One gigantic fear within the cable industry is the migration of consumers to watching television on the web — via services such as Hulu — will undermine their lucrative subscription model. After all, why pay $150 a month for cable if you get shows for free online? So the obvious defense is to entangle cable subscribers to watch their cable TV on the web as well. The cable industry is hyping this with a so-called TV Everywhere movement.
Comcast is the latest cable provider rolling out a national web TV service, called Fancast XFINITY TV. The service will give free Comcast cable content on the web to any authenticated cable subscriber (at first to only subscribers of both Comcast cable and Internet service, and in about 6 months opening up to any Comcast cable users).
But the ads, dear, are heavy.
There’s a tiny problem — analysts don’t know if users will accept the “full advertising load” of cable programming in an online format. Hulu.com, for instance, has compressed ads to 15-second formats and shows only 2 minutes of commercials per 30 minutes of programming vs. the 8 minutes typically shown on a TV set. With online users able to immediately click away at the first sign of boredom, Comcast and other cable giants have two huge hurdles: first, get users to their online TV portals, and second, hope the commercial load of old TV models doesn’t make web users touch that dial. Nielsen has reported that consumers’ “concurrent media use” spikes when spots air on traditional live television; good luck avoiding such switches online when they have a mouse in hand.
In a way, cable companies and broadcasters are to blame for this dilemma. The load of commercials has been increasing ever since Bulova ran the world’s first TV spot, a 10-second ad, in 1941. An average hour of U.S. television now includes only 42 minutes of real programming, down from 51 minutes in the 1960s — meaning that any reruns from that period must be cut by 9 minutes. Television commercials now take up twice the time they once did. If consumers rebel online, perhaps it’s because commercials have gone too far.
Improvements in online video quality are seeding new educational tools. Not only can you watch free lectures from MIT or Stanford, you also occasionally find brilliance from upstart designers. Here’s a wonderful animation of how cheap credit and low interest rates convinced investors to upend capitalism as we know it.
By Jonathan Jarvis as part of his thesis at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. His other work is worth viewing, too.
To call Robert Hodgin an animation guy is a bit like calling Steve Jobs a programmer. Anyway, Robert has a new processing-animation piece as part of a video contest for Radiohead. Robert does this with Processing, an open-source programming tool that combines software with visualization. Or something. It’s MIT stuff that makes beauty out of code, and code out of sound, and sound out of beauty.
To really bend your mind and see the future of animation, check out all Radiohead entries here.
InformationWeek tells us sales of multimedia cell phones will reach 300 million units in 2008, exceeding traditional television sets. By 2011 90% of cell phones will play MP3s and video. This means movies soon will be in your pocket or on your wrist more than on big screens, and advertisers will continue to migrate more dollars to mobile video, search, and web formats. Media buyers should start testing mobile formats now to get ahead of the curve. Even if Ben Hur looks like Toy Story on your wrist.
Oprah found a new home today. Harpo Productions announced the launch of the Oprah Channel on YouTube, with special content such as Tom Cruise jumping in the green room and interviews with “The Evolution of Dance” guy.
For marketers, this may be the final impetus to move ad dollars away from traditional broadcast to online video formats. Some analysts have remained skeptical, pointing out that about three-quarters of political advertising in 2008, or $2.5 billion, will be spent on old-school TV. But consider the facts: DVR sales are rising to nearly 20% market penetration, and as Broadcasting & Cable reports, most major primetime shows are now posted online for free. The cable networks are scared silly about where all these consumer eyeballs are headed …
Vince Manze, NBC president of program planning scheduling and strategy, also says he is not taking audiences returning at the same levels for granted. “Overall, I think we all would be happy with flat,” he says. “That’s a victory these days.”
The real reason online video rocks is it now unlocks marketing opportunities you can’t find in the living-room black box. It’s mobile — YouTube is on iPhones. It is international — YouTube has customized formats for 14 nations outside the U.S. And it costs almost nothing, but a prayer, to hope your message goes viral, gets posted on other sites, and reaches hundreds of millions of consumers. Imagine the conversation in your Marketing department if media buyers promised you 100 GRPs on a cable network, with the chance to go exponentially to 10,000 GRPs if only your idea is clever enough. Who wouldn’t be tempted?
Now, Oprah has a TV channel online. Where she goes, ad dollars will follow.