Britain's ITV Seeks 29% Increase in Ad Time

16 March 2005

Advertisers, agencies and media rivals accorded a mixed reception to plans by ITV, the UK's largest commercial broadcaster, to up the statutory terrestrial advertising limit (currently seven minutes in every hour) to nine minutes - an increase of 28.6%.

The broadcaster denies that such a move would lead to advertising clutter, insisting it will have little effect on viewers during peak periods.

Claims sales director Gary Digby: "We already maximise within peak time and we can't really put that much more into peak. It is more likely that the extra minuteage will go into non-peak. You won't see lots more clutter."

Starcom Motive's executive director, Andy Roberts probably speaks for the majority of his media buying colleagues: "I can see why ITV might want to create a level playing field between itself and multichannel [which already enjoys more latitude on minuteage than terrestrial channels]."

But then ... the double-whammy: "Multichannel operators like IDS already have a huge amount of commercial breaks and ITV following suit is not going to help anyone. Consumers don't want more advertisements."

IDS (the UKTV sales house) set the cat among the pigeons last year when it allegedly lengthened its ad breaks in defiance of an earlier promise not to do so - a move denied by managing director Mark Howe, who is less than delighted at ITV's proposals.

"I think if [UK broadcast regulator] Ofcom allows ITV to do it, it's a further demonstration of the lobbying power of ITV and of the political bias that is supporting a failing terrestrial network," he fumed.

A change in the status quo would not only be unfair to ITV's rivals, but a mistake for the broadcaster, Howe argues. "It will deliver more impacts in the short term, but fewer viewers in the long term.

Charges another broadcast executive who prefers not to hitch his name to his views: "They [ITV] are trying to supplement their falling market. The danger is that this is just going to lead to much more clutter and viewers are going to switch over in their droves. It's not a long-term solution for ITV. They should be concentrating on the quality of their programming rather than trying to squeeze in more ads."

But as ever the coin has two sides. ZenithOptimedia ceo Antony Young said his agency would welcome more ad breaks on ITV1. "More access for more advertisers on the number one channel in the UK has got to be a good thing for our clients. I suspect it will make TV more efficient and that also has to be good."

It is not known when Ofcom will rule on ITV's request.

Data sourced from Media Week (UK); additional content by WARC staff