A trend of a commercial blurb in the form of a "pop-up" style graphic (audio optional) during a show. Commonly called "bugs" by broadcasters, especially the small, semitransparent logos that appear in the lower right corner of the screen more or less continuously (in this case, it's usually to identify a network). Less commonly called "screen boogers" by annoyed viewers. The larger straps like the one shown in the page pic are called lower-thirds and yes, they do take up 33% of the vertical screen space, sometimes more.
These ads are typically not for products, but for the network's programming. Often, they advertise what show is on next or later that day on the same channel. Sometimes, it can be a commercial popup indicating what show you are watching and what network you are watching it on. Occasionally the network will even go so far as to slap a big "NEW EPISODE" graphic in the corner of the screen for the duration of that episode's first broadcast (example◊
). The stations justify this because some people DVR and record shows—this is also how the networks can remind people who are watching a pirated program where the program originated from, and ensure pirates at least buy the DVD to pirate from.
A similar trend is to start airing commercials during the credits of a show or movie by smashing the credits to one side of the screen and showing promos on the other
. The credits are usually sped up and muted in favor of the shocking revelation coming on later tonight. You can bet that if you see or hear "stay tuned for scenes from next week's show" at the end of the episode before the commercial it'll be this.
Beyond just reclaiming some of the valuable advertising time they had previously wasted on actual show, these popups serve several other purposes linked to the rise of digital video recorders:
- They can not be easily skipped like normal commercials (their first appearances were around 2001-2002, coinciding with the rise of the DVR)
- They make DVD releases more desirable than off-air recordings. (However, there are many DVD releases that show a persistent studio logo in the bottom corner of the screen.)
- They "brand" the video feed, making bootleg/YouTube'd copies easier to identify.
If the pop-up is a countdown to something the network considers high priority, then it's a New Content Countdown Clock
- Mystery Science Theater 3000:
- During the Sci-Fi Channel run, a pop-up of the Sci Fi Channel logo would appear in the bottom-right corner of the screen, often obscuring Crow T. Robot during the theater scenes. This was so annoying that viewers successfully petitioned Sci-Fi to move their logo to the other side of the screen.
- Earlier than that, MST3K fans had the same demand with Comedy Central during its run on that channel. They also managed, while the show aired on that network to stop text crawls across the bottom of the screen, and got them to stop running voice-overs during the show's credits because gags would frequently be carried over and played on top of them.
- Early in The '90s, The Discovery Channel used to have an annoying pop-up promoting their website: a "bing!" sound, a pop-up and a "mouse double click" sound promoting the web links to which ever program you were watching. After a few months (and viewer complaints) this went away as the novelty of the web wore off.
- On G4's X-Play, bugs became so common (and occasionally covered up important words or numbers, such as game ratings, at the corner or bottom of the screen), that, in one game review, they inserted a number of bugs all over the screen at random intervals that obscured it completely.
- Parodied in an episode of Drawn Together: Ling-Ling (who speaks in pseudo-Japanese and can only be understood through subtitles) is trying to convince the other housemates to help him, when suddenly a bug for The Daily Show appears, obscuring everything he's saying. Another character exclaims "Ling-Ling's right! I love the Daily Show!"
- The Simpsons:
- The show once had Homer eating a Joe Millionaire pop-up. Similarly, another Couch Gag had the Fox logo pop up on the screen, with the entire family rushing over to stomp on it (back when logo bugs were the only commercial pop ups around). The creators of The Simpsons currently have a deal with Fox, wherein they will not put up real advertisements like this on during their show.
- Also parodied in The Simpsons Movie, where, during a scene where Homer and Bart are daring each other, a pop-up ad for Are You Smarter Than A Celebrity appears, stating "Yes, we even have these in movies now." (Actually, it's a newsbar, but still...)
- Marge went further at the start of the 2007 Treehouse of Horror: with so many ads, she gets angry ("Can't people just watch the show they're watching?") and gets rid of the promos in various ways, such as vacuuming football players with a minivac, sticking House in a microwave and putting the rest in a meatloaf. Wherein they wriggle.
- Sci-Fi channel had a bug for their "Trek 2.0" version of Star Trek: The Original Series, which included the Star Trek: The Next Generation door chime. They also play Next Generation reruns. Yes, they had a pop-up ad (for another show) which included a sound that was taken from the show that was actually playing.
- Sci-Fi loves running half-screen Ghost Hunter popups in the middle of Eureka.
