With the news that this year's X Factor live shows could be up to three hours long to squeeze every penny from adverts, we take a look at the use of commercials in on telly around the globe. One of the things many people love about TV in the UK is - surprisingly - the comparative lack of advertising, compared to other countries.
Although everybody understands that TV companies generate their revenue by screening adverts, few viewers would admit to actually enjoying them. They would much rather that each programme followed the next and there was no wasted time.
That, of course, is where the BBC scores. By being funded through the TV licence, they are prevented from advertising – although they do screen promos for upcoming shows.
Anyone who has travelled to New Zealand or Australia and watched TV there will appreciate just how little advertising UK viewers are forced to watch.
In Australia, there is a restriction on the amount of advertising within a 24-hour period but not on how many ads can be shown per hour. That means that, in prime time, viewers can be exposed to 18 minutes or more of ads.
New Zealanders see up to 15 minutes per hour of advertising. In the UK there will only be one ad break in a half-hour show, but there are two in New Zealand.
Watching TV in the USA, too, can be a frustrating business. In the 1960s, a typical hour-long show would run for 51 minutes while today that has been reduced to 42 minutes. Some networks, for half-hour shows, split the time so that the programmes themselves last only 18 minutes and there are 12 minutes of ads.
The UK regulator Ofcom only allows an average of seven minutes per hour and 12 minutes in any given clock hour (eight minutes per hour from 6pm – 11pm).
Many viewers will subscribe to the view that the only good thing about advertising is it gives people a chance to take a toilet break or make a cup of tea. And indeed, the amount of power consumed across the UK always surges during the advertising break of a show like Coronation Street.
About the author
Written by Alex Corcoran, an online blogger who enjoys all soaps and hates when they are interrupted by adverts. When she does break off from watching she can be found playing posh bingo.