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‘Surprising’ report finds public tolerance for paid-for TV content

Alex Connock Alex Connock

The idea that television audiences are resistant to strong links between advertisers and the on-screen content is being challenged by an extensive new report.

The report found that viewers were unlikely to shy away from advertising funded content although transparency in the relationship was a major issue.

Co-authored by the MD of Shine North based at MediaCityUK Alex Connock and the director and co-founder of Make Productions Sian Kevill, the report published by the Reuters Institute investigates the public’s changing views to the relationship with advertisers as well as attitudes from people producing content.

In the introduction to the report the authors explain its role is to ‘inform and shape the industry discussion about key trends in paid-for content’.

“The results are surprising, suggestive of a public tolerance, and a sophisticated awareness of paid-for content. The audience would keep watching an advertiser funded programme in the UK long after the regulator had pulled the plug on transmission.

“Maybe the audience need protecting a little less the conventional wisdom suggests.”

Existing examples

Case studies in the report include current ‘paid-for’ content such as The Guardian’s tie-up with the Gates Foundation, the Waitrose-funded End of The Line documentary about fishing and Red Bull’s live jump from space in 2012.

Findings from an Ipsos MORI poll for the research included:
– 87 % of UK respondents who enjoy food programmes would be happy to watch a cookery programme sponsored by a supermarket chain.
– 86 % would have no problem seeing a major record label sponsor a talent show.
– 85 % would watch a computer show funded by an electronics company.

And when it came to the opinions of those producing content, a survey of producers were contacted via the mailing list of the Sheffield Documentary Festival and they were also found to be ‘broadly favourable’.

65% of the 286 that responded to that survey said ‘they agreed with people who said broadcasters should a policy of transmitting branded content, provided that it is made transparent.”

Called Ask the Audience: Evaluating New Ways to Fund TV Content, the timing of this report’s release is also likely to make interesting reading for the new local television licence holders preparing for launch across northern cities including Manchester, Leeds, Middlesbrough, Newcastle and York as well as the regulatory authorities.

You can read it in full here.

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