With only weeks to go before the traditional upfront market begins, Google, the Internet company with the name that TV sellers find most ominous, has entered the race to sell national TV advertising time.
Not that the giant Internet company will have any real effect on the marketplace this year. But it's enough to make broadcast, cable, and syndicator programmers blink.
Google, in a deal with Echostar, will sell TV advertising time through a bid system for marketers -- somewhat similar to the way the Internet now works with advertisers bidding on specific content.
Advertisers will bid on dayparts and programming for certain cable networks' inventory available from Echostar. The highest price wins. Google will deliver back to the advertiser the results on a second-by-second basis through Echostar's two-way system of digital set-top boxes.
Google says this will be the most efficient TV advertising system. The advertiser will pay only for those total overall impressions delivered.
Of course, this isn't the only bid system out there. EBay has a more traditional one in the works -- one that has been causing a ruckus among traditional media buyers and broadcast, cable and syndication network programmers because sellers say it makes their inventory into a plain-jane commodity.
One of the glaring differences between the two seems to be that Google will be able to give a more accurate post-analysis -- all from Echostar's digital ties into the home. Soon, it says, it'll be able to delivery a post-analysis based on demographics.
The move seems to target most of the bottom half of those 125 cable networks in which Echostar has retained inventory -- especially those that aren't Nielsen-rated and need quick, if not cheap, advertising deals. This is where Google will make some real hay -- just as it does now with a click-through advertising model for mid-size to small to tiny Internet advertisers.
While other media research agency executives are talking about the possibility of second-by-second commercial guarantees from traditional TV in the future, Google will do this for TV -- right now.
For sure, this is a limited endeavor right now, only targeting the 13.1 million Echostar subscribers, and probably only those advertisers with small media budgets. But it will be tempting to see which larger, more traditional advertisers come aboard, and if the business grows.
The timing of the new service seems like a natural to make headlines. The Google service starts next month when the massive national TV upfront market gets going.