Loud, too frequent commercials peeve Canadians: CRTC

January 29, 2014  |  Chris Powell  |  Comments

Canadians are becoming increasingly annoyed by the loudness and frequency of TV commercials, with some suggesting they are driving viewers away to online streaming services.

They are among the dozens of findings from the first phase of its “Let’s Talk TV: A Conversation with Canadians” initiative that were published by the CRTC Wednesday.

The initiative was launched in October with the intention of soliciting customer feedback that could help shape the Canadian broadcast system. The broad themes of the first phase were:

• Programming: What do Canadians think about what’s on TV?
• Technology: What do Canadians think about how they receive TV programming?
• Viewer toolkit: Do Canadians have enough information to make informed choices and seek solutions if they are not satisfied?

The CRTC received more than 1,300 comments through the various channels it made available (e-mail, online discussion forums, fax, mail, online forms, 1-800 number).

In addition, more than 1,250 people participated in so-called “Flash! Conferences” addressing the outlined topics.

Not surprisingly, advertising is among the major concerns for Canadians, with respondents expressing a dislike both for the amount of advertising and the extent to which some ads (hello Expedia) are repeated. Some respondents suggested that the sheer amount of advertising is driving viewers away from live broadcasts to on-demand or online.

Despite CRTC regulations governing loudness of commercials, many respondents also stated that the commercials appear louder than the TV shows they are being broadcast in.

Others bristled at having to pay subscription fees for channels that also broadcast advertising. A similar concern was voiced about provincial or national public broadcasters such as the CBC, with respondents questioning why advertising funds these services when they already receive “substantial” taxpayer subsidies.

One of the most prevalent themes from the study is that viewers are increasingly turning away from scheduled TV towards a more on-demand model.

A broad range of responses

While respondents indicated that programming of interest to them is available, many commented on the “decreasing quality” of programming, particularly that in the licensed system.

Some respondents suggested they can identify Canadian programming by its “lower quality,” while others contended that Canadian programs have increased in quality in recent years. While the report said that what constitutes “quality” was not fully articulated, respondents suggested that Canadian products need to have increased production value and creativity, and tell compelling stories.

Feedback said that Canadian programs should be original rather than relying on pre-existing formats (such as Canadian Idol or The Amazing Race Canada), and should not appeal to the lowest common denominator.

Programming from several countries, including France, the United Kingdom and even the United States (which, in addition to Breaking Bad and The Sopranos, has also given us Honey Boo-Boo and Keeping Up With the Kardashians) was identified as being quality.

Simultaneous substitution is also a prickly issue, with respondents raising concern about both the poor quality and timing of the substitution, causing them to miss the beginning or end of a program. Ironically, given consumer attitudes towards commercials, missing the U.S. Super Bowl ads is also a major peeve among Canadian viewers.

The responses also suggest growing consumer dissatisfaction with cable packages, with many people saying that basic packages have grown too large and they are forced to purchase services that are not compelling or relevant. Some object to the CRTC forcing BDUs to carry certain services, while others object to being forced to purchase any basic package – no matter the size – to access the content they actually want.

A majority of respondents said that channels should be available on a “pick-and-pay” basis, since it would reduce overall costs.

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