I can’t tune in for a relaxed evening in front of the goggle box any more, it’s too frustrating. If I want to watch a programme that starts on the hour, I know it’s not likely to start until two, three or four minutes past because they’re still showing ads and promos. But when it does get started, it’s increasingly likely they will go to their first ad break as early as eight minutes past although mostly they do that at about twelve minutes past and run ads until almost eighteen or even twenty past. It lasts that long because they’re not just running ads, they’re running trailers for upcoming programmes. So a typical sequence would be a bump slide or short for the programme sponsors, then perhaps a short promo for another programme, then some ads, then some ‘announcements’ about what’s on later in the evening, with perhaps another promo, then a bump slide or short for the programme sponsor again and finally we’re back into the programme for another few minutes until the next ad break. If I’m just switching on to browse what’s on, there’s a high probability all the channels I’m cycling through are on an ad break. Or I might be lucky and catch an actual programme, but it will only be for a few minutes before the ads start. Even the BBC routinely start programmes late because they show so many promos and announcements but I still think the license fee is worth the money to have a few channels ad-free. I just resent paying Rupert Murdoch a fortune each month and still having to watch adverts.
The only way I can cope with this is to scan the schedules for programmes I might like, and then record them. At least then I can fast-forward through the dross. On the whole, it’s a vicious cycle. The more ads the broadcasters show, the less attention we pay to them and the less impact they have. On the other hand, if they cut back on the time they sell to advertisers they could bill it at a higher rate. Fear causes broadcasters to slash their rates to compete with each other and with other media, and to increase the time they take from programming to keep revenue up, all of this to the detriment of everyone. I’d be happy to adopt the German model (as it as when I lived there, anyway) or now in China where ads are shown between programmes, not during. Maybe then we’ll see the classic advertising again that we used to enjoy when ads were worth watching as entertainment in their own right. Bring back the PG Tips monkeys.