Drama viewers angry over commercial breaks
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.
A scene from “Ruler: Master of the Mask”