- Their Mork and Mindy marathon that ran the day after Thanksgiving of 2008 (which included episodes from the fourth season, which was unlikely to be released on DVD at the time due to music rights issues) was also plagued by Ghost Hunter pop-ups.
- The UK arm of the station were running some kind of semi-market-research survey by telephone over about a week sometime in the 90s. This was advertised by wanging a massive picture of a head with a question mark in it over the right-hand third of the screen and a question with a phone number to dial on the other two thirds. Right in the middle. For ages.
- Ads for the TBS original comedy The Bill Engvall Show have stumbled upon a way to intrude even more: Bill Engvall himself pops up and pauses the show you're watching to talk about his show. This is an especially egregious example because it defeats the entire purpose of using pop-ups as opposed to actual commercials, as it basically creates an incredibly short commercial break at a random moment of the show. Even more hilariously, the commercial begins with Engvall telling you how cool it is that he can pause the show you are watching.
- It's not just television that has done this, either. Japanese video site Nico Nico Douga actually started adding interstitial ads smack-dab in the middle of the video you happen to be watching, with no way to skip ahead or pause at all. When you try to watch a music video, you get hit with a two-minute ad for Penguin Musume Heart out of nowhere.
- Children's networks have taken up the more annoying practice of shrinking the main picture and filling the resulting space with promos.
- To plug Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Nickelodeon had these with Jimmy coming up and doing a short as one of these bugs. They diverted the attention from the show to this kids doing experiments anywhere on the screen at any time. He did stuff like modifying the original bug at first, but it grew more clever. During an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, the kid came in, hit a button, and the whole episode was replaced by a puppet show version of itself. There were also bugs where they replaced large segments of the show with a bunch of random clips from all of their other shows. However, unlike the puppets, it replaced an actual part of the episode, and often times, the punchline of the show's best joke.
- Nick actually did a whole marathon where the Rugrats would randomly run through parts of the show, too. The bugs actually ran by as part of a contest: Name what show, episode, and scene the baby ran by in, send it to Nick, and you'd be in the runnings for a treehouse.
- During the UK Nicktoons airing of Avatar: The Last Airbender. The bug most noticeable is a pole-vaulting brain-thing which happily runs across the entire screen, usually during a climactic scene, but their habit to smush the credits to start showing trailers goes wrong during the longer-running season finales.
- An ad for the Nickelodeon phone app sometimes would (translucently) cover the entire screen during some shows.
- When Tak and the Power of Juju and Back at the Barnyard were originally premiering, Nick would promote the show by either having a giant splat of milk suddenly appear on-screen, or having Tak appear and summon a giant yellow tornado, thus scaring the crap out of viewers watching the network. They later did much subtler promotions for shows, such as having a character from The Thundermans freezing the Nick channel bug, then moments later have it thaw.
- Nick promoted Nick Studio 10 by having it interrupt shows to show a random piece of footage. Naturally, this led to the block getting a LOT of backlash and a swift cancellation. They also did the same to promote other shows like Sanjay and Craig by having a promo cut in immediately after a show's intro is finished.
- Similar to the Rugrats example, Family in Canada had one around 2004 for a back to school-themed contest where a "BTS" bug would appear at a random point in the show. You could be entered for a contest if you correctly named the show and episode that it appeared in.
- YTV did the same about a year earlier but with a different colored Fruit Loop rolling by (the contest was sponsored by Kelloggs).
- The Australian sketch comedy show Comedy Inc. parodied this with a sketch featuring a CSI: Miami parody where increasingly bigger fake pop-ups for the channel kept covering crucial items (first a seemingly critical piece of evidence, then a stripping character's nudity), at one point covering half the screen. At this point Horatio gets on his cell phone and tells someone to arrest someone at Channel 9 for the number of ads.
- On Cartoon Network, sometimes a gigantic ad advertising the next show will literally cover the bottom 40% of the screen.
- The premiere airing of one episode of Justice League had a bug that featured a giant robot, including metallic stomping and explosion sounds that actually obscured several lines of dialogue. Needless to say, the fans were not pleased.
- And then there is the incident with the season 2 finale of Transformers Animated. The credits incuded a humorous dialogue between Megatron and Starscream's head, floating about stranded in an unidentified region of space. But both of the original English-language airings (first YTV, then Cartoon Network shortly afterward) dubbed over that dialogue with interstitials, promting mass rage within the Transformers fandom (or at least those who appreciate Animated).
