A sneaky new regulation has been passed by Ofcom, allowing UK advertisers to do away with the '20 minute rule'. This was a rule which said that ad breaks could only appear every 20 minutes.
In a timeshifted world this makes it easy to skip past the pesky ads that get in the way of the programming, but this becomes more difficult to do if you have an ad every 6 minutes.
However, my experience has been that ad breaks work best when there are natural breaks in the programme. At Narrowstep we found that a thirty second ad every six minutes resulted in around 9% of viewers leaving during the ad break. However, increasing this to two minutes resulted in a much higher fall off rate of 23%. Now, this was for extreme sports content, which is short and snappy by nature, but the move of the US networks towards shorter, more regular breaks indicates that this seems to be acceptable to viewers in a world where attention span deficit is a real issue.
Indeed, it's interesting to note that TV programmes often deliberately break themselves up into bite sized chunks and the BBC constructs its own 'advertising' between programmes since this is, by now, part of the language of television.
Already many TV stations are bumping up their ad quota from the allowed 12 minutes to 13 or more and another change in the regulations means that companies can now produce 12 minute long ads if they like - and can afford it.
As ever, these changes will take forever to take effect. Ad agencies are notoriously slow to wake up to the possibilities opened up by these changes.
The nightmare scenario is that you might end up watching two programmes knitted together - one produced as 'content' by the TV company and the the other as an 'infomercial' by the ad agency.