We’re consuming more television and video content than ever before, on all types of screens. At the same time, TV adverts are being skipped more and more frequently. As programmes on commercial channels are largely financed through advertising, this is exerting ever greater pressure on investment in local productions. To address this issue, all Belgian broadcasting have asked operators to introduce a revised, uniform model for TV advertising to boost the local television market. Telenet is the first operator to respond to this request and will start implementing the necessary changes from the end of September 2021 for the DPG Media and SBS channels. As a result, viewers will sit through one minute of unskippable adverts before any recordings they’ve made of VTM programmes (DPG Media) and PLAY programmes (SBS). Users of Terugkijk TV, Telenet’s catch-up service, will no longer be able to fast forward through ad breaks during programmes, but they will still be able to fast forward the programme content itself. As soon as Telenet customers have been switched to the new model, they will automatically receive seven days of Terugkijk TV free of charge. VRT and the other Belgian broadcasting groups will introduce unskippable commercials at a later stage. The new advertising model is similar to the one viewers are used to when watching online video platforms. The other operators also support the philosophy behind the new model and are currently holding constructive talks with the broadcasting groups about the concrete timing for its implementation.
More and more catch-up television – without ad breaks
Broadcasters and operators join forces once again
Advertising income is the main source of income for commercial broadcasters, but because we’re watching fewer ad breaks, the commercials in question need to be repeated across longer runs to make sure they reach the requisite number of viewers. As a result of these longer runs, broadcasters are no longer able to sell the same amount of advertising time as they used to. At the same time, advertisers are directing more and more of their budgets online towards international tech giants such as Facebook and Google, where they can target their campaigns at specific target groups. This loss of advertising income is putting significant pressure on investment in local productions.
The Belgian television sector has been mulling over this changing evolution and the associated question of how local programmes can remain both high-quality and affordable for a number of years now. Broadcasters and operators have already been working together on initiatives in this area, such as addressable advertising (making sure advertising on TV is as targeted as possible, just like it is online) or pause-button advertising (showing an advert when a programme is paused). However, these initiatives no longer suffice to keep the quantity and quality of local fiction at its usual level. As local content remains highly popular, it is crucial for viewers that high-quality programming can continue to be produced on our own soil. With that in mind, broadcasters and operators are joining forces once again to introduce a revised television advertising model.
One minute of advertising to support local programmes
Kris Vervaet, CEO of DPG Media Belgium: “Flanders boasts an exceptional wealth of talent and success in the audiovisual sector. We want to look after that talent as best as we can; first and foremost, so all Flemish viewers can continue to enjoy it. Advertising income is absolutely essential to guarantee the continued existence of local, high-quality productions such as Fair Trade and De Bende van Jan de Lichte, as well as formats like Huis Gemaakt and Camping Coppens. Consequently, it is crucial that we can offer advertising for all new ways of watching TV, including online (already available via VTM GO) and catch-up via recordings and Terugkijk TV. As such, we are extremely pleased to be able to announce this new model today, together with SBS and Telenet, and by extension, with VRT and the rest of the television sector. At the same time, we are committed to continue investing in innovative possibilities in the field of advertising in future, so that we can keep improving viewer comfort.”
Jeroen Bronselaer, CEO of SBS: “Locally produced programming continues to be extremely popular among Flemish viewers. De Slimste Mens, Komen Eten, Huizenjagers, De Mol, Bake Off: we need to keep up our commitment to these formats – and their successors – to make sure we can keep holding our own against international competitors with huge budgets. Our own budgets are increasingly under pressure, as the advertising market is evolving in line with viewers, who prefer to skip ad breaks as much as possible. We needed to strike a balance between viewer comfort for our customers and maintaining the current level of investment in local productions. We have already been trying to make advertising as relevant as possible to both viewers and advertisers, in keeping with online advertising models. We now want to extend the online advertising models that viewers have been experiencing and have become used to over the years to television. We’re pleased to be able to roll out this new model together with DPG Media and VRT, and we’re convinced that the sector, viewers and advertisers only stand to benefit from it.”
Frederik Delaplace, CEO of VRT: “For several decades now, the Flemish media sector has successfully delivered an extremely diverse and high-quality local TV offer into Flemish living rooms. That said, media behaviour is changing at a rapid pace, and that is putting pressure on the finance required to produce this offer. Here at VRT, we believe it is essential for us to help safeguard a sustainable, local media ecosystem through partnerships with others. Consequently, we’re more than happy – within the limits of VRT’s remit in terms of commercial communication – to do what we can to help support the advertising model of our Flemish colleagues. That said, VRT’s programmes will of course remain free from commercial breaks. We believe that this model can offer the breathing space required to guarantee that Flemish viewers can continue to enjoy a strong and diverse local offer.”
Telenet is the first operator to roll out the new model in stages – and offers Terugkijk TV free of charge
To generate the intended effect, the revised advertising model must be supported by the entire sector. Telenet has already responded to this demand and will become the first operators to roll out the new model in stages. The operator is doing so rooted in the belief that partnerships within the sector are crucial to continue to be able to offer top-quality local productions to viewers. At the same time, the operator recognises that the new model will result in changes to the familiar ways viewers enjoy television. As a consequence, Telenet is eager to demonstrate that it remains fully committed to providing its customers with the best possible viewer experience. To do so, it will offer its Terugkijk TV catch-up service free of charge and add new functionalities, including a Channel Zone in the TV library, in which viewers will be able to see an overview of recent and popular programmes of their favourite channels at a glance.
John Porter, CEO of Telenet: “We’ve seen major changes in television in the past ten years due to the arrival of international competitors and online platforms. New dynamics have emerged in viewing behaviour, but also in the way people tolerate advertising around programmes. At the same time, the importance of partnerships to hold our own against international competitors and to allow local content and productions to flourish is clearer than ever. The sector has been discussing these issues for several years, and to us, viewer comfort has always been at the heart of these conversations. We believe that we have found the right balance with this new advertising model, and that everyone stands to benefit as a result. The new model is giving the sector the breathing space it needs to keep being able to offer the best local programmes and series to our viewers. At the same time, we continue to be committed to viewer comfort, and we’re demonstrating that by making Terugkijk TV available free of charge to all our customers, among other things.”