Interactive TV: Is It Here Yet?
Participants in a seminar Tuesday evening on the interactive TV market sponsored by Filter Media in New York City agreed that the medium hasn’t come anywhere near its potential.
Filter Media CEO J.R. McKechnie knows the knock against interactive TV: For years it’s been “just around the corner.” He says a change to more interactive TV is close, because cable and satellite operators have invested billions of dollars on the technology. He considers the past not failed trials but evidence of an evolution that continues.
“No one has the magic answer as to when this will pop in a meaningful way,” McKechnie says.
Music Choice President David Del Beccaro says advertisers have to get ready for the future. He predicts advertising will become more integrated, more promotional and less predictable. He says advertising pods will become more variable, making it harder to tell when the spots will end. He says the FOX show 24 does this effectively, with spots that sometimes last 30 seconds and others that last several minutes.
“The more predictable the advertising is, the greater likelihood that it gets tuned out,” Del Beccaro says.
Michael McKenna, ITV business development manager at the DISH Network, says his company is finding success with virtual channels, gaming and other enhanced TV services among its 5 million interactive, modem-enabled homes and 600,000 homes with digital video recorders.
But McKenna and others say for the medium to reach its full potential, there’s going to have to be collaboration between programmers, distributors and even among competitors. McKenna says distributors can have moderate success without the help of traditional content providers but it won’t ever catch on without them.
“Without that [collaboration], that is a stumbling block going forward,” he says.
Discovery Communications New Media President John Ford says interactive TV won’t be profitable until planners can make a national interactive TV buy and have it shown on all platforms.
“As long as we have compatibility problems, we’re going to have advertising problems,” Ford says.
Del Beccaro says collaboration is crucial and it’s got to extend to programmers who can provide content that people want to watch.
“Without the distributors, there’s only a limited amount of motion you can do with advertising … It’s only going to be watched if it’s going to be integrated, and it can only be integrated by a programmer,” he says.
Discovery’s interactive arm recently integrated a campaign for Ford around “The Search For Lewis and Clark” documentary. The campaign included elements of interactive television and Web support. It also included an interactive TV questionnaire on the 2003 Ford Expedition, where viewers could click on a survey to get a customized brochure. Ford says 90% of the people who clicked completed the quiz and received information. Music Choice, whose digital TV channels play music, started running static ads on promoting a concert sponsored by Levi’s.
Del Beccaro says interactive TV will help and hurt the industry. He says it’s been known for at least a decade that about 25% of viewers leave shows during commercials and 50% of those watching sports.
“I don’t think it’s as bad as people think. It’s already bad, or been bad … It’s just now you know it for sure,” he says.