Will advertisers kill the market for online tv?

If they stuff it with zillions of obnoxious ads, online viewers could click away in droves.


Will advertisers kill the market for online tv?

Ellen Page as Lilith Sandstrom in ReGenesis

Yesterday I saw that Hulu announced an upgrade and program additions to its HD Gallery, including a high-def version of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.

In her blurb on the news, CNet’s Caroline McCarthy notes that “the No. 1 thing worth watching on Hulu is the stellar Season 2 premiere of AMC’s Mad Men,” but I disagree. I’m going with the first season of ReGenesis, the Canadian Broadcasting Co.’s award-winning biotech thriller that Hulu recently scored. It’s so good I’ve already plowed through the whole thing, and I’ve been badgering the Movie Network, Hulu, Shaftesbury Films and anyone else with a logo on this show to get us the rest of the seasons, and pronto.

For someone who hasn’t owned a TV in eight years, I sure watch a lot of it. Who knew that DSL, an Aeron chair and a laptop hookup to a nice big flat-panel display would be so much more enjoyable than the couch? Clamp on a nice old set of Bose noise-cancelers, and — immersive nirvana. I don’t care if they’re big. They’re nice and smooshy, and I love that kussssh they make when I flip on the switch, and … wait, where was I?

Sorry. Watching TV online. Right, then.

The reason I got rid of my television in the first place is that I hate television advertising. I hate all advertising, frankly, but everything about ads on TV drives me around the bend. The increased volume, the escalating frequency as the story climax nears, the mostly inane content — it all makes me nutty. I stuck to books and magazines instead, for I don’t know how many years, until somebody gave me Season 1 of “Buffy.” That’s when I realized the drive under my right wrist was no longer for CDs. It was for DVDs, and I could actually watch TV for hours at a stretch with no advertising whatsoever. For better or worse, it’s been a TV festival here at Carusolandia ever since.

I’ve since (obviously) expanded my horizons to include streaming TV sites, and I concur with the wisdom of the crowd that Hulu has the best quality video and user experience of any of them.

Better yet, aside from the random stuttering problem that I just know they are going to fix very soon, only about 5 percent of Hulu’s ads are obnoxious. In any case, they’re so short — often as short as 15 seconds — that you hardly have time to turn off the headphones before they’re over.

Maybe it’s just because I’ve become a member of the club, but I hear a lot of really engaged conversation nowadays about online TV and movies. Everybody is finding good new programs to watch online that they tell their friends about. Everybody is badgering networks and production companies to get their shows online. Pretty much everyone I know watches something online. It’s hard to hear a discouraging word on the subject, from viewers at least.

So while some financial analysts may have been shocked, shocked! to hear it, I certainly didn’t find it surprising that Disney’s third-quarter earnings this year were actually helped by its online video assets. Look around, guys. People like it. They really like it.

But they may not like it for long. The financiers are all very worried about the fact that there just isn’t enough advertising revenue to support these online shows. The trouble, according to Michael Learmonth of Silicon Alley Insider, is that advertisers can’t stuff in as many ads online as they can on regular TV. If someone doesn’t break the code on how to wring more advertising dollars out of online television, Learmonth said, online video will get kicked to the curb by the end of 2009.

Typical. Apply traditional media business model to online medium, wait a year or two, then kill the market (or watch it asphyxiate) for not meeting your irrational expectations. Do we really have to do this again? What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Yes, that’s it.

I know money has to be made, and I also know that I am not the typical customer here, being on the far end of the Hate-O-Meter when it comes to advertising. But perhaps it’s time for the industry to change its business model to reflect reality. Does it ever occur, for example, that people may be watching online not only for convenience, but also because there aren’t as many obnoxious ads?

Work with us, people.

According to Dave McCarthy, an online market executive, the issues raised by online video affect many stakeholders: content producers, technology providers, media agencies, creative agencies and advertisers. “The fact that so many stakeholders are involved has resulted in us reaching something of an impasse, with nobody really leading the charge, and the model is struggling to build momentum as a result,” he wrote.

But it might help if more people in the industry considered consumers to be stakeholders, too. Noting that “There’s precious little valid research out there to prove what really works both from a consumer ‘engage/enrage’ perspective and from the delivery of hard and fast results,” McCarthy adds,

We need to develop creative that fits with consumers’ current online mindset, rather than rely on our TV-tarnished perceptions of what works when it comes to ads. … The rules of engagement for web and TV are poles apart, a case that is highlighted by the way people consume content across the two platforms. … Many in the industry are getting too tied up with format: get the creative right and the format becomes far less important.

Amen, brother Dave. But I think that “getting the creative right” goes beyond the content and format of the ads themselves. For a group that’s as obsessed with the “new new thing” as the advertising industry, it might try applying more of its prodigious creativity to finding a new business model for supporting online media that puts consumers first. We have an awful lot of choices these days, and we don’t like getting kicked to the curb.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>