Short-sighted idea: analysts criticise plan for networks to boost the bottom line with more ads. Photo: Jessica Hromas
Making people sit through 20 minutes of advertisements during prime-time television shows risks pushing viewers to alternatives, TV insiders and experts say.
Steve Allen, of media analysis firm Fusion Strategy, said boosting prime-time ads to 20 minutes would boost the networks' bottom line but "wreck free-to-air television" because viewers would revolt and seek ad-free or ad-lite entertainment elsewhere.
"I think it's madness," Allen said of the reported request from channels Seven and Nine.
More ads would encourage people to use their PVR (personal video recorder) to fast-forward through commercials, he said, and would be welcomed by pay-TV operators and other competitors.
Andrew Maiden, chief executive of the pay-TV industry body ASTRA, said audiences would "not take kindly" to more advertising.
“It would be short sighted to make up for declining advertising revenues by simply jamming more advertising into each hour,” he said. “Our research shows that audiences are increasingly irritated with the growing number of advertisements on free-to-air television.”
An increase in advertisements would require agreement between all free-to-air broadcasters and the consent of media regulator ACMA, leading one person to quip: "Does the government want to be seen to be facilitating more ads on television? I don't think so."
Analysts were mixed on what an increase in ads would mean financially for the commercial broadcasters Seven, Nine and Ten.
Allen described the bid by the higher-rating Seven and Nine as a "squeeze play on steroids against Ten".
"If you could sell an extra five minutes worth of The Block, My Kitchen Rules, any top program, you'd have Network 10 with maybe two to three top programs, you'd have Seven and Nine with a dozen or more each, and they would swoop up all the revenue and starve Ten."
But another analyst said any extra ads would likely lead to more of the same for ad share - although the broadcasters might not be able to able to get the same rates for the extra minutes.
The latest advertising figures showed that Ten attracted just 21 per cent of the metropolitan free-to-air advertising bookings from media buyers in July. Channel Seven led with 40.2 per cent, and Channel Nine had 38.8 per cent, Friday's figures from SMI showed.
Television attracted $290.8 million in advertising last month from media buyers, down 13.8 per cent year on year, according to SMI. But TV remains Australia's top advertising medium.
Australians continue to watch more than three hours of television a day, but live TV viewing is dropping while playback services are becoming more popular, according to the latest report on video viewing trends released in July.
Channels Seven, Nine and Ten declined to comment. Julie Flynn, the chief executive of the free-to-air industry Free TV, was contacted for comment.
- with Sarah Thomas