While this $320 million acquisition of a behind-the-scenes ad tech company seemingly pales next to Comcast's splashy $45 billion bid for Time-Warner, it is a more important transaction for the evolution of television advertising. FreeWheel provides essential functionality for the networks to maximize revenue as their advertising inventory splinters across computer, tablet, and smartphone devices as well as cable, Internet, and mobile delivery systems.
Calling Aereo a “direct assault” on the broadcast industry's business model, a coalition of TV companies indicated in court papers that Aereo's continued existence could mean the end of free over-the-air television.
In my reading of the Constitution, I see neither a right to free TV nor protections for an existing business model (snark over).
I'm glad to see more quantification of online ads' impact for branding. But I lament that this kind of story is still headline-worthy. Why is it still so surprising that online advertising is effective and helps sell products?
After all, I wrote about the first Cross Media Optimization Study (XMOS) that documented the brand impact of the lowly banner ad for Dove Nutrium . . . when was that . . . must have been about 2001. And scores more of these studies have come out since. In my research with marketing mix modeling vendors, I hear that digital is readily quantified and has an important role in the mix.
So can we get beyond nonsensical biases about "banner blindness" and acknowledge the reality that ads don't have to be a Cannes-winning video extravaganza to get the message across?
Julianne Pepitone's review of the upcoming US Supreme Court case American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. versus Aereo nicely covers the case's implications on two big industries, old and new: television and cloud computing. (P.S. Thanks for the shout-out to me, Julianne!) The potential impact on the TV industry is pretty clear, but the cloud? I'm not a lawyer, but the issue is likely to turn on the difference between the copy being in the cloud or in your home.
In 1984, the Supreme Court upheld the right of individuals to make a recording of a television program for their private viewing in what has become known as the Betamax case. So far, lower courts have used this precedent, in combination with Aereo's clever technical design, to say Aereo is legal. For the Supreme Court to rule against Aereo, it will have to find that some aspect of their model is different from a VCR.
And there it is: The VCR sits in your living room, while Aereo is in the cloud. No doubt ABC and the broadcast industry will make the case that this is a crucial difference and since Aereo is the entity sitting on these copies of their programming, Aereo is infringing on their copyright. It will be fascinating to see the arguments in detail and see how the Court views them.
Julianne notes in her article:
If the court rules against Aereo, the startup and its supporters warn the ramifications could put other services that use remote, or cloud-based, storage -- Google Drive, Dropbox, remote DVRs and many more -- at risk. Any of those outcomes depend on the scope of the Supreme Court’s decision.
Sure, the scarcity of inventory and the premium associated with professional video content drive caution and reluctance among sellers. But in a few years, short- and long-form video content, both user-generated and broadcast-native, will be bought programmatically in an inevitable takeover of automated trading that has already started today – and will work all the way up to TV buying. Two forces make programmatic buying unavoidable:
Traditional buying cannot cope with audience fragmentation across devices. The explosion of new platforms and ways of viewing videos will continue dispersing audiences, making it increasingly difficult to reach the desired number of viewers through linear TV alone. And many of these new platforms are digital, enabling a break from broad age/gender ratings buys and a move to addressing ads to individuals. Traditional manual buying approaches simply can’t cope with this volume of video sources and the shift to addressable advertising.
Are consumers getting their video entertainment from different source? Yes, largely migrating from cable to telecom providers like Verizon and AT&T. This has little to no impact on how marketers plan and buy their TV campaigns.
Are consumers filling some of their video entertainment hours with online streaming sources? Sure, but for the most part, online video viewers are -- and remain -- heavy linear TV viewers, using new sources to get more of the entertainment they love (as I documented in this report last fall). Some younger consumers are delaying getting a pay TV subscription of any type, and perhaps they may never. But then they will fill their entertainment hours with video from Vevo, YouTube, HuluPlus, etc., where advertisers will have ample opportunity to reach them (oh, yes and some ad-free Netflix, but then, ad-free DVD viewing is fading away).
