. Complete waste of news time.


  10. I had to shake my head as I read this. You really do like numbers and that is good that there are people like you! For if there were only people like me than there would only be graphs that would consist of words like …very little, not many, many, a whole lot, mega amount, etc. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Great observations, Jim. The sort of funny thing is the people being targeted have no ability to prescribe drugs. The drug companies already spend large sums promoting their drugs to docs. That’s not good enough. This advertising is meant to get people to request/demand these drugs even if the physician hasn’t mentioned them.

    This patient driven demand for drugs is one of the primary reasons aggregate spending on prescription drugs rises so fast and insureds bear more of the drug costs every year as health plans are shifting more of the cost to consumers.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I hit the mute button every time Joe Namath shows up again for an advertisement for Medicare coverage. I cannot blame my wife as she’s on Medicare. I guess it’s my fault since I am about eight months away from enrolling.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. No kidding Jim. As a Canadian I can say that whenever we traveled to the US and watched TV there, my hub and I were gobsmacked at the amount medical, insurance, and funeral home commercials you guys have. I listen to MSNBC at home and those same commercials whenever I have it on. So depressing!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Want to know why you get maybe 20 minutes of news and tons of advertising? Who do you complain to? Love ABC news , but not pleased with the advertising.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I often wonder if, because of the unending stream of side effects, if this is actually a bit of disclaimers as well as promoting drug seeking activity.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Thank you for confirming what has been driving me to a version of ‘road rage’ as I watch David Muir. I cannot tolerate one 5 second news story then 6-7 commercials; especially in the last half of a 28 minute news program. And the redundant teasing of a six word News headline, as another reader mentioned-is so darn annoying. It’s time to switch…..thank you for your research, I was about to do similar tracking, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as meticulous as yours!


    1. yes, the repeating of the same headlines is quite annoying. I think some stories get mention four times before it’s actually shown. The total time spent on previewing the story ends up being just as long as the story itself…


    2. I’ve been irritated by the ratio of commercials to actual news for quite some time now & happy to see I’m not the only one. I luv ABC & David Muir so never considered changing channels and presume NBC & CBS do the same thing. Maybe it’s time to see for myself. I wonder if anyone at ABC News will see this feedback or care?

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I agree with you on the number of commercials but you are insinuating that RA is an old folk disease. It is not. Before writing a major complaint , check your facts.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I agree with you on the number of commercials but you are insinuating that RA is an old folk disease. It is not. Before writing a major complaint , check your facts.
    I have RA and it costs 10,000 a month. That is why they advertise.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry if you thought that, but that was not my intention.

      My major complaint was the amount of commercial time versus news time.

      In regards to the drugs that were advertised, one of the drugs noted is for children, one is for Type 2 diabetes, which seems to be more and more common among younger people, and one is for afib, which I have had since I was 28.

      I also noted that it seems the commercials are likely targeting people who have access to doctors and drugs, which I assume tends to skew a bit older.

      That seems outrageous for a drug to cost $10,000 per month; I hope it is bringing you relief.

      Thanks for your comment, Jamie.


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