Watching Commercial Breaks In VOD Programming, But No Actual Commercials

New to ad-supported video-on-demand services from DirecTV, I warned my wife as we sat down to watch our first show: “There’s no fast-forwarding.”

Tension filled the room -- commercials would soon be upon us.

What would happen the very first time we tried to hit the fast-forward button? What we expected: a message from DirecTV essentially waving a Dikembe Mutombo finger at us: “Program can’t be fast-forwarded.”

“No big deal,” said my wife.

The first commercial during the USA Network sitcom “Playing House”? A promo for the new USA drama “Satisfaction,” which felt like a digital pre-roll. Then we cruised through the program. The next commercial break? One promo for the USA show “Graceland.” Then back to the action, until the episode ended.

“That’s it?” I asked.  

We tried another episode, which featured much of the same, this time promos for USA’s “Royal Pains” and “Suits.” Then we moved on to NBC – the bigger network of USA’s mothership NBCUniversal -- for a new comedy “Welcome to Sweden.” No real commercials ran during that either, just one or two promos and a public service announcement.



Overall, it was a great experience. Some interruptions occurred, but certainly not the heavy-duty kind.  

These VOD services are supposed to be the big savior of traditional television, so why aren’t more marketers using them to sell Acuras, car insurance, or mobile services?  While pay VOD services are growing, the content and big-time marketing messaging are uneven.

A recent survey by the Leichtman Research Group showed that 61% of all cable subscribers have used VOD services, which are now in around 65% of U.S. TV homes.

This isn’t enough of a footprint for many national advertisers. But you can see the opportunity in lots of premium TV inventory where messaging cannot be overlooked.

However, many national advertisers have headed to premium show content on Hulu or other Internet-delivered ad-supported video platforms.

To do this column, I went back to some of the VOD programs and breaks my wife and I had previously watched. Then I got frustrated. Why? I tried to fast-forward through the shows to get to the commercial breaks.

C’mon, networks and marketers. I’m here for you.

6 comments about "Watching Commercial Breaks In VOD Programming, But No Actual Commercials ".
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  1. Steve Helsing from Progressive Insurance, August 12, 2014 at 4:50 p.m.

    Marketers should be more interested in VOD but networks also have to be wise and not oversell it. I've refused to watch Fox shows for some time on VOD because the first two times I did, they actually ran MORE commercials & promos than if I'd watched it live. That convinced me Fox shows are better DVR'd than VOD. Has it changed? No idea. That's how bad a first impression they left.

  2. Rob Frydlewicz from DentsuAegis, August 12, 2014 at 5:38 p.m.

    So far my VOD experience has been the same as yours, Wayne. I get annoyed because the short breaks don't give me enough time to do what I need to do in the kitchen or bathroom!

  3. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, August 12, 2014 at 6:17 p.m.

    "C’mon, networks and marketers. I’m here for you."
    I know that line was intended as a joke, but it's not funny, Wayne.
    The players you cover are cut too much slack in your sympathetic reporting. The job of MediaPost should be critical assessment, not personal preference. Come to think of it, the comments your reporting cultivates suggest we care more about convenience than rigor in our thinking about these important business matters.
    Thank you for listening. Now, onwards & upwards.

  4. Jon Sinton from Progressive Agenda, August 12, 2014 at 6:58 p.m.

    I can't watch VOD onTBS. I wouldn't even mind commercials, but I guess the audience is too small, or perhaps there are legal issues with digitally-distributed ads, but they fill the breaks with promos that run over and over, often the same ones back-to-back for 3:30. HORRIBLE user experience.

  5. Jim Rice from Piiku, August 13, 2014 at 10:02 a.m.

    Unless ad breaks with ad units become MUCH more valuable to the consumer, AND ad breaks are not abused, perhaps. Pre-rolls, I get. But your statement, "Overall, it was a great experience. Some interruptions occurred, but certainly not the heavy-duty kind. " says it all. I personally dislike interruptions therefore, love the DVR. But, as I mention below, I am not of the multi-tasking, frenetic generation. So discount that.

    There are two issues at play. First, the artistic value of content is really not enhanced by ad breaks. Even live content such as football starts to get weird when commercial breaks are too frequent and the rhythm of the game is impacted. However, and this is the second issue: culturally, audiences are growing more multi-tasking oriented and as such, do not have a problem with interruptions such as ads (al be it they are ignored). They just tune them out or in while doing something else. The value of a multi-tasked, in and out attention of an impression has yet, in my opinion, been adequately evaluated. However, it is there.

    So where is the balance? That is where big data analytics comes in where tuning to the optimum balance can achieved by whatever or whoever sets the criteria. Easy peezy. But for me, interruptions are a show stopper and I suspect that purveyors of VOD will find that a certain segment of the population will stop VODding, if content has interruptions. Its all about optimization.

  6. Chris Pizzurro from Canoe, August 13, 2014 at 3:56 p.m.

    FYI all... Canoe has over 300 ad campaigns per week from over 50 networks executing on our VOD DAI platform (across Comcast, TWC, BrightHouse, and Cox in Q4). It is a mix of 80% paid campaigns to 20% network tune-in campaigns. Programmers have the control to show no more than X amount of the same spot in any episode. And they also have the ability to control their ad load in each pod. Working to get more programmers and advertisers to take advantage of the capability.

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