When networks prioritize profits over entertainment
As a fan of Korean dramas, a fairly recent trend in broadcasting has been the switch from 70‐minute episodes to two 35‐minute episodes per scheduled air date. According to an article last year by Park Jin‐hai in The Korea Times, “Under the current broadcasting law, public broadcasters cannot run mid‐ show commercials.” She took note of Korean networks MBC and SBS after they made such changes following complaints from viewers about commercial interruptions.
Lately, KBS, South Korea’s national public broadcaster, has also taken such measures.
Using KBS’s current weekend drama “My Only One" as an example, what would typically broadcast as one episode from 8:20 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (with two brief commercial breaks of about two to three minutes each), now airs as two separate episodes. Commercials air between the prior show and the first episode, there’s a short commercial break in the middle of the first episode, then another short commercial break plays before the second episode begins, which then runs commercial‐free.
The trend is very different from the way in which networks operate in the Philippines, where, at times, it seems commercial breaks are longer than the show itself.
One show, in particular, the average commercial break is about 15 minutes, a far cry from the ads that run on KBS, which are usually 30‐second promotions for other programs airing on the network. The commercial breaks make such an impact on programming, often times, shows end up running later than scheduled – sometimes commercials will run for a show at 7:45 p.m. saying it starts at 7:30 p.m.
There’s also no way of gauging when a show actually ends because the commercials eat up so much time.
Something that has also become very apparent with local programming; when a show first airs, their debut week and the few subsequent weeks after, the show (program and commercials) run about 40 to 45 minutes, as episodes go by, the show begins to offer less content but the commercials remain constant, resulting in a total airtime of around 25 to 30 minutes – then it goes back to the 40‐minute range towards the finale.
While writers are trying to stretch material, viewers are left with more advertising than content.
Why do networks value ad revenue so much to the point that entertainment is sacrificed? There have been numerous occasions where, despite a show being engaging, the amount of ads between segments became such a letdown, ended up shutting off the TV instead of finishing the show.
The Korea Times article cited Korea Broadcast Advertising Corporation data that showed ads that played in the middle of a show provided more revenue for broadcasters, yet networks still compromised for the sake of viewers.
A particularly pertinent anecdote came during last year's Halloween episode of The Wendy Williams Show, an American daytime talkshow. During the live taping, the host reportedly “overheated” in her Statue of Liberty costume and fainted on the air; the show went black and cut to commercial. Page Six referred to the abrupt switch as “an extended commercial break,” which other outlets described as being around eight minutes – an “extended” break is eight minutes? That’s average for any network in the Philippines!
Entertainment is the primary feature local networks provide for the public, but when adver/sing takes precedent over keeping viewers engaged, in the long run, people will find other outlets.
The internet offers an array of viewing op/ons, along with the bootleg movie industry, which con/nues to thrive despite the Op/cal Media Board tasked with ending the prac/ce of pira/ng. Perhaps, even without viewers, networks will con/nue to profit off their adver/sers, but how long with they s/ck around if they know the public is looking elsewhere for entertainment?
Other countries recognize the balance between maintaining a profitable en/ty and ensuring their customers are served properly. Growing up in the US, commercial breaks usually run about four to five minutes, before moving to the Philippines, it felt like an eternity; but experiencing commercials the way they are in the Philippines, it’s s/ll a culture shock.
Some of the unprecedented instances witnessed with regard to commercials include a “live” airing of the Miss Universe pageant that stopped in the middle of the parade of na/ons to air adver/sements. While the network came back to where they le off, they should have stopped claiming the pageant was “live” and instead say it was “on delay” – anyone with internet access already knew the winner as the network was s/ll deciding the top five.
Another moment came while watching a Ceres‐Negros FC football match that went to commercial a er the 10th minute; having watched live Premier League, La Liga, MLS, and Champions League football, commercial breaks are reserved for hal ime and not the middle of the match – by the /me the network went to “hal ime,” it was already the middle of the second half on the (truly) live online stream.
It is s/ll shocking just how much networks are willing to sacrifice in order squeeze every penny from adver/sing revenue. Is there any hope a local network decided to priori/ze pleasing an audience rather than coun/ng profits?/