/ Technology

Do you record TV just to skip the ads?

I haven’t watched a TV advert in ages. It’s terrific because I loathe them and I’ll use every trick in the book to avoid them. Do you exercise your PVR just as much as me?

TV ads used to annoy me by breaking up my TV viewing, irritate me by wasting precious minutes of my life and bore me rigid with their repetition. But once I got a PVR it released me from their hold.

I have a three-pronged strategy to defeat them.

My three-pronged strategy to avoid TV ads

One: I rarely watch live TV – I record virtually everything that I think I may want to watch, particularly if it’s on a commercial channel. Not only can I then watch a programme when it suits me best, but when playing it back I can simply jump the ad breaks with two presses of the skip button every time they rear their ugly heads – excellent!

Two: If something takes me by surprise when I’m scanning through the TV listings to see what’s on that evening I’ll still start recording it. Why? So I can start watching it 15 minutes in and then skip through the ad breaks as they occur, slowly catching up with the ‘live’ programme generally around the time it’s finishing. This is known as ‘chase play’ – it uses a PVR’s ability to start playing a programme before it has finished recording and it’s a truly wonderful thing.

Three: This third scenario is most tricky and, for me, it usually occurs when watching live sport on a commercial channel, such as football coverage on ITV or, most recently, the Paralympics on Channel 4. I don’t want to employ my ‘chase play’ tactic because I really do want to watch the action live, not a few minutes after it’s actually happened.

So when the ad breaks come on I deploy my final weapon… go and make a cup of tea or take a loo break! That sorts the three-minute interludes nicely.

Does anyone else use a similar strategy to avoid TV ads? Have you got any further tips that you can tell me about? I’d love to hear from you if I’m missing a trick.

Grahame says:
14 September 2012

I simply ONLY watch what’s on BBC Iplayer! No Ads, No TV licence! Plus I only watch what I want to watch on Lovefilm or Netflix…………….works for me………..Also as it happens I am a ‘TV Snob’ so I don’t watch ITV, Channel 4 or 5 ha ha!

KevinO says:
15 September 2012

No TV License? If you have a TV, PC or radio in your house, able to pick up Any live or recorded programmes, you will need a license.
The license fee pays for Iplayer amongst many other things.
Not that I like paying it mind you!

Actually, you don’t need a licence for pre-recorded shows – you only need a licence if you are using BBC iPlayer to watch or record live broadcast television.

Gary F says:
20 October 2018

A myth employed by TV licencing. You need a licence to carry out the act of listening to or watching a live or live recorded broadcast and, not for having the equipment capable of doing so.

This is an old Conversation. A TV licence is now needed to watch programmes on iPlayer: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/help/tvlicence

You need a Licence to watch on BBC iplayer

I see that the BBC has broken the link since I posted it in 2018. Here is a new one:

There is more information on the TV Licensing website.

Quite. We should support the BBC financially if we choose to watch or listen to their output. At £159 a year – 44p a day – it seems to me to offer extremely good value for money given all the channels it produces content on and its educational contribution, particularly during Covid. The last thing I want to see is programmes dependent upon, and interrupted by, advertising.

I am hoping that there is not enough advertising to go round to support all the content offered by the BBC on top of the existing commercial channels, although it could lead to a clear-out of some of the less essential formats in our channel list. I accept that is an elitist viewpoint; all the ‘wallpaper’ channels presumably have sufficient adherents to sustain the advertising they attract through their choice of content.

I often wonder why we need more cookery programmes when there is already so much in the archives. I suppose it is the charms of the chefs that keep changing and engage a new audience. It’s effectively pushed horse racing off the screen.

The danger, it seems to me, of relying on advertising (apart from its unpredictable supply and income) is that broadcasters will need to produce many populist programmes at the expense of content for more “minority” interests. There are enough of those programmes already; I don’t want any more just to try to maximise revenue. These broadcasting businesses also have shareholders, who want dividends, to support them. Do we want to privatise the BBC to match this model?