Gross rating points (GRPs) have been debated in the digital world for years — census level impressions should crush a panel-based measurement like GRPs — until you run into the raft of pesky technical issues: bots, viewability, server-side versus client-side measurement, et al. Meanwhile, the big money (i.e., TV) continues to be traded on GRPs, and with the advent of Nielsen OCR and comScore VCE, it appeared that digital was ready to throw in the towel and trade on GRPs, at least for online video.
But the story doesn't end there. GRPs, being a panel-based metric, have become more and more vulnerable as audience fragmentation decreases the number of viewers for any individual show: first small local broadcast markets, then low-rated cable networks, and now the general decline in audience size across the TV spectrum. This leaves a lot of audience unmeasured by Nielsen but still with intrinsic value to the advertiser, if only you could find another "currency."
MAGNAGlobal's most recent Media Economy Report takes one of the most direct stabs into the heart of this venerable metric, as reported in this Mediapost article: MAGNA calls for shifting to impression-based trading for local TV ad inventory.
I believe this is a harbinger of the end of GRPs. As I said in my April 2013 report Digital Disruption Rattles the TV Ad Market, disruption won't likely be a sudden, massive event but will begin at the margins in areas like spot advertising, which are smaller dollars and thus less risk to the advertiser's campaign results if a new technique isn't successful.
The annual hype surrounding Super Bowl ads has reached a crescendo this week, and I won't add to it. (You can always go read the article I published in the Journal of Advertising Research when I was CMO of a social media listening company, proving it was more effective to preview your ad before the game than keep it secret.)
Don't let this cacophony drown out three events this month that signal 2014 as a pivotal year in the evolution of TV advertising. Any single one would be big enough news, but the fact that all three happened in just one month shows that the drivers for changes are accelerating:
Charter bids for Time-Warner. Behind-the-scenes overtures broke into the open when Charter went public with their desire to buy their larger rival. This event is a symptom of underlying margin pressures and technological change that we will see accelerate this year http://forr.com/TWCinplay
Verizon buys Intel's online TV service. The chip giant threw in the towel in its attempts to create an over-the-top TV service, frustrated in part by content owners' intransigence. Verizon reportedly got a very slick new user interface, but also potential to become the first "virtual MPVD", an IP-delivered TV service that isn't constrained by the geographic footprint of their infrastructure or regulatory definition of its operating territory.
Since the introduction of the DVR more than a decade ago, consumers have learned they don't have to conform their lives to broadcast programmers' schedules in order to watch their favorite TV shows.
Along come online sources like HuluPlus, or the network's own websites promise even more convenience: Get any episode of any show with no need to remember to record it. But adoption is hampered by the awkward viewing experience of the cramped screens of laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
Welcome to TV viewing in the Age of the Customer. Consumers want their favorite shows when they want them, on their preferred device, with little or no effort on their part.
Linear TV, DVRs and today's online viewing experience all fail on at least one of these dimensions. Viewers increasingly cobble together a mix of sources and devices to create this level of convenience, and each of these players vies to capture more of viewers' time by improving its offering.
In my new report, "How Online Video Will Challenge DVRs' Role," I delve into how these two sources of video entertainment vie to meet consumers' increasing expectations. DVRs have the advantage of incumbency, while online viewing offers greater flexibility.
As I get deeper into the changes impacting television and online video, their convergence, and the possibility of entirely new forms of video entertainment content, I'm thinking about content in the following categories:
Long-form professional video -- i.e., produced originally to be broadcast on TV
Professional clips -- news, sports highlights, scenes from programs
Short-form professional -- i.e., Maker Studios, et al, producing videos shorter than 30 minutes, specifically for Internet distribution
Brand videos -- i.e., content marketing done in video form, such as Home Depot's do-it-yourself instructional videos
Then there is the medium by which they are distributed:
Linear, i.e., at broadcast time
DVR, where the consumer takes control
VOD through the cable box
Online streaming, from either the cable/satellite provider, the programmer, or a streaming service like Hulu Plus
And, of course, there are the devices on which the content can be viewed: