Audiences reject increase in adverts on Public Service Broadcasters

Audiences are overwhelmingly against an increase in the number of adverts on commercial Public Service Broadcasters (ITV, Channel 4 and Five), according to new research published today.

The major survey of more than 1,000 people across the UK showed that more than two thirds (69%) of viewers would watch fewer programmes on commercial Public Service Broadcasters if these channels were to show more adverts. 44% said they would watch more content on advert free services offered by SVoDs such as Netflix as a result.

The research was commissioned by COBA (the Association for Commercial Broadcasters and On-Demand Services) as media regulator Ofcom considers allowing ITV, Channel 4 and Five to increase the amount of advertising they show by 850 hours per year. This is the equivalent to an extra 35 days of non-stop advertising.

COBA’s own response highlighted how many viewers may not be able to switch to other services due to the cost of living crisis or PSBs having privileged access to exclusive content via the listed events regime. The elderly, the most vulnerable and regional/rural viewers are some of the most reliant groups on PSB services.

Even though certain SVoDs are launching tiers with advertising, these will carry far fewer adverts than would be permitted to PSBs under these changes. Netflix has said, for example, it will only show up to four minutes of adverts per hour. This is compared to PSBs’ nine minutes under the new rules for their linear broadcast channels, and unlimited minutes for their on-demand services.

The research’s main findings included:

  • More than half of respondents (52%) have become less tolerant of adverts since the advent of advert-free SVoD services such as Netflix.
  • 69% of respondents said that an increase in adverts on commercial PSBs would lead them to watch less of these channels.
  • 44% said they would watch more content on SVoDs as a result.


Other findings included:

  • The majority of viewers expressed a negative view of TV advertising, with 30% stating they would rather watch television without adverts.
  • One third of adults expressed concerns about the nature of TV adverts, including the volume and content.


Vanessa Brookman, COBA chair, said:

‘As well as having a damaging impact on commercial revenues for the rest of the TV sector, which would impact on smaller commercial channels, increasing the volume of adverts on commercial Public Service Broadcasters would affect the viewer experience of Public Service Broadcasting. This could have greatest impact on those who may not have the choice of viewing in different ways.’

For more information contact Adam Minns, COBA’s Executive Director, on

For a copy of the research please visit



  1. In July, Ofcom published a call for evidence on the so-called COSTA rules which govern the amount of advertising broadcasters are permitted to show. The current rules permit commercial Public Service Broadcasters to show a maximum of seven minutes per hour of adverts, with other broadcasters permitted to show nine minutes. More details of Ofcom’s call for evidence can be found here:


  1. The consumer research was conducted in September 2022 using a significant nationally representative sample of 1,027 TV viewing adults living in the UK. It was conducted by Oliver & Ohlbaum Associates, a leading media analysis company, and its research partner, Fly Research, who have extensive experience in conducting bespoke consumer research programmes.


  1. COBA is the Association for Commercial Broadcasters and On-Demand Services. It represents multichannel broadcasters in the digital, cable and satellite television sector and leading on-demand services. More details can be found at