360AM — Morning news briefing for Tuesday, May 15 >>
Disney is launching Disney Travel on Demand, an interactive VOD travel channel with Time Warner Cable (on May 21) and Cablevision (May 29) that will allow their digital cable subscribers to check out four original video on demand series (refreshed every three weeks) showcasing Disney resorts and vacations. Using a remote control, Cablevision customers can request a phone call from a Disney travel planner during extended business hours to book a trip to Disney’s U.S. theme parks or a non-park tour from Adventures by Disney. Time Warner Cable customers can request information by email or regular mail. "That kind of consumer engagement is what our booking process is all about," Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Jay Rasulo tells Reuters. "We think this is a new way to reach tech-savvy parents." Disney tested the service last year on Cablevision. "It has a lot of the interactivity of the Web," Cablevision SVP of advanced platform sales Barry Frey tells AP. "It will also give a lot of details to Disney and Cablevision on how many people are watching [and] how long they are watching." Today’s announcement follows last week’s news at NCTA’s Cable Show that Disney will test free VOD content from ABC and ESPN (that can’t be fast-forwarded to skip ads) plus dynamic ad insertion on VOD with Cox Communications, starting in its Orange County, CA, market. Scroll down for ABC’s upfront ad announcements today in New York.
The American Customer Satisfaction Index, an annual survey from the Ross Business School at the University of Michigan in partnership with the American Society for Quality and CFI Group, was released this morning with a downgrade for cable and satellite service providers. Both industries averaged 62 out of 100 on this year’s ACSI, down 1.6% from last year and the lowest for any industry in the annual survey of 80,000 consumers. Cox Communications was the top-rated cable operator with a score of 63, beating Time Warner Cable (down almost 5% to 58), Comcast‘ (-6.7% t 56, the largest score drop in the category) and Charter Communications (55). DBS was the best of the worst: DirecTV scored 67, down 5.6% from a year ago, tied with EchoStar‘s Dish Network. For the second year, the ACSI rated cable operators’ phone service: Comcast Digital Voice service fell 2.9% to 67 while Cox and AT&T each earned a 70; all were beaten by Verizon‘s 4.3% increase to 72, a tied score with Qwest. Professor Claes Fornell speculated to AP "that the bundles of phone, internet and TV service that Comcast and others began offering about a year ago at an introductory rate of $100 monthly may have reduced satisfaction when customers realize that an outage potentially means losing phone, TV and Internet." DirecTV, EchoStar, Verizon and Qwest crowed about beating cable. [ACSI release-PDF | ACSI scores]
The New York Times‘ Richard Sandomir got former Time Warner Cable programming czar Fred Dressler to comment on Comcast‘s pro-sports tiers ruling over the NFL Network. "It will help other cable operators. They’ll say, ‘If you sold it to Comcast that way, you ought to sell it to everybody else that way,’" says Dressler. He adds, "Right now, I feel the decision is unique to Comcast," noting that operators with existing deals may capitalize on an anti-NFL Network court decision if their contracts permit matching better terms of carriage given to Comcast.
• UPFRONT WATCH
Upfront buyers are demanding data on viewing habits and DVR usage, meaning networks "are expected to have a tougher time nailing down early commitments for ads on their fall shows," reports the Wall Street Journal. That’s why Discovery Communications has agreed to provide second-by-second viewing data on Discovery HD Theater to Starcom USA clients including Allstate and Best Buy. TNS Media will provide the data based on 300,000 Los Angeles-area customers of Charter Communications. Besides only tracking one market, "TNS can’t tell whether viewers leave the room while the TV is on and ads are running. And while TNS can monitor when digital video recorders record a program, it can’t tell whether the users speed through the ad breaks when they play back the program."
