Apparently, Glenn Britt minds, and Sumner Redstone doesn’t care. The announcement Tues that Viacom’s Comedy Central would stream full episodes (yes, full episodes… not clips) of hit shows “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” on the NBCU-News Corp online video venture Hulu creates yet another point of tension between content providers and traditional distributors as the Internet continues to change the TV content game. Could the tension get any worse? Of course! Other major TV franchises could start piling on beyond the handful that now stream episodes for free, culminating in some kind of licensing showdown. The stakes are pretty high. Cable ops (as well as satellite and telco providers) are reluctant to pay big license fees for content that’s also freely available online, especially now that consoles such as Apple TV, Playstation 3, XBox 360 and others make it increasingly simple to watch Web content on a TV screen in the living room. Cable operators loath the idea of becoming “dumb pipes” into the home—essentially big, fat broadband connections with little or no skin in the content game. That’s not at risk of happening anytime soon, but the next round of licensing negotiations will no doubt get even more complicated than the last round. Are we getting to a point in which cross-platform, advertising revenue-sharing might start to muscle out license fees? Content providers won’t go down that road without a fight, and it’s questionable whether cable operators can exert that sort of power in a world in which content is so easily available on so many platforms. Yeah, cable built it, and now the viewers have come… but not necessarily to the TV screen.

Cable Ad Spend Beating Rivals
In a tough economy, it’s perhaps not surprising that the overall advertising market is limping along just like everything else. But get this, the TV side of things is up 1.7%, according to a report released Wed by TNS Media Intelligence. The research firm reported that while broadcast nets saw only a 0.8% increase in ad spend, cable TV nets experienced a 4.1% increase—not bad considering weakness across the overall advertising universe. Meanwhile, many cable nets continue to wrap up their upfront buys this week, and early reports are that interest has been stronger than on the broadcast side. Could it be that all those reality shows are starting to take their toll? We can only hope, although the success of “American Idol” and “Dancing with the Stars” would suggest otherwise. For the overall ad market, however, expenditures eeked out a 0.6% gain in Q1 2008 compared to the same quarter last year—and Q2 doesn’t look like it will be any better. “After a hopeful start to the year, the pace of ad spending slowed perceptibly during March and early figures from the second quarter indicate little immediate or sustained improvement in the core ad economy,” said Jon Swallen, svp, research at TNS. FYI, here’s TNS’s rundown of overall ad spend (TV, radio, print, etc) in Q1: Row, Row, Row the Boat
Is cable rowing the boat or rocking it? We’re not sure, but the long-predicted appointment of Aegis’ David Verklin to head cable’s Project Canoe venture comes as the advertising community waits, watches and—in some cases—shakes its head with skepticism. Can cable really get its ad-insertion act together after 30-plus years of disjointed local ad sales? Furthermore, will this new coordination help usher in dynamic ad insertion on VOD, the widespread lack of which has seriously hobbled efforts to convince ad-supported nets to go “all in” with VOD content (Interestingly, many have chosen to put all of that content on the Web, which gives cable even more incentive to make Project Canoe work). Judging from recent comments by Comcast’s Steve Burke and executives at the other partner companies, we suspect that things will start happening quickly. Content providers may soon have yet another advertising option in their arsenal. At least, the Project Canoe advocates hope so. Of course, with this year’s upfront season at an end, it could be a while before any real Canoe-ish dealmaking begins.

The Daily


AI to MI

Commentary by Steve Effros Last week’s column pointing to what I suspect will be the next trend in internet business plans was not intended to declare an “end point.” It was just the beginning. The race

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