Have you ever wondered if the UK has commercials on their channels? There are many people out there who think that TV in Britain is entirely commercial-free – but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, it’s estimated that some of the British broadcasters show up to four times as many ads per hour than American ones! So let’s take a look and see how true it is – does UK TV have commercials.
Television in the United Kingdom
In the UK, if you watch a commercial channel like ITV or Channel 4 there is an average of 7 minutes per hour allocated for advertising. However the upper limit is much higher and can be as high as 12 minutes per hour in some instance. This means that as much as 12 minutes in any given clock-hour are taken up by commercials and trailers for other programmes. If we take 42-minute U.S imports such as Lost which would be shown over one hour on British TV with adverts cut out, they still only spend 1/3rd of their time showing content without advertisements
In the United Kingdom (UK), where BBC channels do not have to air ads due largely to licensing fees collected from viewers across all regions it covers while most major commercial stations rely heavily on income generated through broadcasting rights transfers from international broadcasters who pay hefty prices and need to recoup those costs, advertising plays a fundamental role in broadcasting.
The Nielsen ratings system measures audience viewership of television programs, and provides a way for television broadcasters to determine how popular their shows are. In the United States, advertisements take up a large portion of time on broadcasts with commercials taking over much more than in previous generations. For example an hour-long show from 1960 would have only been 51 minutes that didn’t include advertising; today it’s just 42 without ads!
A 30 minute block now has 3 times as many advertisements than they did 50 years ago which can be quite frustrating if you’re trying to watch something important like NASCAR or your favourite talk show because every other second there will either be someone shouting about having haemorrhoids or being told by some guy who lost his job from Sears that he needs braces for his teeth which cost so much more money!
In this digital age there is no need for prolonged commercial breaks – advertisers can purchase airtime by the minute or second at drastically cheaper rates leading to shorter ad blocks during programming periods such as movies shown late night before bedtime when viewers might not be able to do anything but watch TV until they fall asleep anyway !
A Short history of British TV advertising
The TV ad industry in the UK is worth an estimated £13 billion a year. The most popular form of advertising on British television is through commercials that are inserted into shows, usually during breaks between programmes.
British channels have traditionally been more reliant on sponsorship than broadcasting ads to generate income and this type of marketing has grown significantly over the last few years. This sponsorship can be over a particular channel or programme or perhaps include some product placement.
It’s not just the channels that are reliant on sponsorship, many programmes have a sponsor who is acknowledged during the programme. Examples of these types of sponsorships or brand integrations would be ITV Sport and Cadbury biscuits giving their support to The X Factor every year.
Does UK TV have Commercials – Advertising Today
It is difficult to compare the number of commercials that are on UK channels with other countries because there’s no unified measurement system for advertising. However, it has been estimated by marketing experts from Warc and Group M that British TV viewers see approximately 15 minutes worth of ads a day which includes not just television but also online or mobile video ads.
Is that the case, more or less than where you currently live? Well of course it will vary widely but most countries I have visited have significantly more advertising on TV than the UK.
Here’s a list of the main UK television channels and which have advertisements on them –
- BBC One – No commercial adverts or breaks, some programme promotions and trailers in between shows never during them. BBC is supported by the UK TV license.
- BBC Two and other BBC channels – Too many to list here, but no commercials on any of TV, radio or other broadcasts apart from some promotion for other programmes.
- ITV – Britain’s biggest commercial TV channel obviously has advertising. Mostly short breaks though and no sporting events will be interrupted – longer breaks will be added when event allows. Commercials also on the ITV Hub online player, although you can pay a premium to watch without them.
- Channel 4 – UK, next oldest commercial station has adverts during the day and night, but not in-programme.
- Channel Five – Lots of commercials and promotions on Channel Five – seems more intrusive than ITV/Channel 4.
- Sky One – Commercials only at certain times of year when there is no live programming at all (mostly around Christmas). During the rest of the time it will be mainly trailers for programmes coming up on other channels.
All of these channels have online sites where you can stream both live TV as it’s broadcast and programmes from their archive. There’s no guarantee on how long a programme will be available on the archive. However the BBC tends to keep the programme available in their BBC iPlayer archive for twelve months, there are a few exceptions though including sports and music events and the news.
Watching UK TV Online From Outside Britain
Overall it’s fair to say if you don’t like your programmes interrupted by adverts then UK Television is a good place to view. However remember many of the shows and programmes are available on other media sites for a small subscription cost –
- Does Peacock have commercials – No not in programme
- Does Amazon Prime have commercials – some but non during the programme itself.
- Does Netflix have commercials – no not at all.
- Does Hulu have commercials – only in the free version, not the subscription.
None of the major British TV channels charge anything, unless you upgrade to the premium version. Indeed the BBC iPlayer is the most incredible resource available for English speaking entertainment, news, sports and dramas and has no adverts whatsoever.
Unfortunately there is a slight hitch, although all the UK TV channels are available online they are blocked if you’re located outside the UK. That’s anywhere, it could be from France or from the other side of the world in Australia. Basically every site checks your IP address and if it’s registered outside the UK then you’ll be denied access. It’s purely based on physical location, the same thing will happen to any UK TV license payer who travels abroad too. For more information check out our UK TV FAQ.
The fix however is simple, if you choose the right tools. However I should warn you this is where it stops being free, you have to pay a small subscription for something called a VPN for it to work. There are free VPNs but all they do is slow your computer down, install adware/spyware and actually don’t even work with any of the UK TV channels.
If you want a suggestion of how anyone can watch all of the UK TV channels irrespective of where you happen to be, then try NORDVPN which works perfectly.