Does TBS Speed Up Seinfeld Episodes?

Rumor: TBS speeds up episodes of Seinfeld so that it can show more commercials.

Claim:   TBS speeds up episodes of Seinfeld so that they can show more commercials.


MOSTLY TRUE


Example: [Collected via Reddit, August 2014]


Why is the dialogue sped up for the Seinfeld episodes on demand? It is so annoying! It almost sounds like they cut out half the word after they begin saying it. This is hard to listen to.

 

Origins:   On 13 September 2013, a video was posted to the AVS Forum which claimed that TBS was speeding up episodes of Seinfeld in order to fit in more commercials:



My computer has a tuner card. I used this tuner card to digitally record Seinfeld from Fox Chicago roughly 10 years ago (I archived the entire series). Then I found which episode was on TBS tonight. In the upper-right window is a live feed from the tuner card. The source is TBS’s SD feed via Dish Network. The lower-right is video playback from the digital recording, also recorded from Dish Network in 2003. I fed the audio from both the live feed and the video clip as well as the video from the S-video out on my video card to an external DVD recorder, then uploaded the final result to youtube. After 202 seconds of playback, the TBS live feed had advanced a full 15 seconds over the recording. This amounts to nearly 2 minutes over the course of a full episode.

I lined up the windows as closely as possible so you can also see cropping. Between that and the extreme speed increase, TBS is butchering a classic.






While the video displayed above specifically mentions the American cable channel TBS, speeding up shows in syndication is actually a widespread practice in the television industry.

A May 2014 article published by the LA Times notes that cable networks have been giving advertisements more screen time for several years. In 2013, for instance, networks showed 15 minutes and 38 seconds of commercials per hour of programming. This is up from 14 minutes and 27 seconds of advertising per hour in 2009.

While this increased demand for advertising only affects current shows in terms of length, syndicated programs such as Seinfeld have to be cut, edited or sped up in order to fit these new time constraints. Tech Times notes that the change is especially noticeable in shows from the Seinfeld era which originally aired with an average runtime of around 25 minutes. In contrast, modern sitcoms such as The Big Bang Theory can be as short as 19 minutes.

TBS has not confirmed that it sped up episodes of Seinfeld in order to fit in more commercials, but the network does display an “edited for time” warning before some programs.

It should also be noted that while TBS may have sped up some episodes of Seinfeld, it does not appear that the network does this for every syndicated show. Some episodes may air as originally intended, while others may have scenes added or deleted in order to fit time constraints.

Last updated:   17 February 2015