The Argument For More TV Episodes On VOD

The biggest U.S. cable operator, Comcast Corp., would like to see many more episodes of TV network shows available on pay TV providers’ on-demand services, according to

Typically only about 30% of all TV/cable network shows are “stacked” on VOD platforms, according to Comcast, which counts only 500 of such shows, according to Steve Meyer, vice president of video strategy/analysis. The company believes TV networks would benefit if more episodes were available so viewers could catch up -- which of course would also increase usage of Comcast’s long-time Xfinity On Demand service.

More importantly, Comcast believe VOD drives marketing and ultimately long-term viewership of shows -- good for the whole TV business.  One big example is the historic continued rise of Fox’s “Empire” hit. In Comcast households  alone, the season finale drew nearly one million views on Xfinity On Demand within the first three days.



Current show episode availability on VOD is generally around four or five episodes at any given time. Why? There can be contractual issues with TV producers of course. But many TV executives also feel there can be cannibalization of traditional linear airings. 

Other problems: Not all pay TV providers have ad-supported VOD services; others have different levels of VOD platforms. All that would means uneven access for national TV advertisers. About 65% of U.S. TV homes have access to ad-supported pay TV providers’ VOD platforms.

And then there is the whole time-shifting arguments: Viewers watching a TV show within the first three days, in keeping with Nielsen’s C3 metric, works for some marketers, but outside those three days -- seven, 14, or 30 days -- not so much. The coming of more “dynamic advertising insertion” from TV networks, can give TV marketers greater flexibility to place current messaging.

An explosion of quality, original TV content creates an almost-impossible task for TV viewers to watch it all live (or perhaps to set their DVRs).

Meyer tells TV Watch:  “There is so much content, it’s almost impossible to stay on top of everything... People are still watching in prime time. But increasingly they are using a mix of technologies.”

Consumers have no choice but to watch commercials on VOD, since they can’t be skipped. Right now VOD advertising loads are generally much lighter than on linear TV networks, which is a positive. But all that could change.

Will even more availability of content for ad-supported VOD mean more TV consumption and subsequent ad revenues? Or will consumers look to other platforms, other technologies?

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