The Church of England recently released a statement claiming gambling ads should only be aired after 21:00. The question is whether or not the watershed still applies to new TV viewing habits and our expectation of what is damaging content.
TV Watching Habits Change
The Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board, an organization that publishes official figures for TV viewing, produced the figures for time shift viewing. They indicated that the hours of programs that are watched after broadcasting are increasing.
This means that, in theory, young audiences are expected to watch post-watershed TV programs at any moment of the day. Pre-watershed restrictions and similar ideas would thus become less effective and almost obsolete.
However, in the case of gambling ads, the ban on pre-watershed advertisements could decrease the number of betting ads children are exposed to on TV.
The ban comes due to a voluntary code. This code states that all TV commercials for gambling and similar services that appear on TV before the watershed are limited exclusively to sports events.
A code like this forces gambling operators to make the most of all their TV ads. A research done by the BBC revealed that of all football matches broadcast in Britain, 95% of them contained one or more gambling commercials. They stream during the ad breaks and people are more inclined to watch live sports than any other program on TV.
The Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board discovered that time-shifted TV is watched a lot less due to major sports events. One of the examples points out the 2016 European football cup and the 2016 Olympics that saw a drop in figures during that summer.
Despite an increasing interest in content on their mobile phones and from the internet, children and teenagers still include a lot of TV in their daily activities.
Of all the 12 to 15-year-olds watching TV, over 90% of them watch TV for 14.5 hours each week. This is the result of a recent Ofcom survey that targeted the media use of youngsters. This coincides with the 18 and 21 hours young people spend on their mobile devices and the internet, respectively.
In a report from December 2017, the UK Gambling Commission indicates that children from 11 to 16 have seen gambling ads on TV at least once. 29% of them claim to have seen gambling ads more than once a week.
Priorities Are Shifting
Restricting gambling ads during the broadcast of sports events before the watershed could ultimately lead to a decrease in the exposure of young people to such ads. However, this is no assurance that operators will not try to pour their money into gambling ads on other platforms.
Ofcom made estimates that ads for unhealthy food products children could watch drastically fell after a ban on junk food ads during programs for children was enforced.
A 2012 research conducted by the Newcastle University revealed that children are exposed to a large degree of unhealthy foods even after the ban was initiated. The revelation comes as the result of children watching more programs not intended for children and this being exposed to more and more ads for various food and drinks.
Judging from the results, brands are shifting their focus and investments from primetime TV programs to family-friendly content. And, while the programs are not exclusively meant for children, they attract a fairly large young audience.
A 2007 ban restricted gambling operators from advertising in media that is meant exclusively for children and young adults. This includes gaming sites as well as YouTube channels. However, 70% of all questioned participants claim they were exposed to gambling ads on social media, and 2/3 of them have been exposed on other sites.
This means that despite a watershed ban, gambling operators will find a way and use other commercial opportunities. Online ads and other marketing resources will probably beomce the main focus of these companies.