Catch-up TV services have changed the way that many of us watch TV, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the prevalence of adverts. It seems there is no escape, no matter what platform you watch your favourite TV show on. But which channel is worse for on demand ads?
To find out, we compared the catch up services from ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 to their live broadcast channels. All with a little help from the UK’s most popular soap operas.
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Note – the above results are taken from a one-off, ad hoc test. As a paid-for subscription service, Sky Go was not included.
ITV Player – Coronation Street
Monday night’s TV showing of Corrie clocked up 13 adverts in total, including 3 sponsored idents and a commercial for another ITV show. Combined, these totaled 4 minutes, 25 seconds – just enough time to make a cup of tea.
So how about the same episode on ITV Player? Watched on both a PC and the ITV player app, there were just nine adverts during the show, coming in at 2 minutes 50 seconds, over a minute and a half less ad time. If you absolutely cannot stand adverts, ITV Player offers a subscription service that gets rid of them, for £3.99 per month. We’re not sure this is really worth it though.
Fastest: ITV Player Online/App
4 On Demand – Hollyoaks
Next up, it’s Channel 4’s ever-glamorous Hollyoaks. If you prefer to enjoy the misadventures of these tradegy-striken Chester-folk on your tablet, we’ve got some bad news. It took longer to get through Hollyoaks using the online services than watching on TV.
Watching on 4oD online meant sitting through 5 minutes and 28 seconds of adverts, and the 4oD app amounted to 5 minutes 54 seconds. Sitting in front of a TV the old fashioned way, meant only 4 minutes and 12 seconds of adverts, over a minute less than the online offerings.
Fastest: Broadcast TV
Demand 5 – Neighbours
Finally, we’ll head to Ramsey Street, where Toadie et al are going about their sunny lives, stoking barbeques and violating the highway code by gleefully playing cricket in the middle of the road. Watch the show on TV, and you would sit through 4 minutes and 9 seconds of adverts. That’s about the same amount of time as it takes Paul Robinson to dream up several unethical business ventures.
Watch on the Demand 5 app however, and you’ll only have to watch 2 minutes and 50 seconds of commercials. It’s the same story watching online through the Demand 5 site, except that it’s possible to skip the second advert break halfway through the show, if you’re nimble enough (should you let the player do its own thing, the adverts will start and become unskippable). This shaves off 1 minute 25 seconds.
Fastest: Demand 5 online
Verdict – on demand doesn’t always make for fewer adverts
So, do catch-up services carry more adverts than TV? It’s a mixed bag. While Channel 4 packed more commercials into its 4OD service than the TV broadcast, it was the opposite for ITV and Channel 5.
If you regularly use catch-up services, the chances are that 4 On Demand has you tapping your fingers as you wait for Location, Location, Location to start, but ITV Player and Demand 5 seem almost whizzy by comparison. Our advice? Use a PVR to record your favourite shows, and simply fast forward through the adverts. If you desperately want that cup of tea, you can always press pause.