UK paving path for product placement


Commercial television broadcasters in Great Britain may be about to get a welcome breath of fresh air, not to mention fresh revenue, as regulators are believed to be considering lifting a ban on in-show product placement. A key government official is expected to soon make that case before the Royal Television Society.

The non-commercial BBC pulls in much of the television viewership in Great Britain, but there are important commercial networks as well, and according to the Wall Street Journal, it is estimated that allowing product placement could add as much as $166.7M to televison group coffers. The revenue is much needed, as broadcasters are facing every bit as much difficulty in Europe as they are in the US.

As it stands now, the British government forces its home-grown television companies to obscure product placements included in US-produced programming before it can be shown over British airwaves.

RBR/TVBR observation: For US citizens who feel bombarded by advertisements at every turn (including us) product placement at first seems just one more sneaky insidious way for commercial messages to worm their way into our consciousness. However, there is not much that makes them and worse or better than other forms of advertising. As commonly used home viewing gizmos allow more and more people to skip past commercials, selling them to advertisers becomes a much more difficult and less lucrative proposition.

But the preservation of free over-the-air television is a national imperative, and if allowing product placement will aid in keeping that tradition alive, then it should be allowed to go forward.

It is good to see that they are coming to their senses even in Britain, where a very high percentage of viewing goes to noncommercial programming. The lesson for regulators in the US is to avoid taking this increasingly critical revenue stream away.