Sean Cunningham, president and CEO of the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau, agreed to get involved with CTAM’s On Demand Consortium for one reason. He sees great potential for ad sales in VOD. "VOD is an immense part of how we’re going to use television even more effectively as an advertising medium," says Cunningham. "We’re on the cusp of something tremendous." The On Demand Consortium, a working group of almost 50 companies, is divided into three subcommittees: public relations, particularly in terms of reaching out to the consumer press; advertising; and a user interface group that this year released best practices for VOD menu screens and a glossary of on-demand terms. This fall, it will release the first set of uniform CTAM-endorsed VOD icons to the cable industry. Recognizing that advertising is not its forte, CTAM asked CAB to take the lead role on that subcommittee—just added this year—to help spur the nascent advertising on-demand business. Cunningham said yes, which is good news for cable operators, programmers and VOD content aggregators and technology companies keen to monetize advanced television. It’s also good news for the growing ranks of advertisers willing to sponsor free VOD content as a way to offset the erosion of broadcast television’s share and the impact of ad-skipping and DVRs. "Until the beginning part of this year, the advertising piece of on demand wasn’t a specific project or a priority for the consortium," says Tania Jones, CTAM’s VP of marketing and staff liaison for the ODC. "However, everyone did want to explore what we could around it as a cooperative group. We’ve also gotten the ad sales folks from the MSOs involved in the consortium, which they hadn’t been in the past." The CTAM On Demand Consortium went to CAB to explain its interests and needs. In turn, Cunningham went to CAB’s board of directors and key constituents for their feedback. They met in New York City during Diversity Week last month to begin a process of designing a joint project that will address the intersection of both groups’ interests. That initiative will address the critical area of metrics starting this fall and continuing into next year. Programmers, operators and various constituents will tackle common issues, starting with data infrastructure for on demand. "Everyone at the consortium recognizes that we need a trading and measurement currency, we need reporting metrics and a process for on demand, and we need to work out revenue-sharing models," Cunningham says. CTAM and CAB’s constituents and VOD champions at ad agencies such as Starcom MediaVest Group SVP Tim Hanlon eagerly anticipate the results. "This project involves the collaboration of multiple stakeholders—operators and programmers—and will be shared with the same," Cunningham says. "We stay close to the leaders in the agency world who are on the forefront of advanced TV, and that piece will be more of an ongoing, informal dialogue. We will eventually have a more formal engagement with them as we get closer to the design of the data infrastructure, and our hope is this will come into practice for the full advertiser and agency community." If all goes as planned, On Demand Consortium members will be as satisfied with the work of the advertising subcommittee as they have been with the user interface and PR subcommittees. "The payoff has been fabulous," says Greg DePrez, VP of subscription video on demand for Starz Encore, of the U.I. subcommittee. And of the PR subcommittee, Jennifer Dangar, VP of new media, affiliate sales and marketing for Discovery Networks U.S., says, "Getting all of us on a similar page just wouldn’t happen independently without this body." Cunningham says that when it comes to on-demand advertising, everyone needs to get involved. "[Advertisers] need to be contributing towards the standards we set, along with media agencies, ad agencies, technology companies, content creators, service providers," he says. "The key thing is that the wheels are turning."

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