COMMENT: Too many ad breaks spoil the view

They say that scheduled TV is going to die out, but I tell you what - there's nothing like that build-up of anticipation to your favourite programme of the week. For me it's Cold Feet on Sundays at 9pm on LWT. The kids are bathed and in bed by 8.45. There's just time to uncork a bottle of red, tidy away the toys and settle down on the sofa.

They say that scheduled TV is going to die out, but I tell you what - there's nothing like that build-up of anticipation to your favourite programme of the week. For me it's Cold Feet on Sundays at 9pm on LWT. The kids are bathed and in bed by 8.45. There's just time to uncork a bottle of red, tidy away the toys and settle down on the sofa.

Nothing is ever perfect though, is it? There's something about the latest series of Cold Feet that's not quite right.

It's nothing to do with the programme itself - it's the ad breaks. There are three of them. And that's one too many for comfort.

TV chiefs in this country have long assured us that they don't want to follow the US path to over-commercialisation, but for me, 11 minutes of commercial footage in the centre breaks of my favourite comedy drama crosses the line. The programme lasts for an hour and LWT claims that three breaks in that amount of time does not represent overkill. But with no fewer than 25 individual ads crammed into that time during the 3 December episode, the perception of being bombarded with commercial messages is unavoidable.

I understand why they're doing it. And although I resent it, the advertising policy doesn't stop me watching the programme, and therefore being part of that priceless, revenue-driving rarity on television these days - the high-quality mass audience. In the medium to long-term, however, LWT is making a rod for its own back. The more that the ad breaks become an irritant, the more receptive the public is going to be to technologies which enable them to avoid ads altogether, like TiVo.

In US tests, as many as 80 per cent of ads were avoided in homes using TiVo. In a country where it sometimes feels as if there are more commercial minutes than programme minutes in the hour, this is hardly surprising.

Record your five favourite programmes and you could easily save yourself an hour. In our increasingly time-starved lives, that's pretty compelling.

It'd never happen over here, of course. Unless the Cold Feet model becomes more and more attractive to TV chiefs as digital causes more fragmentation. Which is inevitable really. And suddenly, scheduled TV begins to lose its allure.



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