One of the great things about Sky+ is that you no longer have to watch tedious adverts about sofa sales, cheap LCD TVs, car insurance, van insurance, travel insurance, pet insurance, private health care, debt consolidation (fortunately they’re few and far between these days), the dangers of taking recreational drugs, computer games, holidays in Dubai, holidays in Malaysia, holidays in Greece, trailers for programmes showing British holiday makers making idiots of themselves in Greece and a whole bunch of other things I’ll never be interested in.
Shortly after acquiring Sky+ we got into the habit of using the ‘series link’ feature to record all episodes of everything we’re likely to watch then watch them at our leisure while gleefully skipping the ad breaks every 15 minutes (except for the wonderful BBC with no ads at all). We now very rarely watch ‘live’ TV (other than sporting events or the odd BBC show) and virtually never see adverts at all. The trouble is that advertisers know this and they know that the number of people who have personal recorders like Sky+ is growing. And I notice they’ve started employing sneaky tactics to try to get some ads in your face even when you skip them.
For a long time, once an ad break started I could fast forward at x30 speed for the count of 10, press play and be right at the point where the programme starts again. I could do it with my eyes closed. Then I found to my dismay that some channels started to mix things up a bit. They started by throwing in the odd short break, this meant I had to keep my eye on the screen and quickly back up if things over-ran, but didn’t cause too many problems.
Then I noticed that some channels got even sneakier. Instead of simply varying the ad break length they’d throw in the ‘cover screen’ mid-way through the adverts. By ‘cover screen’ I mean the screen they show at the start and end of ad breaks, usually with the title of the show, such as “THE PROFESSIONALS”, “THE UNIT” or “LOST”. When you’re skipping through the ads you look out for the cover screen so you don’t go too far and have to rewind – your trigger finger is ready for them. And the advertisers know it. So they put it mid-way through the ads, you instinctively click ‘Play’ and you end up actually watching a few seconds of some advert for carpet cleaner until you start fast forwarding again. Damn those evil ad men (and women)!
Thanks to the current world recession (or is it depression?) television advertising revenues are dropping and independent channels like ITV and Channel 4 are starting to struggle to make ends meet. While I wouldn’t shed a tear if I never saw a TV ad again it would be a shame if these independent channels went under because they’ve based their revenues so heavily on advertising. Surely there has to be a better way to fund a channel than making people sit through endless ads telling you what kitchen cleaner or drain blocker to use. I thought these TV executives were supposed to be creative!