Is Ad-Supported VOD Over Before It Starts?

Let's just agree that people covet, absolutely must have, can't live without access to programming anywhere, anytime. So there will be no need for media companies to go with this nauseatingly obvious cliché anymore. (Here's talking to you, ESPN.)

Keep telling us what you're doing to make people happy -- the iPad streaming, the Xbox access, the YouTube on a watch -- but no need to explain why. That's so 2007.

So is the hype and potential around VOD. Did this would-be killer viewing option just get passed over, thanks to Netflix, Hulu and the quest to watch something while waiting in line at the DOT?

There was a brief frisson when the ABC and CBS signed deals with cable operators to make episodes available free a few years ago. Comcast keeps talking about its 9,000 options. (HBO seems to have had success, but that is essentially an Amazon-style subscription video on demand, or SVOD.)

But has VOD as we knew it -- ad-supported VOD -- been discussed as a platform to super-fuel any of the fancy screens buzzed about this week at the Consumer Electronics Show? The concept of going to channel 1265 to watch a missed episode on "A&E On Demand" -- so unimaginable in 1987 -- seems about as novel as the remote control.



How did VOD get to the back-burner before it even made it to the front?

There is the fascination with distribution on mobile devices and every new toy. Networks also never seemed to get the marketing right. Now, the brand "X network On Demand" seems antiquated. A simple "A&E Now" would be an improvement.

An economic model never seemed to have emerged. Networks cried for dynamic ad insertion, where a new pre-roll could be injected during an episode's lengthy run on the menu. That could also bring opportunities with targeted and addressable spots. But a widely accepted, reliable system still seems to be in the lab.

Another hold-up may have been a lack of agreed-upon measurement, where a network would be able to meld VOD viewing with traditional consumption to sell to advertisers in the aggregate. Some of that may have been a timing issue, where the VOD ratings would come in past a sell-by date, so to speak.

At least one network, however, seems to believe it can get something going with the hoary VOD. After engaging in a trial using dynamic insertion with several fellow Fox cable networks, the National Geographic Channel has become one of the first clients of a new VOD measurement system: Rentrak's AdEssentials.

Rentrak has been in the VOD measurement business since 2005. Its new system promises metrics in "near real-time" allowing easier negotiations with advertisers -- as well as the ability to track both embedded and dynamic ads.

Nat Geo research and digital media executive Brad Dancer stated: "VOD continues to be an important part of our affiliate and advertiser partnerships." His words, however, seem decidedly muted.

1 comment about "Is Ad-Supported VOD Over Before It Starts?".
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  1. Chris Pizzurro from Canoe, January 6, 2011 at 1:56 p.m.

    Good points David. It is simply a shame that perfectly good potential ad impressions go wasted by the millions. And the companies that do utilize it, keep it as "their best kept secret."

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