Tail wags the dog…

 Posted by on February 15, 2006 at 5:20 pm  Personal Media  No Responses »
Feb 152006

or mobile media promotes its TV big brother. As iTunes and other mobile media portals take hold it comes as a surprise that the media is surprised about an effect which seems rather obvious – those who watch iPod video TV shows switch on to their TV equivalents. The report out today from TV week about the dreadful US remake of the brilliant Gervais UK office points out that the popularity of the mobile download is pulling audiences back or for the first time to the TV show.

Then on Jan. 5, the prime-time series moved to Thursday nights and delivered a 4.5 in adults 18 to 49, then its highest rating ever for a regular slotted telecast, which was bested last week with a 5.1 in the demo. Also on Jan. 5, it served up its best retention ever of its lead-in, “My Name Is Earl,” capturing 87 percent of that show’s audience, up from its previous 71 percent average. On Jan. 12 it retained 86 percent of its lead-in. And the ratings bump can’t be attributed to a change in lineup, since “The Office” has been paired with “My Name Is Earl” all along.

This may be a little early to start to suggest that iTunes is a wonderful promotional vehicle for TV but I suspect it is very true. Both from the perspective of music downloads which boosted CD sales some years ago and as a now dedicated iPod video watcher (yes I am regularly watching films over an hour long on the device) it creates a personal connection with linear media properties even more than owning the DVD. Would love academics out there to give me some insight into why we are more connected with something we carry with us, vs just own or vs we just enjoy through broadcast (TV and cinema distribution) – but it may be obvious. Of course we are likely to see DVD’s themselves having greater sales as the mobile generation decide they need to own a better quality version of their trusted, now personalized media. The report goes on to list other TV properties that are starting to be influenced by the iTunes phenomenom…

To date since their debut on iTunes in October, both “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” are up versus the same period last year.
“Lost,” ABC’s most popular show in terms of downloads, has seen its total audience rise 14 percent and ratings for adults 18 to 49 are up 28 percent. “Desperate Housewives'” total audience is up 7 percent and 18 to 49 ratings are up 3 percent. ITunes downloads for both shows also rose in the last few weeks.
That growth and the knowledge that iTunes distribution possibly grew and certainly did not cannibalize ratings gave the ABC Disney Television Group the confidence to add another round of iTunes programs last week that includes content from ABC Family, Disney Channel, SoapNet, ABC Sports and ESPN, said Albert Cheng, executive VP of digital media for the Disney ABC Television Group.

For those statistically inclined the report finishes with some eye openers – this does reverberate with similar stats I recall that connected DVD and Box Office and as I mentioned before MP3 downloads and CD sales…how about the relationship between those naughtly UK and Australian TV bit torrent downloaders and TV ratings, is that where the connection breaks?

  • To date, Apple has sold 8 million TV shows through iTunes since the Oct. 12 debut of the iPod video.
  • NBC inked a deal for 12 shows on iTunes in December; added “Saturday Night Live” in early January.
  • “The Office” accounts for about one-third of NBCU content downloads via iTunes.
  • The Jan. 12 telecast of “The Office,” with a 5.1 in the 18 to 49 demo, was up 31 percent versus the season average prior to the Dec. 6 Apple launch. Before the Apple launch, “The Office” was averaging a 3.9 in the demo.
  • Only three originals of “The Office” have aired since the Apple launch. The three are up an average of 18 percent in the demo, and the show has grown every week.
  • Of course this could all be premature as often cult type programmes such as the Office or an earlier example Fawly Towers grew at each repeat season and certainly in the case of Fawlty Towers (or Flowery Twats as I so often forgetfully call it!) there were no DVD’s, iPod Vides, PSP’s or even as I recall VHS’s to buy at the time. So which is it trend analysts – do mobile watchers reduce or grow the scheduled TV audiences?
    Posted by Gary Hayes Copyright 2006

    Jan 032006

    A great New Year article in B&C, entitled “The New Deal” sets the foundations for the year as TV networks understand the new business models and line up for the broadband TV revolution.

    Programmers thrive when new distribution pipes open, but some TV executives cutting the deals say they are making it up as they go along. While it is still unclear whether consumers will pay to watch TV on a small screen, execs are already struggling to construct the proper template to make big profits if they do. With each new announcement, many say privately they fear being left behind. When Apple and ABC set the market by announcing their $1.99-per-download deal last October, it set off a flurry of number crunching, as broadcast networks and studios tried to come up with the right set of rules to make money.

    The article covers potential new business models for emerging media TV by looking at 4 key areas:

    One of the knock-on effects of effective cross-media entertainment distribution will be traditional channels gaining new audiences who are already living in a non-scheduled TV environment, everything on-demand via iPod or PDR (personal digital recorder – which covers PVRs, PSP types and MP3 players etc).

