You have to hand it to the crew over at Microsoft… they just never give up. The tech giant has been trying to worm its way into the living room for years—first years ago by investing $5bln in Comcast (didn’t work out so well) and later by stealthily infiltrating the space through the Xbox360 gaming console that’s fast becoming a multifunction set-top box (that’s working out quite well, actually). But on Tues, Microsoft showed that it’s still banking on the traditional TV viewer, albeit a less passive one. On Wed, Microsoft announced it will buy TV ad placement firm Navic in a clear attempt to get ahead of the next trend in TV advertising: Interactivity. To be sure, Navic operates in an increasingly hot area, namely the collection of viewing data from set tops to increase measurability and precision for advertisers. With addressable set tops becoming more prevalent and several firms (Nielsen, TNS, etc) tracking set-top data in some fashion, Microsoft’s interest in Navic makes considerable sense. The question is how Bill Gates’ baby, which until now has had little success inserting its wares into TV-centric areas of the home (Remember Microsoft TV? Is that still around?), will fare in this latest effort. For content providers, this development suggests that the old adage about not putting all those eggs in one basket rings true today. Not only must content owners deal with cable operators, telcos and satellite ops separately, but it looks like the technology side will have even more players with which to contend. And it seems inevitable that the next frontier of ad-supported mobile video will have at least two strong players: Microsoft, armed with its reach and slate of acquired ad tech; and Apple, armed with its coolness and market dominance of the iPhone. But then again, it might be best to figure out the living room before we start roaming around the mobile space.
Knoxville, TN-based Scripps Networks has long been on the bleeding edge of technology, having been one of the first cable nets to fully embrace online video. Now it’s extending its already successful ventures through the Scripps Web site to AOL’s video service at video.aol.com, as well as selective placement at AOL Food, AOL Home and Slashfood later this summer. HGTV, Food Network, DIY Network and Fine Living Network will participate. In addition, Scripps videos will easily be found through AOL’s video search powered by the Truveo engine. Mark this as yet another example of cable networks placing content they license to distributors freely online. Ironic that Time Warner Cable Glenn Britt has been most vocal in cautioning his licensees not to put too much online lest they face demands from distributors for lower license fees on the TV platform. After all, AOL is still owned by Time Warner Cable’s old parent company Time Warner Inc (but not for long, as plans are in place to spin it off). Still, content owners are clearly are no longer afraid of putting significant amounts of content on multiple platforms despite tensions it may cause with traditional distributors.