Can you remember the days of the 30-second advert on TV? They polarized behaviour, on the one hand some had on-going story lines that attracted a following (perhaps more so than the underlying TV programme…) such as OXO (& its family) and Nescafe Gold Blend (romance & borrowing coffee, yes, yes, I know it does seem odd now). Whereas others were a prompt to quickly do something else such as putting the kettle on before Part 2 of Coronation Street - the electricity generating business hated having to manage these spikes in demand, but not anymore!

National Grid recently explained that they no longer have this problem, and it’s all down to us watching less TV that’s broadcast live. Backed up by our research showing that a third of TV is not viewed live, i.e. it is either pre-recorded, watched via catchup, box sets, etc or streamed. We now fast-forward through the commercial breaks; although advertisers have attempted to thwart this behaviour by producing adverts that appear normal despite being viewed at 12 or 30 times normal speed; these have had mixed success. Media owners have also been able to charge more for the last advert in a commercial break knowing that’s the one we’ll stop fast-forwarding through to resume the viewing of the TV programme.

All very well I hear you say, after all we’re all very busy nowadays and by that I mean, multitasking when watching TV - checking emails, browsing the web, catching up on social media - all things we didn’t do just a few years ago. And in any case, so what. How does this impact on us? Do we care?

Well we might not but perhaps we should. Let me explain why. TV content is expensive to produce and traditionally advertising has paid for this content albeit indirectly. Without big advertisers where’s the money coming from to pay for new content? It’s going to come from higher subscription / pay TV charges, and if you think this is unlikely, the business model is already out there – look at Spotify, the music streaming service. Free if you want adverts interrupting your listening every 15 minutes. Or alternatively subscribe - a tenner a month gets you uninterrupted music.

For more information go to data tables in our Public Opinion online data sets or contact Richard Lindsay.

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This public opinion data has been collected and analysed by NEMS from a survey of a representative sample of UK adults conducted through NEMS Market Research’s telephone omnibus, a national survey of 1000 adults conducted every week. More details of our omnibus service can be found at: