UK broadcasters are consulting with the government on plans to extend TV advert breaks as they look to stave off growing competition from online streaming rivals.
Public service broadcasters (PSB) such as ITV and Channel 4 are in talks with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) over proposals that could see the current cap of seven minutes of advertising per hour lifted.
The move comes as the broadcasters face fierce competition from subscription streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon, which are growing their share of TV viewing time.
But the PSBs are also facing a squeeze on their advertising revenue amid pressure from tech giants such as Facebook and Google. TV advertising revenue is set to decline three per cent over the year, according to analysts at Enders.
Under current rules laid out by regulator Ofcom, adverts on ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 are limited to an average of seven minutes per hour in off-peak times, while commercial rivals such as Sky have a higher cap of nine minutes.
The UK’s proposals are less strict than European limits, which place a 12-minute cap on ad breaks.
Gregor Chalmers, associate director at media agency The Specialist Works, said: “The knee-jerk reaction from some will be to view this as a ploy to boost revenue for the traditional channels.
“However, this should be embraced as a move to bring the UK more in line with European and International counterparts.”
Nevertheless, any relaxation of the limits is likely to be unpopular with viewers. Ofcom’s latest report on TV viewing revealed just under half of UK adults feel there are already too many ad breaks on the main commercial channels.
Nic Pietersma, business director at media consultancy Ebiquity, said the “lighter touch” approach by the regulator could help to level the playing field.
But he warned an increase in permitted advertising time could drive down the market price for ad slots, while it could risk alienating consumers who can now opt for paid streaming service or BBC channels.
A spokesperson for DCMS said: “The government is consulting on a range of issues in the broadcasting market, including in relation to advertising.
“We already have strict limits in place on advertising and we have been clear that we have no plans to make legislative changes in this area.”
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