There is a lot to be said, I think, for keeping a publicly funded public service broadcaster. It produces quality output. I see no need nor logical reason to force all broadcasters into relying on advertising or subscription. As I have said, I don’t see the current licence fee cost as at all unreasonable, in fact I think it great value for money, considering the volume and wide choice of entertainment and information it offers.

John wrote: “It’s effectively pushed horse racing off the screen.”

One of my memories as a child was that the family shared a strong dislike for horse racing and almost competed to change the channel. “And it’s off…” I think it was the commentator we objected to.

These days the adverts take almost as much time as the programme content and we get about about forty minutes of actual content in any hour. The BBC, are not quite as bad, though their internal advertising and filling videos are quite lengthy at the beginning/end of any programme. I agree with others here that the BBC is probably the best broadcaster here and the licence fee is worth the money. It is significant that many BBC repeats form the main stream basis for many commercial channels, and the amount of total rubbish broadcast proliferates year by year. Just a look at the schedule says it all. I don’t know how many times the Titanic has set sail, we have to face the murderer from hell, a group go hunting for ghosts or for each other to pair and bond or argue on a desert island. Obscure American comedy vies with live drama from the courtroom where some over weight woman is claiming damages from a man old enough to be her father. I could go on, but you all have televisions that broadcast the same rubbish every day. I pay to have this content available and wonder why. One day I might do something about it.

If you watch TV as little as I do, repeats are not a problem. Unfortunately I don’t get very good value for my TV licence fee.

That is an interesting comment. What BBC programmes, if any, do people watch who feel £3 a week is poor value? Documentaries like David Attenborough’s, new or repeats, films, news, the Proms, HIGNFY, politics, popular music, soaps, gardeners’ world………. I wonder if they checked a year’s worth of viewing just how much each hour had cost? And while you don’t need a tv licence to listen to any radio programme, it’s output is funded by the fee, and I guess many listen to R1and2, a substantial number to R4, and a significant number to R3 and WS.

The danger of removing a license fee supported broadcaster is that minority, but significant, groups will lose access to less popular programmes. How many classical concerts are broadcast on commercial tv (even on BBC they are far outweighed by pop music)? Would the Repair Shop, Bargain Hunt, Bake Off, have got off the ground in the commercial world? Would we be stuck with Big Brother, Love Island, Naked and Afraid?

Incidentally, repeats sometimes seem to be regarded as second-class programming. Yet we are still happy to watch old cinema films. Very good programmes have been made for years and repeating the best is extremely good for entertainment as well as financially. I still enjoy Dad’s Army, Yes Minister, Montelbano, Attenborough, Michael Palin, ……..

To have all the BBC’s output on tap for just 44p a day seems extremely good value.

Oh and, of course, the news and current affairs. Far cheaper than buying a newspaper.

I get my value for money from BBC radio.

For me the big step forward was the introduction of BBC iPlayer – now rebranded as BBC Sounds for radio. That meant that we could watch what we want when we want. I don’t feel the need to turn the TV on every day.

Totally agree Malcolm, especially with your comments on the BBC’s ability to produce quality programmes that wouldn’t get past the advertisers on commercial TV. I turn by instinct to the BBC when I want to know something. I might even listen to WS if I knew what it was and where to find it! World Service? It has an archaic quality to it that is very attractive.

Given that the licence fee for tv funds BBC radio, what would happen to Sounds if the licence fee were stopped? Would you like continual advert breaks? Or is not daily access to 21 national radio stations and 40 local radio worthwhile, in addition to limited tv viewing plus the convenience of iPlayer, for 43p?

Vynor – I listen to BBC World Service on DAB radio these days but it’s available here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/live:bbc_world_service

Malcolm – I expect that there will be extensive public consultation before there are any major changes to BBC TV and radio.

World Service is well worth listening to, Vynor. In the car it is on the list with R3, R4 and Classic FM.

I listen to the same stations in the car plus Radio 4 Extra and the local BBC radio station for local news. Classic FM would be better without the adverts and the presenters.

DAB radio has been a huge benefit to radio listening in the car and I find reception remarkably good in most rural areas.

