Fans of TV soaps and dramas will be able to settle back and enjoy their favorite programs without the incessant interruptions of commercials from Jan 1, 2012.
At present advertisements hiccup at mind-numbingly short intervals throughout TV dramas, but the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television released rules on Nov 25 banning broadcasters from running ads during movies and drama episodes that run for 45 minutes or more.
The regulator said the latest move will help to "raise the quality of public cultural services and guarantee the people's basic cultural rights".
But the question is, where these advertisements will reappear, since it is unlikely they will disappear, as a large percentage of the revenue for Chinese TV stations comes from such advertisements, and most of the TV stations had already signed contracts for the ads to be screened in 2012 before the notice was released.
For example, the income from such ads will contribute 37, 59 and 88 percent of the revenue for the three most popular provincial TV stations Hunan, Zhejiang and Anhui in 2012.
Broadcasters are reportedly considering different strategies that will allow them to comply with the ban but still guarantee their revenue. These include such moves as shortening the length of each episode - say from 45 to 30 minutes - and then broadcasting advertisements between two episodes or extending the advertisement time between two parts of a TV series, because the new rules only ban advertisements inserted within the program.
Broadcasters are also likely to use the ban as a means of raising their advertising rates. Following a directive by the administration on Oct 21 aimed at curtailing "excessive entertainment" by restricting game shows, talk shows, talents shows, and reality shows. The rates increased more than 50 percent for both Happy Camp and You Are The One, two of the most popular shows on Hunan and Jiangsu provincial satellite TV stations, immediately after the notice was issued.
However, the worry is that the new regulations may lead to new annoyances for viewers, such as excessive and intrusive product placements. While TV stations will try their best to manipulate the scheduling and content of programs to protect their advertising revenue, the authority should strictly enforce the ban and ensure that stations meet the public's demand for quality TV series.