    For instance, an executive from a rival network said that ABC’s deal to put Lost on iTunes turned him into a fan. He hadn’t watched from the beginning, and when the show got hot, he felt it was too late to start watching first-run episodes due to its serialized nature.
    “I downloaded all the old episodes, caught up, and am now hooked and I’ll watch it on ABC when the next first-run comes out so I can be part of the social experience,” he says. “So that platform has created a viewer that would never have been.”
    And those iPod-wrangled viewers may be part of the reason that, for new episodes since the ABC-Apple deal, viewership for Lost and Desperate Housewives is up 17% and 8%, respectively, from the year-ago episodes.

    Suggesting we are still in the era of small screens cross-promoting bigger screen offerings will at least wake up many broadcasters and advertisers to the approach that to not get involved in emerging distribution will affect ratings – this will mean an expontential increase in players in cross-media distribution over the next few months.

    Alongside these business models we still have the reverse model prediction of a likely tsunami of UGC and Viral Videos being re-broadcast (so web stuff onto TV vs TV stuff onto the web) – this is starting slowly but we have a new player entering the fray highlighted by an article from Hollywood Reporter on VH1, iFilms “Web Junk” program.

    Set to premiere Jan. 13, “Web Junk 20” is a countdown of the strange and humorous videos being spread virally around the Internet. Hosted by comedian Patrice O’Neal, the show is executive produced by Rick Hankey, Shelly Tatro and Michael Hirschorn.

    The best viral videos after all attract the largest web audiences, why wouldn’t TV channels start to capitalise on this?

    Posted by Gary Hayes ©2006

    Jan 022006

    Within hours of a prediction in the last post that one of the online giants would start to deliver TV-like shows over the internet I find a report “…Reality series pilot to be broadcast on the internet” in the San Francisco chronicle. The article points out that Yahoo! is starting to dip its toes into the future of television by offering an interactive, bells and whistles service from the outset with key audience involvement elements integrated from the start – the only way to go in the broadband TV world of course. The program is called “Wow House” and is rife for advertising as it is about US families equipping their homes with the latest gadgets off an initial sum of $10k.

    The program, which follows two families as they refurbish their homes with $10,000 in new electronics, is the most concrete example yet of Yahoo’s Hollywood ambitions. It’s just an early step, analysts said, in Yahoo’s ultimate goal: creating television of the future.
    Semel is betting that online video’s popularity is about to take off. Internet users would flock to Yahoo to watch shows on their computers or other Internet connected devices, creating a potentially lucrative opportunity to sell advertising. (snip)
    “Wow House,” Yahoo’s new show, will be broadcast in an area for technology coverage that the company is carving out on its Web site. Families participating in the show compete to outfit their homes with the latest electronics, such as theater systems, high-definition televisions and stereos. The family that wins, as voted by viewers, will keep the merchandise.
    The pilot cost around $100,000 to produce, far less than the millions it usually costs for a scripted, star-studded show such as “Desperate Housewives.” Revenue will come from advertising and, potentially, companies paying to place their products on the show.

    As the web becomes a capable medium for TV-like content, Yahoo! is slowly adding TV execs to its ranks from the ABC and CBS to make sure its skill-set is ready for this years explosion. The numbers of viewers of streamed and on-demand TV through the major portals is starting to break all records and Yahoo! is feeding this fire and also getting a march on Google by offering a couple of re-runs of prime time CBS comedy over the XMas break.

    In December, Yahoo broadcast shock jock Howard Stern celebrating his departure from FM radio to Sirius satellite radio. Viewers watched 4.4 million video streams on the day of the event, 214,000 of them at one time, a record for live Webcasts on the site, according to Yahoo.
    Last week, Yahoo scored another coup by joining with CBS to stream some reruns of the network’s prime-time comedies, “Two and a Half Men,” staring Charlie Sheen, and “How I Met Your Mother.” The programs, shown without commercials, will be available in Yahoo’s television area until Monday afternoon.
    “We are going to put our content in every form on every device,” said Larry Kramer, who leads CBS’ online arm. “We’re testing them all.”

    Whether as yesterdays prediction suggests Yahoo! will be seen as enemy or potential partner by the TV networks remains to be seen – broadcasters are very keen to bring audiences to their own sites, perhaps only a company with the unique funding model of the BBC will be able to weild its portal power against the big boys.

    Network executives would prefer to have users go to their own Web sites, where they can offer more bells and whistles like games and splashy graphics and don’t have to share advertising revenue. But Yahoo’s has far more traffic.
    “That’s the dilemma we have with the portals,” Kramer said. “I want a younger and bigger audience, but I don’t have an instant messenger or e-mail to build as much of an audience on my own Web sites.”

