SBS is to move a giant step closer to being just another commercial network with the announcement today that it will show ads during, instead of between, programs.

The controversial move, which is guaranteed to upset public broadcasting purists, is aimed at stopping a huge turn-off of viewers during commercial breaks. Currently SBS schedules its ad breaks between programs and is said to lose up to 50% of its audience while commercials are playing.

There is a big sweetener in this deal. Claiming that it stands to generate an extra $10 million in advertising revenue from the initiative, the network promises that this money will be directed to boost local production, including a flagship drama series and a new one-hour nightly news, which is expected to be launched in January.

Shaun Brown, SBS’s newish CEO, will announce details of the initiative this afternoon. There will be restrictions placed on the length of the ad breaks. A maximum of two ad breaks of one minute duration will be allowed in half-hour programs, and three ad breaks of 90 seconds duration during one-hour programs.

Peter Fray

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