I was out driving and searching for a relaxing music channel on the car radio without a constant bump bump bump, and decided on Classic FM. I spent the next 5 mins listening to a violin concerto that evoked thoughts I was attending my own funeral. I pressed the Off button and sang a cheery song to help me on my way. Thank heavens for Off buttons!

Perhaps we need a TV programme explaining the function of the Off button, Beryl.

”Classic FM would be better without the adverts…….” which is what you might be having to endure on BBC radio if the licence fee is abolished.

@Beryl, if you have judged the entertainment value of Classic FM by a 5 minute extract from one piece of music then it is worth trying again.

Preferably when I am not driving Malcolm! I do enjoy Classic FM on many occasions, I just picked an inopportune time. I much prefer harps to violins 🙂

” which is what you might be having to endure on BBC radio if the licence fee is abolished.”

Most of us are clever enough to have worked that out. So far we have managed to resist the closure of FM radio broadcasting which many still value, despite commercial pressures, so perhaps there is hope.

@beryl, I like Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and was surprised by Classic fm playing an accordion version of this some years ago. Not quite what I expected – wrongly I’m sure – from a popular classical station. https://www.classicfm.com/composers/vivaldi/news/accordion-four-seasons/

I would be happy to pay the licence fee if there was no advertising on BBC TV.

The radio and mobile phone reception here is not good due to hill and tree interception, so I rely on TV Satellite reception, together with its subtitles for news and documentaries.

Advertising on BBC TV has increased of late, but this may have been overlooked by some.

I hope that we don’t end up having to record and skip what we don’t want to listen to.

Wavechange wrote “I expect that there will be extensive public consultation before there are any major changes to BBC TV and radio”.

I wish I could be so confident. The Culture Secretary has frozen the licence fee for the next two years which is bound to lead to cuts. She has also made it clear that the settlement up to 2027, when the current royal charter expires, will be the last and that after that the BBC will have to raise its own funding from its audience and commercial activity. Government funding has not been ruled out for socially essential programming and output in the national interest.

There is clearly room for back-tracking before that because there will have to be a general election by May 2024 at the latest, but I believe the government is so determined not to have the regular haggling over the licence fee that that is what is driving the current policy. Bear in mind also that the question of exemption for households containing a 75+ year old is not entirely resolved as the recent change is still a simmering issue. Whatever we might think, there are votes in the abolition of the licence fee and the Opposition would hesitate to mandate restoration of it.

I know quite a number of people who are opposed to keeping the licence fee going and are generally unsympathetic to arguments in favour of keeping the BBC alive. Without exception, they all have alternative facilities and subscriptions so resent having to pay to support the BBC. Their feeling is that the quality of the BBC’s output over recent years has not earned their approval, and I can share that view. I regret that most of the programmes I want to watch are not on the BBC [nor on ITV nowadays]. We don’t have satellite or subscription services but since we don’t want to watch much TV we are not too disappointed. However, I think it would be a severe blow against those who cannot afford streaming facilities and subscription services if the BBC was effectively dismantled.

I would be very sorry to see the demise of a good public service broadcaster if only because it helps maintain the overall standard of television and radio broadcasting. I also do not want commercial interests to influence what I can watch and how it is presented. It will be interesting to see how the government will act but I am not hopeful of the BBC surviving in anything like its present form.

I am strongly in favour of retention of the licence fee, John. Any alternative is entering the unknown. Of course others have different values and opinions to ours. Although I listen to far more radio than I watch TV I have no problem with paying for a licence and I feel that I get a lot for my money. I see that my comment about retention of FM broadcasting has been marked down but some listeners are passionate supporters.

I have spent many hours discussing radio with fellow enthusiasts but do not know the strength of feeling for retention of BBC TV as we know it. Perhaps it’s time to discuss this with our friends and family so that everyone is aware that part of our heritage is at risk through commercialisation.

