Drama view­ers an­gry over com­mer­cial breaks

The Korea Times - - CULTURE - By Park Jin-hai jin­hai@ktimes.com

MBC and SBS, two of Korea’s three ma­jor pub­lic broad­cast­ers, sur­prised and an­gered view­ers after they in­ter­rupted pro­grams with com­mer­cial breaks last week.

View­ers of the new dra­mas “Ruler: Master of the Mask” (MBC) and “Sus­pi­cious Part­ner” (SBS) both aired their first episodes May 10.

Half way into both shows, the broad­cast­ers aired one-minute-long com­mer­cials with notices that the next 35 min­utes of each drama would fol­low.

Un­der the cur­rent broad­cast­ing law, pub­lic broad­cast­ers can­not run mid-show com­mer­cials. How­ever, for years the broad­cast­ers claimed that this ban has been the main cause of their wors­en­ing fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion and con­tin­u­ously called for scrap­ping it.

Re­gard­ing their ap­par­ent break­ing of the law to get cash from the com­mer­cials, view­ers showed anger for not be­ing no­ti­fied prop­erly of the broad­cast­ers’ new advertisin­g for­mat called “premium com­mer­cials.” They com­plained their rights were vi­o­lated.

“It was un­com­fort­able to see them split the shows in two in order to gain more profit from com­mer­cials. It re­ally dis­turbs the flow of the story,” said Shin Mi-hae, who watched “The Ruler.” An­other viewer said, “Pub­lic air­waves are owned by the peo­ple, not broad­cast­ers.”

Jang Bo-hye, an­other watcher, also said she was sur­prised by the pric­ing pol­icy of the video on de­mand ver­sion, which treated the one episode as two episodes. The du­ra­tion was the same but the price was dou­bled be­cause of the split. “The abrupt break with the mid-show com­mer- cial is non­sense. Charg­ing sep­a­rate fees for the same show angers me even more,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to Korea Broad­cast Advertisin­g Cor­po­ra­tion (KOBACO) data, the 15-sec­ond ad­ver­tise­ment rate for a pub­lic TV week­day drama, where com­mer­cials are played be­fore and after the show, av­er­ages 13.5 mil­lion won. But the rate for a “premium com­mer­cial,” a de facto mid-show com­mer­cial, costs more. “Although the rate is not dou­ble or triple the price, as some say, it is true that the rate is way above the av­er­age,” said a KOBACO of­fi­cial.

MBC claims that its move was in con­sid­er­a­tion of the chang­ing con­tent con­sum­ing pat­terns of view­ers who are more prone to watch­ing short-length con­tent through mo­bile de­vices than watch­ing full-length con­tent on TV. “We thought view­ers, who are now used to the Amer­i­can soap op­eras where each episode runs 30 to 40 min­utes, can eas­ily ac­cept our new form as well,” said a MBC of­fi­cial.

As for the lack of ad­vanced no­tice, the of­fi­cial said “it was in the TV sched­ule.”

SBS’s po­si­tion treated the sin­gle episode as two 30 minute episodes. “At the end of each episode, we ran the com­mer­cials. So they were not mid-show com­mer­cials,” said an SBS of­fi­cial.

Cour­tesy of MBC

A scene from “Ruler: Master of the Mask”

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