In On-Demand World, It’s Time For On-Demand Video Advertising

It’s not just a millennial thing anymore. Media users of all ages are accustomed to hit a button and make a choice about when and where they will consume their next bite of media. Whether a YouTube snack or a full, multi-course, Netflix meal, it is the empowering moment of activation that feeds and satisfies the consumer’s hunger for media, as no traditional serving of “appointment” television ever has.

But why must those darn, interrupting video commercials nearly ruin the whole experience? So says an April 2016 Accenture study, as reported by eMarketer. In most global regions, 80% or more of Internet users surveyed agree or strongly agree that “Advertising interruptions while reading text or watching videos are too frequent.” Also, 38% to 55% of users agree or strongly agree that “in the next 12 months I am planning to pay for new solutions to remove advertising interruptions (e.g. paid subscriptions) while reading text or watching videos.”

It’s time to move video advertising out of the middle of the content stream, and right to the front of the interactive content activation experience.  It’s time to put the viewing of advertising in the hands of the user, just as we’ve done for content. It’s time for a gateway unit that commands high CPMs from brand advertisers, is fully viewed and listened to through consumer activation, and allows users to opt out of in-stream interruptions by opting in to an advertiser message.

The upfront trading of consumer attention for content access — as an alternative to pay-per-view (PPV) or the overload of interruptive ads — is the next logical evolution of the ad-supported T/V (television/video) business model.

1. A lead-in screen that offers the consumer three interactive choices to access content:
— Micropayment (PPV)
— Regular commercials pre- and mid-roll
— A “one and done” commercial option, where a viewer selects one of three ad “avenues.”
2. Ad-tech platforms and software that manage multiple functions of digital ad delivery, content delivery, transactions, tracking/reporting and billing


Buyers are assured of viewability, audibility and accountability up to the level of completed ad views, adding major value to each ad impression.

Since viewers are presented with a “menu” of commercials, choosing one identifies their purchase interest and stage, adding even more value to the gateway ads.

As the on-demand ad data is captured, it allows buyers and sellers to refine targeting and further increase the value for both consumer and advertiser.

Content Providers
Brand advertisers are paying a much higher CPM for this high value, fully completed sight, sound, motion message delivery, allowing content providers to reduce ad clutter and maintain /increase profitability.

Video Content Consumers: Viewers are willing participants, not the aggrieved/annoyed targets of forced “search and destroy” advertising strategies.

Still, without the multitude of interrupting commercials that advertisers pay for now on an opportunity-to-expose basis, wouldn’t total revenues take a beating?

I believe not. No business ever succeeded by rigidly holding onto a worse customer experience when technology brought new and better options (see cell phones vs. land lines for a fairly recent example). And buyers who are CPM “hardliners” will still have plenty of online and long-tail interruptive TV inventory to buy at a discount, further filling the coffers of providers. Finally, the value of each ad message and related behavioral data will rise so significantly, that revenues may well increase in the end.

Positioning this new approach to consumers would be exciting and fun. Imagine as a consumer being offered a “view-per-view (VPV)” or “one and done” option, with the key benefit being one ad or ad pod of reasonable length and no further interruptions to content.

I dedicate this article to Dana Jones, who founded Ultramercial (a former client of mine), and conceived the idea of making the implicit ad contract explicit.


This article first appeared August 31, 2016 on

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What Has Technology Wrought? Trust Issues, For One

I’m enthused about the potential for programmatic TV and video, and all digital ad forms, to change for the better in the ways advertising is bought and sold. But there are some things that I want to feel better about before I would advise any buyer or seller to put all their eggs in the programmatic basket.

I recently attended MediaPost’s Programmatic conference with the intriguing title, “The Reckoning,” which discussed the hard questions we are all facing about  trust, transparency, science and accountability.

I was reminded that there are plenty of trust issues manifesting from the various stakeholders in our business:

Consumers (based on user experience) are increasingly defending against excessive bombardment of advertising through ad blockers, which hurts publishers who need ad revenue to produce content.

Consumers (based on privacy and safety questions) are concerned about how publishers, ad-tech and data companies are capturing and using their behavioral and personal data to increase profits.

Content Providers / Publishers in this age of ad blockers are losing confidence in whether consumers will even see ads, thereby reducing revenue. The unspoken contract that consumers will watch ads as a way of paying for content no longer exists.

Publishers are also losing money to fraud, as those on the fringe run scams to simulate delivery and divert ad dollars. Many publishers are also concerned with the “tech tax” of having many players between buyer and seller, compromising profitability and clouding transparency.