I would like to know about the environmental impact of moving from broadcast TV to streaming services even when decent broadband is universally available. It does not seem to make sense to have millions of people simultaneously downloading huge amounts of data. Maybe the BBC could produce a documentary about how it contributes to our unsustainable lifestyle: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2021/oct/29/streamings-dirty-secret-how-viewing-netflix-top-10-creates-vast-quantity-of-co2

Unusually for me, I marked down wavechange’s comment. Nothing to do with FM radio but, in response to my previous comment, ”Most of us are clever enough to have worked that out.” which I, rightly or wrongly, interpreted as a rather inappropriate comment. Particularly when wavechange regularly complains about unfriendliness in Convos.

I will happily withdraw my disapproval if I have misinterpeted the comment. 🙂

It is a dull day here and too cold to do anything in the garden. Also recovering from a heavy cold and from a long bowls competition that left me with very achy thigh muscles. So maybe very slightly irritable.

I am not at all confident about the public being given full information on all the options, the consequences of each, nor any real consultation before decisions are made. I have little confidence in the abilities and motives of the politicians deciding such changes.

It seems that I was right to complain.

We enjoy ITV’s drama outut, such as it is. Foyle’s War was outstanding when being produced as was Morse, and Endeavour. The Licence fee represents extremely good value, however, even as the Tory Chairman and Tory DG are both riding the BBC to push it towards the right. Sadly, the consequences of that are seen mostly in the News output,

Looking back, ITV’s drama output is a history lesson in good writing, directing, acting and production values. I particularly recall some of the Play for Today productions and the adaptations, under the Country Matters title, of a number of short stories by A. E. Coppard and H. E. Bates. They dealt with adult themes in an intelligent and responsible way. Sadly, these have not survived in the archives.

ITV comedy and entertainment programmes also had their high spots [as well as quite a few lows], and the best politics programme in my opinion was Weekend World with Brian Walden.

The less said the better about the content of ITV’s World of Sport with Dickie Davis at the helm [which was basically racing and wrestling] but I think it pleased the devotees of most of the sports they presented because of the change from the sterile style of the BBC in those days and the innovative use of graphics for data. Linking together the output from fourteen regional production companies into a coherent fast-moving results sequence was also a technical achievement that left the BBC standing with its juddering teleprinter sputtering across the screen.

ITV Sport was action-rich but could never outperform the BBC on slower sports like cricket, bowls and snooker though, probably because the particular audiences would not have attracted much high value advertising.

bettys says:
14 September 2012

I simply switch over to another channel when the adverts come on, although that does mean I often don’t switch back. I mutli-task a bit too, so I also just turn the sound off and read a magazine.

cosier says:
9 November 2020

same as me. good idear

Except when I do that I usually find I’m in another advertising break.

I actually enjoy a lot of the ads and the break gives you time to talk to your family, make a phone call etc.

Sorry I,m such a sad case.

I download all my tv programs to my computer and watch them on my TV with no annoying adverts whatsoever and my new Samsung TV has a super feature which allows you to cancel the very irritating raised volume that TV company’s but out , works BRILLENT !! all TV;s should have this.

I frequently use the PiP (Picture in Picture) feature to switch to another channel and then swap back when the ads have finished. I’l also go to a Beeb channel and fire up Teletext. The mute button is also a favourite, especially with the gocompare adverts; I’ll never use gocompare! I’ve just used the ITV Player for the first time. It appears that you can’t fastforward the initial adverts but if you’re careful you can get past the rest.

d.sell says:
16 September 2012

I have a PVR(HUmax) where is the skip button for adverts?

On mine it’s the ‘next track’ button (at least that’s what it would do on a cd player). Skips forward 2 minutes by default (I think). Invaluable. Similarly, the ‘previous track’ button skips backwards

On my Humax remote RM-F01, it’s the button below the record button with the double arrow head. You can program it to skip 4 minutes forward which is the length of commercial breaks. Works a treat, can’t remember the last time I saw an advert.

