The average adult Canadian watched almost 1,500 hours of television and an estimated 25,000 television commercials in 2008 based according to research by Digital Home Canada.
Digital Home Canada arrived at those numbers after an in-depth analysis of the CRTC Broadcasting Policy Monitoring Report (BPMR) 2009, information from the Television Bureau of Canada, and the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement (BBM).
The numbers are staggering and mean that the average Canadian adult spent 240 hours last year watching television commercials. This is equivalent to the number of hours worked in a month and a half by the average Canadian worker!
How we calculated
In order to arrive at our conclusion, Digital Home first calculated the number of hours of commercial television watched annually by Canadian adults and then estimated the number of commercials which aired during that time.
According to the CRTC's BPM Report, Canadians aged 18 and older watched television on average 28.8 hours per week in 2007/08 which equates to 1,497 hours of television annually. Interestingly, and contrary to the complaints of many parents, younger Canadians actually watch considerably less television than adults. The ratings agency found that Kids under 12 watched, on average 18.2 hours per week of television, while teens watched an average of 17.4 hours. Because of restrictions placed on advertising to children and teens, Digital Home only analyzed data for Canadian adults 18+.
We did find some discrepancy between the different sources in the number of hours watched per week by all age groups, however, the numbers reported by the CRTC were consistent with numbers reported by the Television Bureau of Canada (TVB), and the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement (BBM).
Factoring out Non-Comercial Television
Of course not all of those hours is spent watching commercial television. The 28.8 hours a week of television watched by Canadian adults also includes time spent watching non-commercial television such as Video-On Demand, DVD, pay television and commercial free broadcasters such as PBS and TVO.
According to the CRTC BPM report, in English speaking Canada the viewing share for CBC, Canadian private conventional, and Canadian Specialty stations was 58.1% while tuning to U.S. Conventional, U.S. Specialty and International services was 23.2%. Combined, commercial television consisting of conventional and specialty channels in both countries accounted for over 81% of all tv viewing by Canadian adults.
Factoring out the hours spent watching non-commercial television, Digital Home estimates the average adult Canadian watched about 1,200 hours of commercial television in 2008.
So how many commercials air in 1,200 hours of television?
According to the CRTC, a typical hour of private commercial television programming in Canada in 2008 contains 15 minutes of commercials in one hour while U.S. Conventional and Canadian specialty channels carry about 12 minutes of commercials per hour.
Using the more conservative 12 minutes per hour, Digital Home calculates that those 1,200 hours of commercial television contained over 14,400 minutes of commercials.
Since most television commercials are 30 seconds in length that 14,400 minutes of commercials translates into the equivalent of 28,800 thirty second commercials annually.
Digging deeper, the Television Bureau of Canada reports that, for the twelve months ending August 31, 2008, 47,0024 commercials were approved to air in Canada of which 27,156 were 30 seconds in length and 13,683 were 15 seconds in length.
Since commercial broadcasters place restrictions on the number of 15 second commercials that can air during a commercial cluster, Digital Home estimates that only about 10% of those commercial minutes were comprised of 15 second commercials. Using our 10% estimate, it adds an additional 2,880 commercials to our total bringing the total number of ads watched in a year to over 31,700!
To avoid any accusations that we are overstating the number of ads viewed by adult Canadians, Digital Home reduced our total by 20% in order to account for advertising slots that may have gone unsold during the year.
After accounting for unsold inventory, Digital Home estimates the average Canadian adult television viewer watched 25,360 television ads in 2008.
And to scare you just a bit more, these totals don’t include: the promotion of Canadian programs, public service announcements, political ads, product placements within a TV program and virtual ads.
Maybe it's time to put down that remote and walk slowly from the room!