TiVo and other DVRs are a huge threat to television
advertisers. The ad-skipping they enable
is reducing the value of the 30-second TV spot. There’s been talk of making ads more interesting or interactive, but I
have yet to hear of a solution that’s really going to prevent most viewers from
skipping past them.
Rather than forcing things to work the old way, why not try
a completely new approach? The typical
30-minute TV show is really only about 22 minutes of content and 8 minutes of
advertising, give or take a minute or two. What if the content lasted the entire 30 minutes and the ads were
displayed throughout but in an unobtrusive way? I’m not talking about product placement in
the show; I’m suggesting the bottom area of the screen be used instead.
If you’ve ever watched a game on ESPN or most other networks
you’ve no doubt seen the ticker at the bottom with scores from other games,
news, etc. It’s displayed for the entire
game on many networks these days. At
first it was a bit annoying as it reduced the screen area dedicated to the game
itself, but with today’s enormous screen sizes it’s not an issue. Why not use this area to display ads
throughout a TV show? The benefits
A few of the more obvious potential issues, and solutions,
are as follows:
- The advertising message is displayed along with the show
itself, meaning more eyeballs are likely to actually see it than during the
30-second spots that typically become bathroom breaks today.
- It’s skip-proof. If
you skip through the ad you’re actually skipping through the show itself.
It enables more opportunities for advertisements tied to an
event/moment in the show. For example,
if someone just cracked open a can of Coke on the show, why not feature a Coke
ad at the bottom of the screen, reinforcing the placement fee itself? In fact, this is likely to make the product
placement that much more memorable.
- The networks can hype the fact that viewers are getting more
content than they used to (a full 30 minutes instead of today’s 22 minutes).
- It opens the door to a completely new approach to ad
creation. Yes, you’re limited to that
small area at the bottom of the screen, but there are loads of things that
could be done to make that message more unique and memorable than today’s
Finally, this approach also opens up a totally new
alternative for the networks: Selling premium, commercial-free access for a
monthly fee. You don’t like watching ABC
with all its advertisements? How about
paying $5/month for a special version of ABC without the ads? The pessimists will point out how this model
could actually generate less income for the network than today’s ad-funded one
does. Guess what? As I mentioned in this earlier post, the
financials are changing everywhere in the content/media world, so you better be
prepared to adjust your top line revenue expectations anyway.
- Viewers would hate the always-on nature of the advertising
vehicle itself. But would they really, especially
if it’s done right and the “no commercial break” benefit is effectively
- Sponsors wouldn’t be willing to pay as much for these ads as
they would for today’s standard 30-second spot. Ah, but there would be more of them throughout the show, so the
networks “make it up in volume”. Plus,
the message is displayed during the show, making the new spots more valuable to
- It’s distracting and annoying to viewers. If that’s true, why has the technique become
so widely used for sports, news, etc.? The simple truth is that there would be some complaining at first, but
viewers would quickly accept it as the norm. Plus, if networks really want to straddle the fence, they could still
serve up a couple of 30-second spots between shows.
- It doesn’t allow time for the “bathroom break” or “kitchen
break” that today’s 30-second slots provide. Have we really become that lazy and predictable?! If so, and the typical viewer can’t get
through a 30-minute show without a break, how in the world do they manage to
watch a 2-hour movie on DVD without one? Answer: They press pause, which is exactly what anyone with a DVR can do
in this model.