Old dogs and old tricks

the affiliates get hosed againSo ABC is out selling “new research” from, of all people, Nielsen that says people will tolerate more ads on streaming shows, such as “Gray’s Anatomy.” The AdAge article notes that the network has been running the data up agency flagpoles “in hopes of getting them to buy into the concept.” What’s at stake? Millions of dollars.

Network programming on the web, whether on ABC.com, CBS.com, TV.com, Hulu or any other distributor, has typically had a single sponsor. Sometimes ABC has featured one national advertiser and one local advertiser. Online programs have also generally had one ad per break, in part to keep viewers from clicking away, and in part to lure marketers to try what was once a new concept.

As a bonus, the networks disable the fast-forward button, so ads can’t be skipped, and since ad recall is higher, they’ve been able to charge higher cost-per-thousand rates than TV. But because there are many fewer ads, online revenue per viewer for the networks is still far below that on TV.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Albert Cheng, executive vp digital media at DATG, told a NATPE panel Wednesday that “We can actually increase delivery, reach and frequency by looking at a model that will have more sponsors and more ads.” Everybody rejoice, right?

The networks and advertisers are holding their breath about this, because everybody knows it’s risky. Donna Speciale, president of investments and activation at Mediavest Worldwide, told the panel, “The key is what is that very fine line and balance before we push them over the edge of being pissed.”

Despite all that, we know the networks and we know the demand for revenue, so let’s follow the dots on this one to see who really gets it in the shorts. The networks will slowly push the envelope (the frog and the hot water) and load the shows with more expensive ads that can’t be skipped, and find the balance that works (for them). The advertisers are so happy that they shift entire budgets to this, because, well, viewers HAVE to engage in their commercials. The viewers are (allegedly) happy. The network coffers are happy. The advertisers are happy.

But what about the network affiliates in the cities and towns across the country? This lowers (even further) the value of broadcasting those programs to the point where it’s actually a net liability. What can be TiVo’d will be TiVo’d, and what self-respecting advertiser wants to be a part of that? The aim, therefore, becomes removing TiVo from the equation entirely, and who gets hurt by that? The local affiliate system of program distribution.

Think I’m kidding? Stay tuned.

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