Putin Wants To Get Rid Of Commercials, But The Resulting Programming May Not Satisfy

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is probably just like every other worldwide TV viewer: He doesn't like commercials. And as the leader in Russia, he wants to do something about it. 

“Many Russian media outlets are entirely focused on their commercials,” he said recently. “This keeps them showing news stories about murder, rape or burglary.” Putin said he wants to "purge" state TV channels that have commercials.

Hmm... Murder, rape and burglary news content better than a commercial for, say, a Skoda automobile? Well, we all have our preferences.

We are not sure whether this is a big part of Putin's re-election campaign -- and it's not exactly clear what the alternative is. In part, proposals have been floated around for some sort of "public funding" of Russian TV, which means taxing the citizenry, for the most part. Others have talked about a hybrid plan -- half-public, half-private funding.



Estimates are that 20% to 25% of total Russian TV network airtime goes to commercials, amounting to some $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion a year. That share of commercial time seems on par or even a bit lower than what viewers see on more Western commercial TV networks.

Getting rid of commercials is also being discussed in Europe. French President Nicolas Sarkozy recently announced plans to rid television of commercials by 2013. But the Parliament nixed that -- and advertising was merely restricted to 5% of airtime.

In the U.K., citizens pay a TV set tax for access to networks, including government-owned BBC networks, that have no commercials. But plenty of other commercial TV networks -- terrestrial, satellite and otherwise -- have commercials.

Economies are still having a tough time all over the world, so making consumers pay for what they now normally get for free isn't a good alternative.

Imagine if senior media agency executives from the U.S. could get in a word with Putin. They'd push home the point that viewers actually want to see some commercials -- and that they don’t always desire hard-core news content.

But they should leave all the tech talk about "addressable" advertising behind. In this country, that just gives people headaches.

2 comments about "Putin Wants To Get Rid Of Commercials, But The Resulting Programming May Not Satisfy".
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  1. William Hughes from Arnold Aerospace, March 2, 2012 at 2:24 p.m.

    France limits advertising to 5% of Programming. I'd like to see that on OUR Telivision (USA for those of you in Rio Linda!). We'd have 3 Minutes of Commercials per hour instead of the 20+ Minutes per Hour that is currently thrust upon us now. A benifit may occur for advertisers if this limit was put into effect, The breaks would be far too short (about 30 seconds each) to make it worth using a DVR to skip the Commercials, so more Ads would actually be seen. Less is indeed more in this case!

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, March 2, 2012 at 8:18 p.m.

    William, while I understand your POV, there is another way to look at this. Let's say it is three minutes per hour instead of 15 minutes per hour (assuming 25% ad load). So wouldn't that mean that (again assuming the price of airtime doesn't go up), that the networks would have 20% of the revenue to produce the content with? OK, let's say that there are price rises (supply and demand at work) so maybe they would have a third of what they have now to play with. However, they would have to fill each hour with 57 minutes of production content versus 45 minutes - so production costs would go up by 27%. Your approach would so decimate television as we know it that no-one would be able to produce anything and get a return on it and there would be no television. - unless of course you want state-subsidised production (as if THAT would ever fly in the US).

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