It’s déjà vu all over again. When the economy tanked, the dotcom bubble burst, and advertisers fled the Internet like the plague in 2001, publishers started chanting the mantra of the fee-based Web content model. Content costs money to produce, they chanted. Users must learn to pay. In 2009, the economy tanks and media models are struggling. Advertisers aren’t necessarily jumping the digital ship this time around, but certainly the double-digit growth rates many digital units were modeling for the next few years is not going to happen. And like the predictable workings of the clock of doom we hear the lament again. This stuff costs money to make, you know? Users will have to pay.

And yet there is evidence that consumers of online TV content like the ad model, or at least tolerate it well enough. According to a new Knowledge Network study, 80% of downloaders of network TV video prefer ad-supported models and 69% of those streaming that content also would opt for pre-rolls over pay models.

The pre-roll ad format is becoming more commonplace as more Internet users embrace Web-based TV content. Since 2006, the share of onliners streaming TV episodes and clips over the Web has risen from 30% to 37%, while the share of those users who watch video without any pre-rolls has dropped from 15% to 10%. As video use rises, the ad-supported model has itself become ubiquitous.

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