Ad-tech companies creating new and more effective selling / buying processes are burdened by the need to solve the above problems while at the same time facing intense competition and reduced VC investment.

Data and research companies are concerned that consumer distrust will lead to highly regulated government limitations around data use that will hurt potential earnings.

Advertisers are paying for unknown amounts of fraudulently delivered impressions. Even publishers who are good actors have some pages loaded by unrecognized non-human traffic (bots). Government regulation and consumer ad blocking would reduce supply and increase costs of advertising over time. Even old, trustworthy partners — the ad agencies – are called into question around the potential for “arbitraging” the buying and selling of media.

Agencies are trying to re-engineer their roles in the marketing mix now that technology has reduced their marketplace leverage. Advertisers like P&G and Kellogg’s are bringing the programmatic buying process in house. The ANA is undertaking a study of ad agency transparency. At the same time, agencies are fending off the profit-squeezing procurement departments of their clients.

The most interesting session at “The Reckoning” for me was the one entitled “The Opaque Stack: Does Complexity Break Trust and Transparency?” It hit me hard, as I had recently seen the Oscar-nominated movie “The Big Short.” I was disturbed by this cautionary tale of the damage done when short-term profits (in the financial services industry) were blindly created by leveraging complex technological processes, business formulas and algorithms.

The complexities developed and exploited in that industry required too much time, energy and smarts for the average consumer or even the expert businessperson to sit down and fully understand them. And those technologies are the ones that have migrated into our own ad industry through programmatic and big-data platforms.

Maintaining and increasing trust, and an attitude of accountability to customers, are not outdated and irrelevant in today’s digital advertising business. Let’s learn from the financial industry’s harmful impact on those who trusted it most, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

This article first appeared March 22, 2016 on

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Vast Difference In Program & Ad Viewing Highlighted By Millennials Stats

There was a time when television program viewing was a perfect surrogate for ad viewership. Since the remote control — the first ad-avoidance technology — that surrogacy relationship has devolved to next to nothing.

The good news for producers of television and video programming is that the content form is alive and well, and much in demand by young and old alike.

The bad news is that this newfangled World Wide Web distribution channel has not only stripped power from legacy distributors and given power to new technologies, but has provided the most effective ad-avoidance tools ever.  Content viewing and ad viewing are officially divorced.

Viewing and ad consumption by young adults and teens today suggest it won’t be coming back soon, unless a very different business model emerges.

Turner Research released some new data this month on Millennials (18- to 34-year-olds) and their younger siblings, whom Turner labeled “Plurals” (under 18) that shows the next generations of T/V (television/video) consumers still love T/V, but do not want to have commercials shoved down their throats in, as the Coneheads might say, “mass quantities.”

Turner’s October 2015 survey revealed that more than a third of Millennial Internet users’ primary type of video content is full TV shows, tops among different types of programming. Some 18% of respondents said full-length movies were the main type of video content they watched; for 12%, it was music videos.

Nielsen Total Audience Report Q3 2015 via eMarketer says that those aged 18 to 34 spend 15 to 21 hours a week on live TV or time-shifted DVR, while Baby Boomers who grew up with traditional TV spend 39+ hours a week on live TV or time-shifted DVR.

Defy Media reported in March 2015 that 61% of 18- to 24-year-olds and 67% of teens thought there were way too many ads on traditional TV, though TV ads were harder to ignore than online video.

An August 2015 report from eMarketer concluded that “Millennial viewers demand more control and customization of viewing experiences, which leads to more time shifting and binge-viewing. Smartphones are also becoming a popular viewing device for millennials, due mainly to their portability and convenience. Also Millennials have a low tolerance for poorly executed video ad creative, meaning marketers need to be savvy about media placements and more authentic and entertaining with ad content.”

I would conclude that as we see an increase in the number of cord-cutter and cord-never households, bundled cable and satellite providers will need to change their model to adapt to the changing needs of consumers, particularly younger viewers.

Like landlines that used to charge $100/month and almost overnight were replaced by VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) services from Vonage, cable/broadband discounted triple play and even Skype at a fraction of that monthly cost, the T/V delivery model must roll with these shifts, or will quickly become as irrelevant as copper-wired telephony.

