Pssst… Food Network star Rachael Ray apparently taped a Dunkin’ Donuts commercial wearing a scarf some bloggers think resembles a "jihadi" head dress. Dunkin has since pulled the ad. But if Americans stop eating donuts and actually improve their health, haven’t the terrorists won? Good morning.
We all remember Time Warner Cable chief Glenn Britt at the Cable Show noting that cable operators do, in fact, “mind” when programmers put content they charge ops to license on the Internet for free. The story has started getting mainstream traction, with the New York Times columnist Saul Hansell chiming in Friday on the controversy. He notes that he still hasn’t been able to figure out the Byzantine deals between big content owners like Viacom and big MSOs like Comcast (We kind of wonder whether Viacom and Comcast can figure them out either). The bottom line: Cable nets are working in clauses that allow them to do at least some Webcasting, but they usually involve some complicated restrictions. MSO execs seem to understand that they can’t stop TV content from going online, but Britt and others are starting to demand better licensing deals based on how much of that stuff is out there for free. Then again, keep in mind that Comedy Central’s recent deal to expand the online presence of “The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report” and “South Park” includes putting that content on Comcast-owned Fancast site. So maybe it’s less about cash and more about beefing up those MSO portal sites. Look for more such partnerships as this back-and-forth continues.
We’re tempted to just go “duh,” but get this: Video will increasingly suck away dollars from broadcast and cable TV, according to IDC. The research firm predicted today that the next 5 years will push Internet advertising to grow about 8 times as fast as advertising at large, doubling from $25.5 billion in 2007 to $51.1 billion in 2012. Video ad revenue will grow from $0.5 billion in 2007 to $3.8 billion in 2012 at a compound annual growth rate of 49.4%. IDC said brand advertisers will shift significant amounts of money into these video commercials, primarily from broadcast television and to a lesser extent from cable. Good thing programmers are moving content online to capitalize on such trends. We’re starting to wonder whether anyone will be able to tell the difference between TV and online video in a few years. In the end, isn’t it all just content?
Nielsen’s Got @Plan
OK. So Pivot is gone, and no one is sure whether the new Clearwire/Sprint venture will go anywhere with cable operators. But don’t count mobile out yet (check out our Trend Analysis piece on this). On Thurs, Nielsen said it will extend its online audience profiling service, @Plan, to cover those special Web sites designed for mobile devices. Nielsen’s covering some 200 mobile sites, profiling their users according to more than a thousand points of lifestyle information, including demographics, leisure activities, life events, electronics ownership, media use and brand-level purchase activity on travel, auto, finance, food and beverage, real estate, pets and more. With 48 million U.S. mobile subscribers accessing the Internet over their phones each month, according to Nielsen, it’s perhaps apparent why MSOs and content owners are refusing to give up on mobile video where all those TV commercials (or some form of them) could be transplanted to tiny screens at some point.
Sell, Sell, Sell!
We’re sure of at least one thing: Americans just can’t get enough reality TV—and advertisers fearing all of this ad-skipping with DVRs and VOD can’t pay enough to hawk their products during these thinly veiled product-placement bonanzas. But just as reports came out this week that reality shows are slashing budgets that have become bloated with big-name hosts and expensive shoots, new product-placement trends are fast taking hold. TBS on Mon will start testing a new concept called “Commuter Confidential” in which female actors will commute to work while singing the praises of Match.com and Revlon products. Billed as “microepisodes,” these are basically commercials that actually try to keep viewers engaged with a continuing storyline. The TV biz isn’t alone: Electronic Arts has started doing deals to integrate products such as Ikea furniture into its Sims game franchise (and countless other games include branded billboards and other advertising fare within their virtual environments). Will consumers rebel at some point? Most think not, as long as producers don’t force the placements too much. After all, with no one watching 30-second spots anymore, do content providers have a choice here? (For more on the product placement game, check out the Trend Analysis section).
Verizon has unveiled a new “FiOS TV Central” Web site that will soon include the ability to remotely program their DVRs. The only question is whether DVRs will continue to be a factor in the coming years, considering the explosion of VOD and online video options that will only get more robust in the future. Viewers can already buy movies from iTunes through an Apple TV console or stream movies over Roku’s new Netflix set-top box (It’s getting good reviews, folks… not something to be blown off). But alas, Verizon appears to be on the VOD kick as well, as the new site also includes VOD trailers. ABI Research, meanwhile, just this week released results of a survey that found more than 26% of respondents had a game console connected to their home network, 10% had a network storage device. Research director Mike Wolf states the obvious that such connectivity “can only be expected to grow” but adds: “The challenge will be one of finding ways to bring together the pay-TV, IP and home content domains into an interface that is easy for consumers navigate, and to make management of these devices simple and easy to troubleshoot.” tru2way, anyone?
Yeah, Google’s still squawking about its Android mobile operating system that will supposedly set off an explosion in robust Web content (ie, lotsa video) over that “open” block of C-block spectrum Verizon snagged a few months ago. We’ll see. But content owners partial to the MVNO model, as well as MSOs seeking to sell or rent “branded” devices in the future, may want to pay attention. The AP reports that Google pres, engineering Vic Gundotra said browsers on mobile handsets will become “the entry point for many, many applications.” Get ready for yet another power struggle over who owns the customer.
Check It Out
Time Warner pres/CEO Jeff Bewkes is scheduled to speak at 11am this morning at the Sanford Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference. An audio webcast will be available online at http://www.timewarner.com/investors.
So AFTRA struck a tentative deal with TV producers this week. Let’s hope it sticks. The last strike might have helped cable steal some ratings points from the broadcasters, but this sort of labor strife seldom helps anyone long term. AFTRA seems happy with the deal, which doubles payments actors get for movies and TV shows sold online. But SAG still has to sign off, and sources suggest that they may try to drive a harder bargain. Stay tuned.