- An episode of Scrubs had a parody on one of these, after JD thinks of a silly sitcom about the Janitor and Ted adopting a kid, called "Legal Custodians." The next time JD brings it up, a Bug for it appears at the bottom of the screen.
- The first episode of Season 8 has an example of this using the network logo. Scrubs had switched from NBC to ABC between seasons 7 and 8. In the opening of the episode, JD walks in, points very obviously at the ABC logo and says "That's new!" The camera then pans to the Janitor to show he has a new watch.
- 4Kids did this, and their logo was not particularly semi-transparent. This often made it difficult to see things like life points, or the attack strength of a monster (in Yu-Gi-Oh!).
- In the last few years of its run, Toon Disney did similar things, not only popping up advertisements, but also taking up a full third of the screen to show you a loud purple pattern giving the name of the show you are watching, for the benefit of parents who might find this more helpful in their decision-making process than just looking at the giant robots fighting on-screen.
- Comedy Central's Futurama ends with the credits being shown in a small 'tear' in the bottom of the screen while the beginning of the next episode starts. Great idea, saves time and everything, right? Well, except that it now completely blocks out the unique-per-episode punch line they have written on the bottom of the screen...unless it's one of the few early episodes that starts with a cold opening, of course. Reruns of Scrubs do this, too, though both shows go back to the regular format if it precedes something like The Daily Show.
- Family Guy:
- An episode makes a joke using this where, during a feminist speech by Lois, Marge appears in a pop-up ad for The Simpsons at the bottom of the screen and Quagmire tries to have sex with her. It then shifts into an overly long Take That against The Simpsons.
- It also once did a running gag where characters would repeatedly break the Fourth Wall to complain about and kibitz the pop-ups. Plus, most of these promos are for fake shows named after the type of image in the pop-up, such as "Shoving Buddies" or "Slowly Rotating Black Man".
Lois: "Is that a real show?"
Stewie: "No, it's just... no, it's, somebody's making a joke for you."
- There's another chapter in which, in middle of Stewie's wedding ceremony, one of this ads pops up. Spanish channel laSexta went on with the gag by putting a banner of its flagship humour show Se lo que hicisteis. Then, the program did a sketch about the situation. Here's the full video.
- When Law & Order: Criminal Intent moved to USA Network, a gag ad was created where Goren wanted to know what the hell the USA bug in the corner of the screen was. He then tried unsuccessfully to interact with it before declaring it "weird".
- USA Network used to have non-transparent bugs featuring Monk poking at the bug itself, but they've since switched to mostly transparent USA logos and sometimes messages that a new episode of whatever show will be starting at x time.
- Television Without Pity forums used to have one post about a forum-er who saw The Reveal of a tattoo in a 7th Heaven rerun get covered up with a pop-up.
- Fox teased the premiere of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles by randomly broadcasting a pair of red eyes on its feed during certain shows like Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. Example.
- This archived article from a possibly now defunct Rugrats fansite has a minor complaint about network bugs covering up presenter captions on the Kids' Choice Awards.
- Parodied in a Strong Bad E-Mail where Strong Bad mentioned "Discovery Channel" specials about CGI dinosaurs. While he said this, a bug for the fictional CGI Walking With Trogdor appeared. Sadly, despite being a parody, it fit here, as it appeared exactly within the confines of the back of Strong Bad's head.
- Game Show Network used to have a huge bug for PlayMania that went two-thirds of the way across the screen and about a quarter of the way up. Just barely wide enough to obscure the password in Password and its revivals, the correct answer shown briefly to home viewers in Double Dare, etc.
- A VH-1 advertisement for some show called Scream Queens. The ad manifests itself as a high-pitched scream during an otherwise quiet moment in a show.
- The show Flavor of Love: Charm School had an ad for Celebrity Fit Club pop up. It takes up the entire screen, save for the TV rating bug.
- The website Blip.tv can be notorious for this, sometimes showing advertising bugs seemingly every 2 minutes, and about every other bug is unhideable.
- This can get pretty extreme during Professional Wrestling shows, as not only do the pop-ups take up space on the screen and distract from the match, but the commentators all of a sudden start ignoring the match and begin shilling for the show or product being advertised.
- During the "world premiere" of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force film on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim Block, the movie was displayed without sound in a tiny box in the corner of the screen , and episodes of Family Guy and Futurama aired while the movie ran (in its entirety) in the corner. During this, humongous pop-up ads for the movie with loud sound effects also appeared from time to time.
- Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel LOVE to advertise when they have a new movie premiering soon. They'll put up a timer counting down to High School Musical or The Cheetah Girls or whatever they're going to show up to 24 hours beforehand.
- During a showing of The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) on AMC, an ad filled the entire bottom of the screen for a western mini-series, accompanied by loud horse noises. Rather annoying, to say the least.
- The cable news channels count down to presidential speeches or a state's election close, while CNBC and Fox Business will put timers on to countdown to the releases of economic reports.
- MTV in the UK feel the need to keep the name of the programme you're watching on-screen at all times. While this is often helpful during music video slots, certainly themed ones (MTV UK is actually still reasonable for this, broadly speaking) it's less relevant during regular programming.
- Parodied in the South Park episode "More Crap". Whenever a particularly crass moment took place, a bug reading "Emmy Winning Series" would pop up in the corner of the screen. At the end of the episode, the advertisement became a trophy given to Randy for having the biggest piece of crap in the world.
- A gag one happens with the network logo version on Chowder. Chowder scribbles on the screen and gets yelled at. After it's cleaned up he points over at the Cartoon Network logo and asks "What about that one?" to which Gaspatcho responds, "That one doesn't come off. I've tried." The channel icon is part of the episode, making it obvious that the logo has changed since the episode's initial airing.
- Phineas and Ferb parodies the Disney Channel's use of this trope in "Summer Belongs to You"; a bug reading "You're watching television!" covers the bottom third of a screen a few minutes into the episode, blocking off a visual gag of Ferb providing an "idea!" sound effect using a triangle. Phineas takes notice of it and shoos it off the screen.
- Global TV in Canada has started showing large pop-ups advertising Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.
- Internet example: Pandora radio features not only ads between songs, but full-video ads between stations.
- SBS 6 in the Netherlands stopped a movie in a manner that resembled a network/signal problem for a quick ad for a dance show hosted by a resident presenter.
- Some children's preschool programming like Nick Junior and Playhouse Disney kept a solid logo in the corner of the screen, obscuring what was under them. There was a Dora the Explorer where Dora counted five objects for the viewer but the fifth was completely obscured by the network logo in the corner. Eventually networks switched to a transparent logo.
- Nick-At-Nite puts gigantic rectangular advertisements for whatever's coming up next that block the bottom third of the screen.
- The BBC do these with small bars at the bottom or the top of the screen for the next show. Normally doesn't happen on BBC One, but once did during the climax of a Doctor Who episode, for the following Lloyd-Webber/Graham Norton reality star search and included an animated version of Norton. This led to official complaints from over five and a half thousand viewers, it angered so many viewers (including Charlie Brooker and Simon Pegg) that "Doctor Who" and "Graham Norton" actually became trending topics on Twitter because of it. As seen in the page quote, Norton did indulge in some Self-Deprecation over the incident on his show, culminating in another animated version of him popping up and being promptly exterminated by a Dalek.
- E! has bugs running pretty much constantly. This makes sense during their normal shows, where a celebrity gossip newsreel would fit right in. It does not make sense, however, when this pops up during a movie screening.
- Bugs for the latest game in the The Escapist's promo cycle appear in many of their video features, including Zero Punctuation's.
- During an episode hosted by Will Farrell, Saturday Night Live did a skit where Kenan Thompson and Bill Hader played TNT's playcallers for the NBA, Charles Barkley and Marv Albert. While they're trying to talk about the game, a Commercial Pop-Up appears for a new TNT show, which they notice and start talking about. When it vanishes, they go back to talking about the game, but then it pops up again, with Barkley getting really excited by the hijinks that take place in the pop up. This repeats throughout the skit, much of Marv Albert's chagrin.
- A commercial for Psych has fun with this: one bug for the series has the two leads walk into the corner for a while. During a seemingly normal commercial for the same series, the bar pops up—and Shawn and Gus spot it.
- One Animal Planet bug for a then-upcoming show about training dogs to perform various cool tricks used the "pause the actual show" trick. A frisbee would fly in, the current show freezing while a dog caught it, then the host would walk up, praise it, and lead it away before letting the show continue.
- Related: Neopets spoofs internet popups with their game Advert Attack—the game's entire challenge is navigating around or getting rid of fake ads that dominate the screen so you could actually get at the game's controls.
- TNT's NBA coverage will use a free throw to sneak one of these in (usually for one of TNT or even TBS's original productions) sometimes, along with an Enforced Plug by the announcers.
