Comedy Central Found in Violation of U.K. Rules With Alcohol Ads Aired During 'Friends'

2012-10 FEA Titles Friends H
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Says Warner Bros. TV's David Janollari: "We basically sold and developed the show at NBC without a title. The first draft was delivered to me with the title 'Six of One.' I went, 'Hmm, I get it, but I'm not sure it's grabby.'"

Britain's ad watchdog says the network must use a different audience index to predict the likely appeal of a show to audiences under the age of 18.

LONDON – The U.K. advertising watchdog said on Wednesday that Comedy Central broke advertising rules here by running alcohol commercials during episodes of Friends when a key proportion of viewers was likely to be under the age of 18.

The TV spots aired in 79 episodes of the sitcom late last year and early in 2013, the Advertising Standards Authority found, ruling that Comedy Central broke Britain's strict rules on alcohol ads.

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Under those rules, set by TV regulator Ofcom, commercials are banned from airing "in or around programs commissioned for, principally targeted at or likely to appeal particularly to audiences below the age of 18."

Comedy Central said in its response to the ad watchdog that it used to have a ban on alcohol ads in Friends until February of 2012. It ended that after viewer index data showed that the average viewer's age complied with ad rules.

ASA said that "audience indexing can be used as a tool for forecasting prospective audiences using historical data," but Comedy Central's decision "was flawed, because they had based their decision on the wrong index."

The index used by a third party on behalf of Comedy Central focused on viewers aged 4-15 instead of 10-15-year-olds.

"We told Comedy Central to ... use the 10-15 audience [index] for forecasting the likely appeal of a program to audiences below the age of 18 years," ASA concluded.

Twitter: @georgszalai