Just after 6:00 in the morning I’m on the sky app on iPad. I have my favourite channels saved. Whizz straight through to 19:00 in the evening and scan all the listings for the evening. Read anything that takes my fancy and if good hit the record link with series if appropriate. That’s it. I never watch live television. It will become a thing of he past. I will never let broadcasters tell me to watch something when they want me to watch it. I can look at the programme lengths and chop off minutes skipping adverts. As I approach them I stop the recording and use user defined to advance 4 minutes avoiding them completely. I do sometimes wonder if I am actually missing something I would be interested in.

LesMead says:
17 September 2012

Yes, you are a mirror image of my watching habits. My PVR usually has chapter points where the commercials are positioned, so it’s dead easy to skip. Having seen TV in the most of the world, I have no problem paying the License fee, keep up the good work BBC.

I can see the attraction of the iplayer and catchup tv if you don’t have a pvr but for me the picture quality just isn’t good enough. Compare HD pictures and SD pictures on a good tv and HD pictures are stunning. To my mind the picture definition on the iplayer, even with a fast broadband connection, is below SD picture quality. It’s a last resort for me.

Once in a while it’s nice to just draw the curtains across the TV screen, put on some intermission music and enjoy a pause as my wife walks round the room with a tray of Kia-Ora and Butterkist popcorn. Then when you hear the faint strains of Pearl & Dean’s signature tune you can carry on where you left off. Dah-der/dah-der/dah-der/dah-der- – dah-dah-dah // Dah-der/dah-der/dah-der/dah-der — Duh.

We seldom, if ever watch live TV. Anything of interest is recorded on PVR, one button push saves the whole series of programmes. Then play back if and when we choose to watch. That way not only can we skip any adverts and trailers, we can also FF the football and other sports (great for missing all the Olympics). This is also usefull for making the tea and re-runs after falling asleep. If you like to go this route get a decent recorder, cheap and nasty is not the way to go. At the moment we have only DTT recorder, but thinking of getting a satellite one as well so we can record and view more than two progammes at once.

One of my absolute loves is a PVR (a Panasonic actually) which provides a “x1.3” playback speed (also during catch-up). It doesn’t make the voices mickey-mouse – just speeds up those ghastly slow-talking presenters on so many programmes. 60 minutes compressed into 46 minutes. A dream!

Two phrases set me leaping for the PVR remote –

“After the break…”

“Coming up…”

Including the ads, I probably save about 20 minutes of a 1 hour program.

David c says:
5 October 2012

There seems to be a trend here……….we all think we can live without ads, course we can but where would the money come from to buy programs for us to record (devil’s advocate).
I lived in Germany some years ago and they used 5 minutes every hour on the hour giving time for many things!

Tim says:
4 August 2013

This is an old subject and no one will likely read what I write, but still, commercials…make me so, angry. I have 3 pet peeves in my life, the first and least annoying is the driving habits and manners of people (who can be rude and ignorant), the second is movie theatre etiquette, but the most annoying thing in the world is being constantly attacked and bombarded by advertisements.

I have been a long time complainer of T.V ads, and have and do watch a ton of television in my life. With a cable bill that’s expensive enough, I find it abhorrent that I should be forced to watch anything over 10% saturation of commercials. So you can imagine my frustration when I find out that some shows are nigh on 50% commercial saturation, and most are 25%-33%. People say that there would be no television without commercials, well I say, that’d be just fine. It’s not like the stations or distributors don’t get greedy, trim the fat (always quality), sellout, or have the same problem that the rest of capitalism has, too many fingers in the cookie jar. The consequence of this is always the product quality, making the REAL shame: the quality of television based around a format that’s specifically designed to house commercials, so you’ll always be stuck with the same old predictable crap with few exceptions. I’m not just talking about having to endure the 5 minutes of commercials to find out what happens in the end of the story you’ve been watching for an hour, I’m talking about the story itself being augmented or created specifically to ‘hook’ you before and after every commercial. Meanwhile, all the creative juice that should be going into entertainment instead go towards ads.