- One episode of Frisky Dingo had a message on the screen for 15 seconds at the start that said "This is where the network puts that mammoth bug." Then, "Enjoy the show." Biting-the-Hand Humor doesn't even begin to cover it.
- Someone on late-night Teletoon must be an epic troll, because they are constantly doing these commercial pop-ups during American Dad! over things that require the bottom of the screen, such as Toshi's subtitles or the "Bill Publishermann" gag.
- Ads for Yin Yang Yo! had Yang pull a banner down (complete with sound effects) which obscured 80-95% of the screen. He then pulled it up after about two seconds.
- When LazyTown aired on CBeebies, an ad usually popped up that had a yellow blob "thinking" of whatever show was coming up next, covering half the screen during the Once per Episode song and staying there for about 15 seconds.
- In the first airing of the The Legend of Korra episode "And the Winner Is...", a bug of SpongeBob laughing shows up just as Korra is shown falling. It's even become a meme.
- TNT had small pop ups that weren't very intrusive, but when it changed formats, it got bad. Spike TV had a bad habit of doing animated pop ups for their cartoons like 'Gary the Rat and Stripperella, often just before or after commercial breaks. They'd take up perhaps a third of the screen.
- Fox Kids used to have a popup with a little screen, a flashing yellow arrow, and picture of the Series Mascot for whichever show was coming up next (i.e. Goggle boy, red ranger). It would show up during the third act and the tag. They used similar icons for their commercials.
- Disney Channel Scandinavia used to have in years 2006-2007 a popup with an elevator landing from top to the bottom right corner of the screen, then it opened revealing a picture of the character from whichever show was coming up next (i.e. Tarzan, Kim Possible, Jake Long, Fillmore). It would show up two minutes before the show's episode ended.
- On NBC Kids, the NBC logo falls off and a child's hands glue the logo back on. This happens several times each kids show, leading to some Fridge Logic that maybe the kid should try a stronger adhesive, like tape.
- A rare Literature example is the German publisher Heyne, which included a soup advert in the middle of the text of Terry Pratchett's Pyramids (see here for details).
- Though technically not a pop-up, the "TV ratings" logos used on American TV appear to be getting bigger and bigger, with it now not uncommon for the icon to over as much as 1/5 or more of the screen, obscuring the scene noticeably. Fortunately, rumors at the time of their introduction that they'd be required on DVD releases as well turned out to be untrue—strangely enough, though, one TV rating bug appeared on a VHS release of the Reading Rainbow episode "Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin".
- Inverted on the Today show. They will run their commercials in a popup for things coming up later on the show.
- When TBS offered the 2009 remake of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three to watch On Demand - they had their Commercial Pop-Up saying "TBS Very Funny" all through a movie that includes blood spatters, seven on-screen deaths and terrified hostages.
- In March of 2001, YTV's "The Zone" block had a subplot involving "Yokomites", literal bugs that would show up at random points in the show. Here is the only surviving footage of that subplot.
- PBS Kids, like most other networks, has the little box telling viewers what show is airing and when it premieres. They include a little skit with the characters from their shows in their popups, such as the ones for/during Odd Squad Saves the World. A little after the episode "Dance Like Nobody's Watching" began, the "You're Watching [show name] on PBS Kids!" box appeared. Then Oscar pops up, holding a gadget, and activating it, the box ripples in a pretty pink color. The box has its normal red color, but then proceeds to completely disappear from the screen. This whole shebang practically would distract this viewer for its duration.
- The first airing of the episode "O Is Not For Old" had the box show up except the "You're Watching..." text was flipped upside down. Ms. O then appears, elbow-bumping the box and causing the text to readjust. She then broke the fourth wall and proceeded to give the viewers two thumbs-up for about 5 seconds before everything disappeared by moving down. Not the same disappearing act as the example above. Again, huge distraction.
- There was also another one where Olive and Otto did a little fixing-up of the box with the same text. They actually dropped down from the top of the screen to the bottom. It then did the same disappearing act as Ms. O's box.
- The same situation as the first example happened when Odd Squad first premiered.
- The premiere of the Sesame Street special The Cookie Thief in early 2015 pulled a similar trick. Three times during the course of the premiere, a bug of Cookie Monster would pop up followed by a text box similar to the ones described in the Odd Squad example above, reminding viewers that, yes, they were watching The Cookie Thief. Viewers Are Morons indeed. Hilariously, it first popped up during a scene that Cookie Monster was in, which may have momentarily confused the show's young viewers.
- Yes, this happens to anime too: not even Amagami is immune to this◊.