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Days of forwarding through TV ads are numbered

15:45 11/08/2021

Belgian broadcasters have reached an agreement with digital TV providers on viewers’ ability to fast-forward through advertisements. The new regulation will be implemented in phases, starting with Telenet and Flemish commercial broadcasters – such as VTM and Play4 – at the end of September.

Viewers watching television programmes that have been recorded in advance will soon have to sit through one minute of adverts before the programme begins. They will still be able to fast-forward through the commercials that run during the programme.

Viewers using the Catch-up TV (Replay TV) service, however – where they can watch unrecorded programmes that have already aired – will not be able to forward through these blocks of commercials during the programme.

Ad revenues down

The change was necessary to ensure that commercial broadcasters can continue to operate. Much broadcasting revenue comes from advertisers, which are seeing less and less return on their investment as viewers are forwarding through their ads. Companies that traditionally produced TV adverts are looking more toward social media and the internet in general as their captive TV audience dwindles.

This is bad news for commercial broadcasters. “By watching commercials, we make television possible,” professor Tim Smits of KU Leuven’s Institute for Media Studies explained to VRT. “Advertising revenues are really under pressure. If advertisers see that a lot of people are watching using these delayed services and fast-forwarding through the commercials, they get a little anxious. And if they get anxious, the channels that offer advertising space also get anxious.”

The plan is for Telenet to roll out the new advertising system first, on commercial broadcasters, such as VTM. Other digital service providers of both Dutch and French-language TV channels will follow, though the timing is not yet known.

Public broadcasters

As for public broadcasters RTBF and VRT, and their related subsidiaries, that could take a bit longer as they must study their contracts with their respective governments. Being funded by the regional governments, they are limited in the amount of advertising euros they are allowed to earn.

There will be no change to how much customers are charged as the transition happens, though Telenet has said that its customers will get Catch-up TV for free, allowing them to watch programmes that aired up to seven days earlier. That is currently a paid service.

Photo ©Concept Photo/Shutterstock


Written by Lisa Bradshaw