Seven minutes of ads per hour not enough to beat online rivals, say TV heads

Big broadcasters are losing viewers to Netflix and advertisers to Facebook, and reportedly need more advertising time to compensate

Don’t adjust your screens – adverts could cut into TV programmes even more as the government holds talks with major UK broadcasters about boosting their revenue to help them keep up with online competitors.

The likes of ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 likely hope the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) will agree to relax the regulations around television advertising in a bid to compensate for losses partly down to pressures from streaming sites Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

The broadcasters are also losing out on advertising revenue to online rivals like Facebook and Google, despite TV being a historically trusted platform for advertisers.

Current Ofcom rules mean broadcasters can show an average of seven minutes of advertising per hour, (or eight minutes during prime-time TV).

In the first half of this year, reported The Times, the UK’s total TV advertising revenue fell by 3.3 per cent to £2.4bn. Most broadcasters have reported a declining or stagnating amount of cash raised by advertising, with ITV reporting a five per cent loss on ad revenue in the first half of this year.

Broadcasters have been trying to shake advertising practices up in recent years in an attempt to keep both viewers and clients engaged in an ever-changing digital landscape. Earlier this year Channel 4 announced a new tool that allows advertisers to target custom audiences through the on-demand platform. Meanwhile ITV has rolled out a “more than TV” strategy that sees it partnering with big brands and organisations.

If the DCMS decides the regulation should be relaxed after the consultation closes, it likely won’t go down well with viewers: A recent Ofcom survey showed that more than half of people think there are too many ads on television already.

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The number of viewers public service broadcasters pull in is steadily declining. The average number of minutes people spend watching television in the UK fell by 11 minutes from 2017 to 2018 (to three hours and 12 minutes per day), with younger people watching cutting back on their TV consumption at a quicker rate than older generations.