Digital Hollywood Fodder: the future of TV

Digital Hollywood Fodder: the future of TV

By: Tara Settembre, Account Manager, LA

With the continued success of YouTube and with NBC and ABC launching broadband video players where viewers can watch full episodes of hit TV shows on the internet, it appears that technology is just beginning to demonstrate the new ways of delivering television and entertainment.

Whether you watch it or work in it, the world’s most powerful medium is changing the game for consumer, producers, distributors, networks and advertisers.

The impacts of this paradigm shift were discussed in a panel called, “The Future of Television Distribution,” at the premier entertainment and technology conference, Digital Hollywood, which took place in Santa Monica, Calif., Oct. 23-26.

The general consensus of the executives on the panel who work with video on demand, DVR and IPTV in some way, shape or form, is that content is moving and customers are coming, but now what?

To prove this development, they provided the statistic that 16% of all Web use occurs when watching TV and that 4% of all Web use is either immediately before or after watching TV. So there is defintely a coexistence between TV and the Internet.

Panelist Lori H. Schwartz, senior vice president at Interpublic Emerging Media Lab, brought up the point that it’s not just the 18-24 group that is using the Internet and TV congruently either. She shared an anecdote of how her 78-year-old mother prints recipes from the Food Network’s Website after watching an episode of Rachel Ray cooking chicken. Plus, she said many of the baby boomers will be retiring soon and have this behavior already.

Not surprisingly the discussion about the future of television of course gradually turned into a conversation about ad models, branding and commercials. Thus, how to profit from the interlocking of Web and TV.

According to Nielsen Analytics’ Larry Gerbrandt, the average broadband user is 29-years-old and for every two minutes of program content shown on TV, comes a 30 second commercial unit. That’s a lot of commercials for people to watch during a one hour show. ABC and NBC’s broadband media players, which stream full online episodes of shows like Desperate Housewives or Studio 60, come with fewer and shorter commercial spots. They also allow for the opportunity of extra interactivity with brands and possible click-through engagement. Unlike DVR and Tivo though, you cannot fast forward these short commercial spots in their online videos—it’s the small price you have to pay for being able to watch their shows whenever and wherever.

As a result, Jeff Zucker, CEO of NBC Universal told Newsweek in their Oct. 30th issue that network executives must stop counting only viewers who catch a show at its prime-time debut and start noting “how many watched it in all of its incarnations.” For instance, NBC.com counted 2 million streams of the network’s new prime-time shows including Heroes in their first week of availability online. Like with blogging and PR, broadband video players now offers advertisers another medium to reach consumers on.

However, Andrew Solmssen from Schematic, a full-service interactive agency that has designed the user interface for many online broadband players, said that commercials should adapt in the future like the space itself and become more targeted or the ad model will fall apart. He said, if you do not have children you should never have to see a Pampers ad ever again, since you are not going to be buying them or find the commercial useful. In the future, he speculated, consumers are going to have to want to watch ads, relevant ones, or pay a premium to not watch them at all.

Ian Blaine, CEO of thePlatform and Tivo’s Vice President of Product Marketing, Jim Denny, chimed in to this idea by saying that if you are interested in something then a commercial isn’t just an ad, it becomes informational. For example, if you are passionate about BMWs you wouldn’t find a commercial on the newest BMW model a disruption, but a chance to gain knowledge. Thus, companies should leverage the opportunity as a brand and allow people to watch the commercials that they are interested in; after all it’s those interested audiences who are buying their products.

Personally, I know I hate sitting through commercials that do not pertain to the things that that I’m interested in, but I could not imagine TV without the beauty, fashion or food service commercials that I enjoy, since that’s where I usually first learn about new products. In fact, I often stop my DVR player from fast forwarding entirely through commercial segments when I see certain ads that I think are interesting, IE I always stop the fwd button whenever Gap’s Audrey Hepburn dance spot appears.

Another interesting fact gained during the panel discussion was that according to studies broadband usage spikes during business hours from employees watching video clips of shows or even full episodes (no comment! ;-). comScore, a digital measuring service, also echoed this statistic in a recent study that they did, which concluded that daytime streaming on PCs accounts for the vast majority of all Internet video. Their data also showed that Noon has been pinpointed as the absolute peak of Internet prime-time, since employees feel more liberated to indulge then for a work break. Hmm years ago there were coffee breaks, now it seems there are online episode watching breaks.

So what does this mean for the tech PR industry? We’re going to need to watch this space, its evolution and emerging viewership. It would also behoove us to continue to pursue broadband clients who are impacting these television, advertising and online changes and maybe even dabble with online video more.

Related articles: Newsweek, Why Prime Time’s Now Your Time: New ways of getting video has shifted the peak times for viewing and advertising.

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