Commentary

Bye-Bye TV, Hello Internet

Two seeming unrelated news items caught my eye and merit further discussion.

Court TV is experimenting with a new way to fund its programs with what executives call in program product sponsorship. [It's what you or I would call pop-up ads.] For example: As an episode of Court TV's "Forensic Files" plays, a banner rises from the bottom of the screen with the words "Forensic Files Sponsored by Hyundai." A small graphic of a Hyundai car appears next to it. After a few seconds, the banner and graphic disappear.

Meanwhile…

A Comdex panel on "The Next Big Thing" speculated that advanced IT technology will enable Internet users to "be anywhere and view information anytime, anywhere."

Isn’t television an amazing business? Where else can you deliver less and charge more, year after year. In the process, you do everything imaginable to alienate your audience like suddenly dumping their favorite shows, tossing in a rerun in the middle of the fall “new season;” negating months or years of tune-in planning by randomly shuffling air dates and times, and removing all matter of choice (like forcing one “national” game on viewers vs. letting them choose which out of 5 you are broadcasting anyway), etc, etc.

And that’s only on the programming side. Now the networks are seeing how annoying they can be on the advertising side as well.

There are, in no particularly annoying order, those distracting network icons in the lower right hand corner (as IF people had some kind of brand allegiance to the network vs. the program. Pul-eze. Its like thinking people would buy a book because Random House published it regardless of the subject or author.) Pretty soon those icons will become static banners like the junked up bottom of certain cable news operations.

No less than Rance Crain took Fox to task for those distracting virtual program promos that ran throughout the World Series. TV is already injecting program promos that pop up or crawl across the bottom of the screen. The Next Big Thing is to buy your way into the actual program so that all the ER docs start driving BMWs or Jennifer Anniston holds up Crest as she brushes on Friends.

The bottom line is that viewers will continue to depart in droves as already moronic programming gets graffitied over with too many ads and all trust is lost because church and state will have merged within the content of programs.

Where will viewers go? To the Internet.

Thanks to rapidly developing technology, especially in the wireless arena, you will soon be able to connect to high speed Internet service from virtually anywhere in the country, if not soon-thereafter, the world. The quality of video reproduction on the web improves everyday and is available already without plug ins or media players. In other words, the Internet will provide advertisers with everything they get on TV with these exceptions:

Better qualified, better targeted audiences with little or no risk of waste

Lower cost

Interactivity: the opportunity to instantaneously make a sale or start a meaningful dialogue with customers

Fast feedback on creative efforts or even product offerings

Establish a direct link to customers so you can offer them sweater v.2.1 or preferential pricing in exchange for loyalty

What’s in it for viewers who walked away from today’s deteriorating TV?

Choice.

When, where and what to watch. Maybe it won’t be a laptop or a PDA but it will be so portable that your Internet-driven video device will go with you to the bathroom, in the car for the kids, or simply out of the din of the family room.

Programming will be retrieved for viewing at your convenience, not the networks’. Want to see a show no longer even on the air or the West Wing that you missed last week because of your kid’s hockey practice? Find it in a simple search and you are ready to go.

What will pay for all this, laughs the networks? A combination of pay per view and ads that meet real needs and buying opportunities without getting out of the chair or even making a phone call. Everyone hates appliance ads UNTIL they are in the market for a new stove or ‘fridge, then they can’t find enough of them. In exchange for programming on YOUR terms with no annoying interruptions circa networks TV 2002, you will be happy to tell your program-provider that you are in the market for certain things so you can comparison shop without leaving the house. Kind of like how you research for a new car now.

The writing is on the wall. Unfortunately, thanks to the networks, it’s also on my TV screen.

Adam Guild is President of Interep Interactive

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