TV's New Digital Platforms Full Of New And Familiar Problems

New digital media companies are under lots of pressure to fade up from black -- with the toughest acts new businesses competing for customers from the cable industry.

One advertiser -- Digital Art Services -- says Verizon Communications upstart FiOS network has been too quick on the draw. Digital says its advertising deal with Verizon wasn't for actual subscribers, but those in which FiOS homes "passed through" --- homes that have been wired up for FiOS but haven't signed on as paying customers yet.  So FiOS may be "available" to, say, 7 million U.S. TV households, but actually only has one million paying customers.

We don't know the specifics of the case. Could this be a communications snafu, a new digital deal wrinkle, or just some too-hard-core selling?

It reminds us of the growing cable business in the early '80s - when those young, struggling, and still non-profitable networks were looking to offer their best profile to advertisers. Small time advertisers and really large advertisers made deals in those years, looking to "experiment" or gather "R&D" intelligence.



So, that little MTV Network might say it had 15 million subscribers, but with the potential of some 30 million homes due to cable operators laying cable into those homes who had yet to sign on. Sometimes it comes down to PR spin.

This is not to say that the Digital doesn't have a case. Still, it's tough to imagine Verizon blowing it, leaving audience details like this hanging in the wind. Yet, considering many TV deals are being done on handshakes these days, who knows?

It reminds us of one veteran media executive who complained to us during last summer's upfront presentations that he didn't really know what his client was getting in a deal for a network's new Internet video player.

For example, he didn't really know how long viewers watch an episode online, or whether they were repeat watchers of certain episodes.  The buyer didn't particularly want to make the deal but the client was insistent, wanting to be in the hip new media platform.

We can only hope Digital Art Services wasn't sucked into the same new digital platform vortex. We know this for sure: They got some R&D intel -- possibly some really expensive market intelligence, at that.

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