Commentary

Prime Time In Broadband: Why 10-2 Is The Sweet Spot

March is always a good time of year to conduct a study on idle tendencies in the workplace. With March Madness having swept through offices across America and the "sheets of integrity"--yes, the printouts with all of those brackets--found in every cube dweller's space, productivity could be flat. The distractions were difficult to keep out of the office, especially when every middle manager and his boss were also in on the pool (and the payoff comes tonight with the championship game). CBS cleverly added some refuge to this year's NCAA Tournament Webcasts with a "Boss" button, which, when clicked, threw up a quasi-spreadsheet to instantly recreate the scene of one hard at work.

Of course, this has more to do with sociology than bracketology. It speaks to the phenomenon of broadband and how the medium continues to bend our traditional practices.

People are stealing away 10, 15, or 20 minutes of their day to watch a few snippets of streaming video, and this is happening most frequently between the daytime hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Whether viewers are watching a sports highlight, a news story, or Michael Jackson dangling his child from a third-story balcony, broadband video has emerged as a useful diversion. While the Internet has become indispensable over the years in its capacity to provide immediate information, streaming video complements it with dimension. You can read the weather forecast at your local TV station's dot com or, better yet, watch it.

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Among the more than 100 million unique broadband users, the majority spring up from the office T1. So broadband video can be as essential to the 9-to-5er as the office coffee machine. With businesses getting more done with fewer people these days, there are many workers who don't leave their desks all day. And the traditional lunch hour has been all but erased from memory. It's in that context that broadband video has crept to the fore.

Advertisers have caught onto this and are putting considerable financial muscle into the daytime-prime-time concept. One advertiser, a large sandwich chain, is planning a national campaign in which a 15-second pre-roll ad will be blasted across the broadband landscape in the early afternoon hours in an attempt to reach viewers before lunch. In the adjacent banner position, a coupon will be displayed that can be printed and redeemed at any of the chain's locations. Another advertiser, in the automotive sector, has opted for a daytime-prime-time "roadblock," buying up as much 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. pre-roll inventory that it can find in order to promote a new model.

The audience is there, even to the chagrin of upper management.

A high-level marketing executive recently groused about broadband video and how it was creating a "production issue." When asked if she would move to have her office's streaming capacity reduced in order to cut down on the inefficiencies, the exec hedged a bit, saying people would return to reading everything over the Internet, and that "watching takes less time than reading."

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