Aug 052006

After presenting at various ‘future of the industry’ type events I regularly get told that we have heard it all before, and nothing ever changes. My answer is that ‘this’ change is permanent and like all natural and permanent changes it is often undetected on a day to day basis. Look back to the media world less than three years ago without YouTube, MSN Video, Google Video and a thousand other video distribution portals, and people publishing, do you really think nothing is changing? The biggest question for traditional video media companies such as rental, TV and cinema, should not be ‘nothings really changing’ but how best to attract the advertisers to embed or be inserted around your broadband content – that will in the next few years be the only way pay for it. Two items that sprung up today demonstrate both sides of the fence.

As the YouTube video “The Day of the Long Tail” suggests (and thanks to David Gurney a LAMP mentor, for giving me the heads up on this) the audience are a-changing.

“No one would have believed in the closing years of the 20th century that our most popular media were being watched in a new way by a force that was quietly gathering strength. With blind confidence we considered them our own. Out audience. Our subscribers. Our cuddly couch potatoes…(snip). And then early in the 21st century came the great unravelling. We offered free choice but all they heard was free. We devised more powerful, more complete, more feature rich software, but they preferred to grow their own.”

and so on. Slightly tongue in cheek it reminds me forcibly of, and borrows heavily on Robin Sloans aged old EPIC which I blogged about back in September. The video trys to makes some important points but gets lost a bit at the end in the importance of blogs in this landscape and of course the fact that the big media organisations are complascent, sitting on their bottoms, when of course they are not – well the enlightened ones are not. They are ready to buy up the broadband foothills and take their slice of the long tail pie. Reuters reported today in the item “ABC prime-time Webcasts here to stay: Disney” that their prime-time download trial has been a success and will be around for a very long time.

“The Walt Disney Company is making ad-supported Webcasts of its ABC prime-time TV shows permanently available this fall, following a successful two-month test that drew a younger, more educated audience, a Disney official said on Friday. Disney offered the prime-time ABC television series “Desperate Housewives,” “Commander in Chief,” “Lost” and “Alias” on its Web site in May and June to test whether consumers would watch ads online if the shows were free. Albert Cheng, executive vice president of digital media for Disney-ABC Television Group, said a retooled version of the free broadband player will be launched in the Fall.”

So TV delivered over the web can work and the reason it works is simply that the agreement between aggregator and audience holds up. You watch the ads scattered around the content and you can have it for free. Now that is an example of nothing changing all that really has is the way audiences get to the content. As the article points out advertisers will be even more interested in moving their budgets because ad rentention was found to be far higher than traditional TV.

“The shows were viewed 16 million times during the trial by consumers and 87 percent of viewers remembered the advertiser who sponsored the episode they had watched. That compares with typical ad recall of about 40 percent for commercials viewed on television, industry sources said. Disney said a survey showed that more than 50 percent gave positive ratings to the advertising experience, which required them to click through interactive ads to watch the shows. The average age of the online audience for the ABC shows was 29, almost evenly split between men and women and more than half were college educated, the survey showed.”

This is significant and will raise quite a few eyebrows not only with the advertisers but those traditional ad buyers who will have to carry on selling spots on a media that is now becoming second division – the eyeballs, or rather the younger ones that are paying most attention to their ad message are now on broadband and using interactive services. One can see a thousand TV companies around the world getting out their checkbooks to buy the latest server farms when the main reason people watched online is because they missed the TV outing – the new audiences are becoming less and less willing to be slaves to any forced schedule.

Posted by Gary Hayes © 2006

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