Could Canoe Ventures have succeeded by focusing on using a "second screen experience" as the platform for its interactive advertising initiatives rather than the decades-old big screen dominating living rooms? It’s possible.
Under a “Pearl” umbrella, a group of local broadcast groups have joined to launch a national footprint using the ConnecTV social TV platform. ConnecTV, which is available via the iPad and a Web site, gives viewers all kinds of opportunities live-synched with TV programming. Those range from obtaining more information about actors or news stories to connecting with friends via Twitter and Facebook.
That can all be fun for viewers. Yet, ConnecTV also offers stations capabilities to generate revenues in line with what Canoe was attempting. Ads with interactive functionality can be made available on an iPad screen, just as a complementary spot runs on-air. Similarly, ConnecTV can enable viewers to participate in live polls about a show as it unfolds.
The opportunities to link promotional content with what is taking place on-screen seem endless, including t-commerce. To many, that's a holy grail. A TV spot could prompt a viewer to make an immediate purchase via the iPad. (Soon, ConnecTV will be available via iPhones and Android devices.)
The recently downsized Canoe tried to build a national footprint across homes served by the six largest cable operators. The aim was to then deliver interactive ads and sponsored polls over the architecture. It failed for a variety of reasons, including an inability to synch clunky and different set-top boxes.
The Pearl group, with station groups such as Belo and Post-Newsweek, collectively account for stations reaching 76 million homes in 45 of the top-50 markets. The stations are affiliated with all the major networks. (The launch will include 85 stations in nine station groups.)
There are ample opportunities for the station groups to sell ConnecTV-type advertising locally with their newscasts, while individual station groups could do so with syndicated shows on multiple stations.
Yet, with some efforts at coordination, the group could offer an advertiser the chance to reach the majority of U.S. homes in prime time in one fell swoop. Collectively, the stations could sell inventory they own to a single advertiser, which could use a spot to point viewers to a second screen with sponsored content.
It hardly takes an MIT degree to figure out the concept, though execution could include Canoe-like hurdles. Yet, here's an example: the station groups could pool their ABC stations and sell the first spot in the first local break to Procter & Gamble. And just as a Tide ad appears in “Modern Family,” a banner with a Tide coupon would pop up on the second screen.
Or, the Fox stations could arrange to show a poll simultaneously on the ConnecTV system sponsored by Dodge during the World Series asking which team has the toughest bullpen?
Pearl could further partner with the owned-station groups for particular networks and sign up a few more independent affiliate groups and gain reach into just about every U.S. home.
For Canoe, it may be unfortunate it didn’t recognize the burgeoning second-screen movement early enough. (To be fair, that would have been hard a few years ago when it got going.)
In retrospect, though, it seems as if Canoe’s owners, which include some of the wealthiest media companies such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable, should have spent their reported $200 million building or buying a company with the most promising second-screen experience.
That would have involved iPads and not set-top boxes. Enough said.