NBC‘s upfront yesterday announced a surplus of sci-fi programming and a dearth of sitcoms; a question mark for Donald Trump’s Apprentice (NBC execs want to see what other nets announce this week before making a decision); and digital extras include MyNBC this fall on NBC.com and "minisodes" including a Web series by Jerry Seinfeld to plug his upcoming Bee Movie this fall. Seinfeld offered this zinger on the 2007 upfront’s Web video theme: "There was no YouTube. There was UsTube … You watched what we put on the air or suffered the consequences." [New York Times | NYT blog | WSJ blog | MediaPost]
Hispanic TV upfronts, also taking place this week, face a tough challenge: while ad spending on Spanish-language media rose more than 14% last year from 2005, only 3.2% of total national television and print advertising is directed at Spanish markets in the Spanish language—and of the country’s top 250 advertisers, about 100 don’t market in Spanish at all, and many of those that do aim less than 1% of their promotional budgets at Latinos. Univision‘s upfront will aim to show "Spanish-language viewers are more loyal than others, less likely to own TiVos and other digital video recorders [and thus less likely to skip ads] and more willing to accept product integration in their favorite programs." Telemundo will tout examples of product integration in telenovelas with Clorox, Ikea and other brands. [Los Angeles Times]
ABC‘s upfront today in New York is previewed on its website, where viewers can check out clips and its fall schedule. ABC supported commercial ratings in presenting 11 new series to media buyers, including 5 new fall dramas—Grey’s Anatomy spinoff Private Practice; Dirty Sexy Money starring Peter Krause, late of HBO’s Six Feet Under; Big Shots; Pushing Daisies; and Women’s Murder Club—and 3 new fall sitcoms: Geico ad spinoff Cavemen, Carpoolers and Sam I Am. Lost returns in mid-season with new dramas Eli Stone and Cashmere Mafia (shades of NBC’s upcoming Lipstick Jungle). Cancelled series include What About Brian, George Lopez (re: tough times for Latinos, above) and According to Jim. [More coverage: New York Times | MarketWatch | USA Today | New York Post]
In digital media news, ABC will test HD streaming of content starting in July on ABC.com, with greater geo-targeting of ads. [MediaPost] ABC also announced a multi-year mobile programming deal with Sprint that includes advertising, as part of a bigger Disney-ABC multi-brand wireless agreement that will bring full-length episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, Lost and Ugly Betty to Sprint customers beginning with this week’s season finales. Video on demand shows will be available the day after their on-air premiere. The deal also includes Disney Channel‘s linear mobile network and the launch of ABC Mobile, a linear mobile network that includes full-length episodes of ABC’s hit entertainment series plus ABC News and ABC Daytime content (Sprint already offers ABC News Now). Starting this fall, Disney-ABC will embed advertising into select Sprint mobile programming "to provide customers with the most variety of content at the least cost to them," according to the press release; USA Today has more, while ESPN is also ramping up mobile (more here).
DirecTV may test broadband over power lines in a top 50 market next year, CEO Chase Carey tells Reuters.
FCC prods DirecTV and EchoStar to offer residents of Hawaii and Alaska equal service on par with their mainland customers. [Star Bulletin]
Verizon expanded FiOS TV in Prince George’s County, MD. [Release]
Encore Westerns slates special tribute to John Wayne on his centennial plus 100-hour movie marathon beginning May 26.
Fox News refused C-SPAN‘s request to carry tonight’s GOP presidential debate. [CBS News]
AMC teams with Variety for online coverage of the Cannes Film Festival. [Release]
AOL acquired Third Screen Media, a mobile advertising network. [Release]
ExpoTV touts research showing power of retail websites with video (like ExpoTV.com).
Google introduces audio ads. [Search Engine Roundtable]
kyte.tv video portal secures more funding. [Release]
MySpace launches branded video channels with National Geographic (National Geographic Channel and National Geographic Digital Media); The New York Times; Reuters; and lifestyle outlets including The Daily Reel, Expert Village, FOX’s IGN Entertainment, LX.TV, Animation Show, Kush TV, Studio411, VBS.tv (from Vice Magazine and Spike Jonze with backing from MTV Networks), Young Hollywood, plus Ripe Digital’s Ripe TV, Octane TV and Flow. MySpace Video also has deals with Michael Eisner’s Vuguru-produced Prom Queen web series and Mark Burnett’s political reality series, Independent. [Release]
MySpace petitioned by attorneys general in eight states complaining the News Corp.-owned company is not blocking sexual predators and helping authorities. MySpace is being asked to provide information on sex offenders on MySpace and alert MySpace members and law enforcement officials. [New York Times]
WSJ looks at how TV networks are wooing bloggers (with so-called "blogola" includes freebies, on-set trips and a cameo role, in the case of TV Guide blogger Michael Ausiello) to do an end-run around mainstream media and try to connect directly with fans.
The U.S. military yesterday banned troops from posting video on sites including YouTube, MySpace, MTV and images on Photobucket — except, apparently, Wi-Fi TV. [Release]
TiVo announced Universal Swivel Search. Billed as the first "TV-centric on-screen search tool" for TV shows or movies, whether on TV or on Internet video sites, it incorporates fan suggestions with metadata search. Its non-TV video search partners include Amazon’s Unbox service plus 14 websites including CNet, NBCU’s iVillage, the New York Times’ NYtimes.com and Rocketboom. [Release | USA Today]
Convergys signed a six-year deal with Suddenlink Communications. [Release]
Cablevision‘s Optimum Lightpath commercial services division launches Voice over Ethernet service enabled by Cisco and NEC. [Release]
• IN OTHER NEWS
NYT revisits Time Warner‘s ouster of former HBO head Chris Albrecht and finds corporations these days have limited to zero tolerance for misbehaving execs.
Verizon Business acquired Cybertrust, a global security firm. [Release]