The DVR has caused plenty of financial wounds in the ad industry, but TV Everywhere could provide a degree of pocketbook healing. That’s why programmers should follow Turner's lead and aggressively urge viewers to watch on iPads, PCs, smartphones, etc.
Unlike with TV, when shows play on those platforms, the ads can’t be skipped. Watching an episode of, say, TNT's “The Closer” on a TV Everywhere platform can bring a reflexive tendency to hit fast-forward during a break, only to discover that isn’t an option.
Presuming the industry can garner similar (or higher) CPMs for online viewing, there is notable upside if all TV consumption were to take place on-demand, online (save live sports). That safety-valve prospect has to be remarkably comforting for networks.
Increasing consumer adoption of the DVR brought trouble. This time, though, the inevitable behavioral shift coming from more online viewing could offer revenue growth. Networks should get out ahead of it.
Executives continue to cite a lack of a sturdy measurement system as reason to steer clear of encouraging viewers to watch via TV Everywhere. That is not only short-sighted, but a bit off-base.
Measurement allowing a single C3 rating combining TV and online viewing is available now as part of a Nielsen “extended screen” product. Nielsen has also said the ability to add in viewing from iPads should be in place by the end of the year. In order to get the unified C3 number, the ad load and structure must be the same on-air as online. (The C3 rating includes live viewing plus three days after broadcast and is the currency used in the national TV market.)
AMC has embraced the opportunity and charged advertisers one CPM for the aggregate views. So far, the number of added rating points from the TV Everywhere option has been minimal.
But, DVR-enabled viewing for a series like “Mad Men” is significant. Clearly, AMC would benefit if viewers choose TV Everywhere for their time-shifted consumption instead with its infrastructure that prevents ad-zapping. The same goes for traditional video on demand (VOD), where networks can insist the fast-forward option be disabled.
So, programmers with TV Everywhere distribution should begin tagging all on-air promos with plugs encouraging viewers to use the service (as well as VOD). They should mount campaigns advancing a message that TV Everywhere can be a much easier catch-up option than setting the DVR.
At the very least, those efforts could plant the seed -- even in the minds of the most DVR-addicted -- that if they forget to set the device, there is another option. Gradually, the might become TV Everywhere converts.
Of course, there's another potentially powerful creative tack in promoting TV Everywhere's option to view, well, TV everywhere.
Turner began the effort last fall using Conan O’Brien and other TBS and TNT stars to take viewers through the TV Everywhere process. “Now watch Conan and all your favorite TBS shows wherever, whenever you want,” came the voiceover in one ad.
Of course, as networks stand to benefit, some advertisers will push back. They've likely accepted AMC’s demands because they are paying for so few online views. Once that number reaches critical mass, they’re likely to argue the viewing experience varies greatly depending whether it's on a TV, PC or mobile device, so paying the same rate for all is folly.
Networks, though, might be able to flip that contention by making the case that an online or iPad view is worth more. Regardless, any money they get from a TV Everywhere view is more than a DVR-aided one, where there is a good chance the (ad) zap means zip.