    Back to this pilot which suggests there is still a significant amount of learning to come and it will be one of these over the next few months that will really open the eyes of the traditionalists broadcasters. As my namesake from Showtime states…

    For now, Robert Hayes, senior vice president of new media for Showtime Networks Inc., the cable channel, doesn’t consider Yahoo to be a rival along the lines of traditional television networks. Indeed, he made a landmark deal to stream the pilot episode of the now canceled comedy series “Fat Actress,” staring Kirstie Alley, on Yahoo for five days.
    Viewers could also watch the show online simultaneously with its television broadcast premiere.
    But he’s unsure about Yahoo’s threat over the long run.
    The evolution of online television has been extremely fast, he said, even just during the last 90 days.
    “Right now, we don’t see Yahoo as a rival, Hayes said. “In the future, that may change.”

    I think Mr. Hayes that things will definitely change, not ‘may’, but until that happens lets hope Yahoo! and Google amoungst others keep pushing the boundaries and lets hope that the new kind of programming is not ‘all’ advertorial and reality in nature.

    Posted by Gary Hayes ©2005

    Nov 122005

    Monument Valley ©Gary Hayes 2005Sorry for the gap in posts, been finding out how and why Australia’s media landscape is the way it is at this years inaugural ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) conference in Canberra. Will post some of my thoughts about it over next few days – needless to say not a bed of roses. Before that though a few catch-up posts. It is always useful to get some real research in-between the hype of new trends. TV and other video content on mobile phones is a key one at the moment and this report from mobinet across 4000 users in UK and 20 other countries suggests this may also not be a bed of roses, in fact demand is very low. The article “Splash of cold water on mobile media” in media life points out

    The question is, what will they download? The answer, hardly a surprise, is news. Far fewer will download entertainment.
    Further, the U.S. market for downloadable TV is likely to remain tiny for many years, with relatively few cell phone users bothering to take advantage of the feature. As in so many areas of media, the fact that a technology exists to do something doesn’t mean consumers will rush to adopt it. In the case of downloadable TV, they will not.(snip)
    The study found that cell phone subscribers in North America were the least interested in TV content. Only 6 percent said they’re willing to pay to download TV clips.

    I never suspected the US to be leading in this field – they rarely do, it is often small pockets in Europe or Asia that lead consumer trends in emerging media and the US and Australia tend to lag but follow with new business models and then say they started the trend (ready for flames ;-). The low demand though for mobile downloads may come as a surprise to my many tens of readers but the article does go on to say that downloading shows out of schedule may be undesired but timely news and sports are still in with a fighting chance.

    Among all those surveyed, 49 percent said their first choice would be news clips. Sports came in a distant second at 17 percent. Entertainment followed, with music videos at 16 percent, movies, 9 percent, and TV soap operas and reality shows, 8 percent.
    “The thing that you need for wireless is content that is time-sensitive,” says Ranjan Mishra, principal of the communications and media practice at A.T. Kearney.
    “If you can wait until you reach your office or home, you are most likely not going to watch it on a cell phone. That’s why the applications that are time-sensitive, like news and sports, fit very well. There is a value to that.”
    Robert Rosenberg, president of Insight Research in Boonton, N.J., agrees.
    “This is an adjunct to a television news service. I find it curious that anyone would want to watch a television clip that doesn’t have a real-time value to it. A sports broadcast I can understand.”

    So a bit like the early days of interactive TV where the first service I made was in fact a timely 1000 pages of news, graphics surrounding the TV service – a dip in, dip out, get the updates and go, type service. Seems this will be the same on mobiles for the first few years. Sport will always be a big driver across all ‘interactive’ platforms, because there is often so much back-story (stats, gossip, prediction) that you need to contextualise the experience. There still needs to be work done now though in documentary, entertainment and drama for mobile delivery that breaks the current trend to just download a whole episode of a TV show. It really bugs me when people wander round showing off an episode of ‘Desperate Housewives’ on a mobile phone or PSP. Really bugs me. Reminds me of those sort of people in the 80/90s who used to show me how their laptop could play a CD/DVD disc, or how their PDA could play a violent animation – wow, clever stuff. Engaging, not. We need to create innovative new form services that cross platforms and engage, the mobile phone is only one part of the jigsaw. There may be some time left yet though:

    Still, the advent of TV shows on iPods and new video-on-demand services from CBS and NBC suggest that the market may be ripening for cell phone services to offer downloadable television clips and commercials.
    Moreover, the number of cell phone subscribers using non-voice features is dramatically increasing. Mobinet found that 48 percent of subscribers in this country, versus 53 percent worldwide, now have third-generation phones with multimedia capabilities such as internet access and cameras. That is up from only 37 percent last year, when penetration in the U.S. trailed the global average by 12 points.

    Emerging media creatives need to get ahead of those who will disenfranchise the market by simply dumping the same content that we get on broadband, TV, DVD, video across to mobiles. Demand will only be as strong as the perceived experience users will expect – here is the simplest analogy “Would you expect people to buy bottles of tap water?” – I suspect maybe there will still be a crazy 8% who would, but I hope you get my point.

    Posted by Gary Hayes ©2005