Televisual, It Is!

Over the last year I've noticed the frequent use of the word "televisual" by fellow TV Boarder Mitch Oscar. Something about the way the word was being used gave me a sense that a real movement was afoot here -- an effort to use semantics to save all things television.

In a call I had with Mitch last week, I had a chance to ask him about his televisual tendencies. I was, as always, blunt. "Mitch -- what's with this 'televisual' angle? I get the sense that it's the TV industry's efforts to keep its mitochondrial DNA in the bloodstream of the Internet's Darwinian dominance of video content distribution." Or something to that effect.

Now, I have to alert readers that I was not fully aware, at the time, that Mitch was, as Joe Mandese so eloquently states, the "digital TV ad industry's chief impresario." No, at the time, I had absolutely no idea that I was speaking to an Impresario. Had I known, I most certainly would have asked the question with a great deal more gravitas.



Nor was I aware that Chief Impresario Oscar may have already secured the much vaunted position of executive vice president, televisual applications at MPG -- a move that will be looked back on by TV historians as the tipping point for televisual development (and perhaps the first-ever use of the word "televisual" within an executive's job title).

The Chief Impresario was most courteous (as always) in his reaction. He lucidly cited examples (of which most of our readers are familiar) of the difficulties facing every player in the space -- advertiser, agency, and network -- when trying to classify, monetize or properly price video media across multiple platforms.

Ultimately, Mitch admitted that there was a need for a word that encapsulated the entire genre of distributed video and audio across traditional TV and all forms of hardware, from phones, to PCs, and beyond.

No one is more familiar with this issue than the sales staff of ReacTV, LLC. ReacTV was a proof of concept TV InterNetwork that I spearheaded in late 2006. It was the first TV network to attempt simulcast and distribution over cable and the Internet. The network was shuttered last November.

ReacTV's sales force faced many difficulties. The most visible (and published) challenge was the fact that it was armed only with erinMedia TV ratings, as Nielsen refused to provide ReacTV with ratings. There were also technological hurdles that it faced as the company attempted to synchronize game show responses over the TV and Internet-based networks, both of which were to be channeled into an automated prize selection and notification engine. Finally, as with any new TV or broadband TV network, there was the challenge of small and/or regional audience sizes that lacked the eyeballs needed to capture the attention of overworked and often understaffed agencies.

In truth, however, these issues were not insurmountable. The transactional-level, second-by-second erinMedia advertising ratings would have been embraced by advertisers and MSOs alike. The synchronization and prizing challenges were ultimately within easy reach of a permanent fix. And the audience sizes would have increased as the hourly prize levels increased.

No, in truth and in hindsight, it was the difficulties of the bifurcated sales effort -- trying to sell what I now understand to be "televisual" advertising, to two different sides of the agency --that rang the death knell for ReacTV's TV Internetwork. Indeed, on numerous occasions, getting the buy from one advertiser, to place the same :30 second ad within a cable TV program while being simulcast over the Internet (with its own ratings and transactional-level data) would require presentations to two entirely different agencies, sometimes thousands of miles apart. The TV side would argue for sub-$5 CPM pricing, committed only once 100,000+ viewers could be verified, while the online video side of the buy saw the $30 CPM as a great buy -- provided the TV side went along with it.

Sounds a bit like the dysfunctional "Go ask your Mom" vs. "Go ask your Dad" mindset of a divorced family childhood.

When Mitch and I concluded our phone call, I was still of the opinion that TV was struggling to hold onto what's left of its tarnished luster as a medium.

But now, given some time to ponder, I've seen the (cathode) light. We all suffer when we divide -- look no further than the Democratic Party's recent swoon for evidence. We need a word to rally around; a word that has more than just meaning, but the power to unify a scattered media marketplace looking for a focused, measured understanding of its own self.

In short -- a word worthy of being associated with an executive's title, like Executive Vice President.

Or Chief Impresario.

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