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TV ad breaks might get longer — here's why

Woman sitting watching TV with her feet up
TV ad breaks could be extended due to increased competition from streaming services. (Image credit: Getty)

British TV ad breaks could be set to get longer and more frequent as part of a review of the current UK broadcasting regulations, it has emerged.

Broadcasting regulator Ofcom has confirmed it plans to study and reasses the "frequency and length" of any ad breaks in regular broadcast television due to changing viewing habits and increased competition. 

The possible changes were referenced in an report reviewing the public service broadcasting licences of ITV and Channel 5. The report said: "We are also looking at the rules that set the frequency and length of advertising on broadcast TV.

These rules are complex, with limits in place for public service broadcasters that are stricter than the rules set for commercial broadcasters."

The regulator explained that increased competition for viewers from the rise of streaming services such as Disney Plus, Prime Video, Paramount Plus and Netflix was "generally positive" for audiences owing to the increased choice they offer to consumers. 

However, these new services cause problems for  ITV and Channel 5 as they "put pressure on broadcasters, squeezing revenues and made it harder for them to maintain their current offer", Ofcom said.

Currently, the rules state that ITV and Channel 5 are currently allowed to show an average of seven minutes of ads per hour of broadcasting, with ad breaks of up to eight minutes per hour allowed during the prime time period of 6 pm and 11 pm. 

Meanwhile, private channels are allowed to run nine minutes for advertising and a further three for teleshopping in the same timeframe. There are special rules for certain types of shows, including children's programming, news broadcasts, religious services and royal ceremonies. 

Ad breaks must not exceed three minutes and 50 seconds, and there can only be one ad break in programmes which last between 21 and 44 minutes.

An Ofcom spokesman said: "We're scoping a range of options, but before we form any plans we'll listen to different views and examine what TV viewers say.

"We need to strike the right balance between protecting viewers' interests and sustaining our traditional broadcasters, which includes helping them compete with American streaming platforms."

Ofcom has said it expects it will offer more details about the possible changes later this summer. 

Martin Shore
Martin Shore

Martin is a Staff Writer with WhatToWatch.com, where he produces a variety of articles focused on the latest and greatest films and TV shows. 

Some of his favorite shows are What We Do In The Shadows, Bridgerton, Gangs of London, The Witcher, Doctor Who, and Ghosts. When he’s not watching TV or at the movies, Martin’s probably still in front of a screen playing the latest video games, reading, or watching the NFL.