I avoid ads at all costs, I have forever black listed Youtube.com for forcing me to watch advertisements, I tape T.V and usually only watch it live if it’s a commercial free channel, and when certain ads are particularly irritating, I boycott the product. Here are some other things I do or have noticed:
1: Tape shows, have different priorities of shows taped and save some for times when there’s nothing to watch, if you’re watching live television, have a HOME BASE (channel that doesn’t have commercials) to always retreat to when commercials attack you, this all helps if you have a DVR. Let’s say you don’t like the show at HOME BASE, well, try to juggle some other shows (especially if you find a few good ones that go to commercial at different times) and skip between them and eventually you’ll get your commercial timing down so that you don’t miss much when you skip back. But really, it’s still better to just tape shows and FF through the crap.
2: Eventually you’ll be able to decipher the anti-climatic wind-down of a show before commercial, use this time to go to your HOME BASE, or back up channels. “We’ll be right back” or “stay tuned” literally means “you have 3 seconds to find something new to watch for 5 minutes.”
3: T.V ads are specifically designed to manipulate you, and they will do ANYTHING to get their point across, if you’re a young person, just remember that it’s not real, they are lying to alter your perception of reality to one that’s more conducive to being a chronic consumer. Reading books and spending some alone time with the T.V off thinking or using your imagination can help to counter the affects of advertisements on your psyche.
4: Avoid watching movies on movie channels that have commercials on them. If you don’t, then try to find the movie channels that don’t increase the rate of commercials with the rising action of the movie. They give you the first half hour of the movie for free to hook you in, then the last half hour of the movie is stretched to an hour long and never has more than 7-8 minutes without a commercial. Besides, some movies are ruined by commercials, and all are less intense, and less enjoyable.
5: Some stations and shows are getting wise to people like me, so shows like Jeopardy can have 1 minutes between double jeopardy and final jeopardy, or 5-6 minutes, so it’s better to tape shows like this instead of trying to miss the commercials by flipping channels. Another example of how sneaky commercials are, is in the late-night talk shows, specifically The Tonight’s Show, and The Late show (the one with David Letterman), these channels both go to commercials around the exact same time, so skipping between them is really tough and often pointless. Try to tape these, too. If you go to bed before they’re done taping, watch them a day behind. Or try pausing for 15 minutes and then FF through the commercials.
6: Listen to CD’s or attach your music listening device into your Car radio system so you don’t have to listen to awful car ads.

We’ve been doing this for years. Don’t watch what you don’t like, record what you like and fast-forward through the bits you don’t want to see. Easy.

In other words, learn to live with the technology – don’t fight it and don’t get in a twist about it.

Howard says:
2 January 2018

Yes we do all 3, but i notice the latest Humax 5000 has removed the ad skip facility so we decided not to buy it. This may be a trend in the making so suggest keep your dvr in good condition

The Express has useful comments on funding options for the BBC, including the inability of the internet to provide a universal service in the foreseeable future https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/science-technology/1554228/bbc-licence-fee-scrapped-alternative-funding-plans-netflix-subscription

The Daily Express seems to be making a very good case to leave well alone.

I hope Sir David Attenborough is comfortable with the burden that seems to rest on his shoulders for almost single-handedly justifying continuation the licence fee.

The article doesn’t mention the funding from council tax idea that I came across at the weekend, It probably has as many disadvantages as any of the other options and doesn’t guarantee survival of the BBC as we know it. I wrote about that proposal here –

I just wish was there was a way of improving the BBC’s TV output to make it more indispensable to more people. Whenever it employs new talent and creates new ideas it seems to me to go even further down the pan. I suppose living in probably one of the most un-diverse counties in the country doesn’t help because so much of its content seems totally irrelevant and unrepresentative of the life around us.

Phil says:
24 January 2022

David Dimbleby had something to say on this: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2022/jan/21/david-dimbleby-suggests-bbc-licence-fee-could-be-linked-to-council-tax
A question asked is why should the poor pay as much as the rich? We could also ask why not? Do you have a continuously graded charge that is income-related? What other products are provided on this basis, including life’s essentials – energy, food, water, housing? Where subsidy is needed it is provided through benefits. Maybe the licence fee could be supported in the same way.