The other night I was looking for something to watch mindlessly for a bit and noticed that action film John Wick: Chapter 2 was on Channel 5.
That would be suitably mindless. So I flicked over and was presented with a needless bit of fluff about some terrible-looking new Robert De Niro film. I was in the middle of Access a trashy entertainment bit of filler that Channel 5 often uses in the middle of its films later in the evening.
It’s not just Channel 5 of course. ITV 4 shows a lot of films, but they’ll jam in an episode of FYI Daily – another short “entertainment news” show – into the middle of the movie.
Why do they do this? And even if they are going to do it, why do they break up the film in EPGs? Do they think their viewers love this stuff so much it can’t wait? Couldn’t they just put the five minute entertainment show at the beginning or the end? The film’s going to be interrupted by advertising anyway after all. And if you record the film, you have to “series link” it to get both parts!
The reason is, of course, financial. (I’ve been Googling today)
There are rules laid out by Ofcom (which in turn originate from an EU Directive) about how much advertising TV channels can cram into their programming. Section 5.5 of Ofcom’s Rules on the Amount and Distribution of Advertising explains it all.
Feature films and films made for television (excluding series, serials, light entertainment and documentaries) must not carry an internal break if their scheduled duration is 45 minutes or less. Taking their scheduled duration as a whole, longer films may be interrupted once for each complete period of 45 minutes with a further break if
scheduled duration is at least 20 minutes longer than two or more complete periods of 45 minutes. Thus:
films of 45 minutes or less no breaks;
between 46 and 89 minutes one break;
between 90 and 109 minutes two breaks;
between 110 and 135 minutes three breaks;
between 136 and 180 minutes four breaks;
between 181 and 225 minutes five breaks, etc.
So John Wick: Chapter 2 is 122 minutes in it’s full form. You can shave some time off for the end credits (rarely shown in full outside subscription TV), some slight speed-up since UK TV is 25 frames per second and films are usually 24 frames per second, and possibly some slight editing.
On Channel 5, the film started at 23.00, then had a break at about midnight, before resuming until 01.15.
Showing it uninterrupted, based on its duration, it would fall into the 110 to 135 minutes category. So three centre breaks would be allowed.
But breaking it up into two “separate” film parts, with Access in the middle means one break in part one (as long as part one is between 46 and 89 minutes), a second break going into Access. A third break coming out of Access. And then a fourth break in part two of the film.
They’ve got an extra centre break!
Assuming that Access or FYI Daily are made for relative peanuts, and that the channels can persuade regulators that these are proper programmes, then they can get an extra ad break and make more money from the same film.
Obviously it drives some of the audience mad. Me for example. I won’t actually watch a film like this. But it makes sense to the broadcasters, so they continue to do it. Its a loophole to get around those Ofcom regulations.
You don’t tend to see this on big channels at more important times of the day. But ITV has in the past shoved a news bulletin in the middle of a film – all done for the same reason.