The current EU audiovisual media services directive significantly modifies the legal limits for conventional advertising on commercial stations. Martin Procházka, research analysts from Knowlimits agency, outlines how the news will affect broadcasting.

The original limit was 12 minutes (20 %) for each broadcast hour separately. The new regulation is still based on the 20 % limit, but sets it cumulatively for all defined bands. This means that for the 06:00-18:00 period the limit is 144 minutes and for the 18:00-24:00 period it is 72 minutes. The 00:00-06:00 band is completely unregulated – there is no aggregate or sub-hourly limit at all. As a result of this change in the law, the values within individual hours and also in aggregate for the whole day 06:00-06:00 may be above 100% under the original regulation. Now it is legally obligatory not to exceed the limit in aggregate only in the 2 bands 06:00-18:00 and 18:00-24:00.

Initial analyses suggest that both commercial groups are so far cautiously expanding blocks in primetime, which generates the highest volume of advertising GRPs due to its highest viewership. Whereas the former usual practice involved two blocks of 6 minutes each per hour, stations are now trying to broadcast blocks of around 7 minutes each, particularly in the 20:00-23:00 time slot. In the 23:00-00:00 band, on the other hand, they are cutting back (especially Prima Group stations). Stations have to consider how much they can afford to extend the advertising block and at the same time not lose viewers who may leave the station during longer commercials, thus lowering the block’s rating. In effect, the station could even have fewer total GRPs.

The 00:00-06:00 nighttime band is unrestricted, so there may be more blocks than the previously usual two – up to three or four, for example. Currently, stations in this band prefer an extended ad block length of 7 minutes rather than increasing the number of blocks. It is likely that stations will make heavy use of the night band for make-up spots.

For the above reasons, it is no longer practically meaningful to monitor the sell-out of TV stations within individual hours and throughout the day. A direct comparison of individual stations in terms of sell-out can only be made for the two ‘legally limited’ bands – in aggregate, i.e. for 06:00-00:00 or for each band separately.