Commentary

Channel M's Dennis Quinn: 'We're Better than TV'

Out-of-home video is taking money away from TV and it's poised to take more, according to Dennis Quinn, the new president of sales and marketing at Channel M, which operates and creates custom content for several dozen in-store video networks. Quinn should know: formerly the executive vice president and general manager of TBS Superstation, in June he joined the growing list of TV execs jumping to out-of-home video.

"We've got sight, sound and motion, all the traditional advantages of TV," Quinn observed, "plus we're at the point of purchase, with a captive audience, and we give advertisers the opportunity to associate themselves with hip retail brands" like Namco, a national chain of video arcades, and bars and restaurants in the Buzztime network, one of Channel M's partners. Further, Quinn boasted that the audience is already segmented along behavioral lines through self-selection. Another key advantage, according to Quinn, is recency, referring to the length of time elapsed since a consumer was exposed to an advertisement.

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That's another strike against traditional TV: "As a media planner, where's the most logical place to start building your campaign? Are you going to build it forward from the living room, hoping your message somehow survives hours and days later, or do you start at the point of purchase, so your product is the last thing the person sees while shopping?"

Of course, competing with TV requires a metric that allows media buyers to make easy comparisons. Here Quinn said he was pleased with the progress made by the Out-of-home Video Advertising Bureau, of which Channel M was a founding member, coyly hinting that a big milestone will be announced shortly. He was vague on the details of the announcement, but clear about the general implications: the new metric will only accelerate the flow of dollars away from traditional TV to out-of-home video.

Even more ominous for traditional TV, Quinn had a rare bit of praise for the media buying community, so often lambasted by media owners and publishers as behind the times: "In many cases the agencies have already reconfigured themselves to accommodate a much broader definition of video" -- the term of art he says is increasingly replacing "TV."

At one level, Quinn looks like a TV exec turning on the medium that brought him up, but it's actually just the opposite: his first experience with place-based video came at Checkout Channel, the pioneering but short-lived retail video network serving supermarkets launched (and closed) by TBS in the early 1990s. Happily, things have changed since then, Quinn said, and not just because of the advent of digital distribution: "The problem was the retailers really had all the power" in terms of format, content, and which advertisers got access. Now, however, "it's more of an even playing field" between out-of-home-video networks and retailers -- another testament to the medium's growing muscle.

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