Adding commercials to video streams

An important part of CNN’s decision to stop charging for video is the streaming of commercials with the videos. CNN has determined it can make more money selling commercials than it can through paid content. This is a notion I support.

However, there’s a huge potential downside if this isn’t handled properly, and that all depends on the commercial load. CNN says it will be adding 15-second commercials to the streams. I’ve got to tell you, folks, fifteen seconds is an eternity on the Web, and I don’t think most people will stand for it. The people at MSN Video did research and discovered that 7–10 seconds is the optimum length for a commercial attached to a stream. My own intuition agrees with that, and so I advise clients to sell spots of 10-seconds or less.

But even Microsoft is running 15-second spots now, because advertisers are demanding it. Fifteen seconds is a broadcast standard, and advertisers can simply repurpose broadcast ads. But we must remember that time is the new currency. Fifteen seconds seems like nothing when you’re used to dealing with three or four minute commercial pods, but the same dynamic that’s at work with skipping commercials via TiVo is also at play here. The user is in charge online, and I don’t think they’ll accept the ratio of ad-to-content.

This is just further evidence that the advertising industry has its head firmly up its backside when it comes to the age of empowered consumers.

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