Finally, I’d like to applaud Turner for announcing the formation of Turner Ad Lab to refine the linear TV and digital video ad experience for both consumers and advertisers. Led by an industry advisory board, the group’s goal is to reimagine better consumer experiences on all platforms, while strengthening advertising effectiveness for brands.  This is just the time to put the focus on the changing needs of the consumer experience and on restoring value to advertisers so not just programs, but ads, will be viewed.

This article first appeared January 20, 2016 on

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Should There Be A New Category Of Video Buying: Silent Video?

The power of traditional television has always been conveyed in three little convincing words used for ages by CMOs, agency media strategists and creatives alike: “sight, sound and motion.” In fact, up until cinema advertising crossed the Atlantic, it was the only medium that could deliver all three values together.

Now with new and fragmenting distribution channels for television/video (T/V) including online, mobile and OOH, these qualities have been fragmented, causing advertisers to face at least five different types of viewer experience:

1. Video runs as auto-play, instream (within a fixed video player), with sound on.
2. Video runs as auto-play, outstream (between text paragraphs,for example ) with sound on and a “mute” button.
3. Video runs as auto-play, outstream with sound off and an “unmute” button.
4. Video runs as click-to-play, instream with sound on, and skipping or fast-forwarding disabled.
5. Video runs as click-to-play, instream with sound on for five seconds, when a “skip” button appears.

These combinations mean that T/V ads can be delivered at three levels of value:

1. Sight, sound and motion.
2. Sight and motion, with no sound.
3. Sight and motion, with delayed sound activated by the user.

Sound or audibility is an issue for advertisers, as it is often an essential element of the sight/sound/motion message, which has in the past been expanded to “sight/sound/motion/emotion.” The sound of a human voice, sound effects, musical background or the combination can really help connect a media consumer with the message.

Sound is also an issue for viewers, especially for auto-play ads. Those that run as auto-play, off-screen in browser tabs, can be annoying and hard to locate to shut down. With new viewability standards coming from industry associations and the Media Ratings Council, these ads that have no value for advertisers or consumers should be a thing of the past.

However the new “outstream” ads that are free from fixed video players on a given page, can also be sound-intrusive, especially if the consumer is settling in for a good “read” and suddenly presented with sound. Worse yet, if at work or a public location, an unexpected blast of sound can be disturbing, and draw “shushes” from surrounding humans.

For this reason, a majority of auto-play ads (sometimes called “view to play” for outstream formats where ads only start when they visibly appear on the viewer’s screen) are delivered with sound off at the publisher’s choice, with an “unmute” button where readers/viewers can pop on the sound. This means that 1) buyers need to be aware of whether they are buying full sight/sound/motion ads or not; and 2) creative must be designed to communicate the brand message or call to action without sound, or entice viewers to unmute. Advertisers should pay less for this format, unless they agree to pay higher CPMs only for sound-on delivery.

Click-to-play ads found with pre-roll formats generally run with sound, since the viewer expects sound with the video content that follows. These ads should command a higher rate, because they have viewer activation plus willingness to receive the full measure of sight, sound and motion. Google’s TrueView ads are only paid for when 30 seconds or the full unit (if less than a :30) are completed and not skipped. Clearly there is more value in terms of audibility and viewability for such deliverables.

The following will be necessary for the industry’s integrity and the future well-being of the emerging T/V business model:

1. Publishers and their ad sellers must be fully transparent with advertisers about delivery of sound for all T/V ad buys.
2. Advertisers should pay less for “silent video,” and more for full “sight/sound/motion video.”
3. The industry needs to incorporate audibility guidelines for ad delivery, even as we all strive to resolve the viewability ad-verification issues for video advertising.

This article first appeared September 23, 2015 on

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Are Legacy, Analog Media Ad Sellers ‘Milking’ The Business Model?

I was surprised when I recently tripped over a Verizon SuperPages book on my Brooklyn stoop. Are there still advertisers that pay to be listed — even some that buy display ads — in these ever-shrinking, yet still mass-distributed, printed business phone directories?

Is this a case of “milking” the business model by Verizon, whose core business as a leading mobile service provider and recent purchaser of AOL is clearly digital? Does anyone under 75 actually page through such a directory to find telephone numbers?

Ironically, AOL itself has a similar legacy business. It recently reported collecting fees from 2.3 million dial-up subscription customers, which, according to this Washington Post article,  represents the bulk of company profits. Is this a conscious choice of subscribers, or some automatic “milking” of billing agreements that haven’t yet been caught and cancelled?

I suppose we can’t criticize a business that legitimately charges fees and then delivers the promised product or service. After all, aren’t we supposed to let the buyer beware?

My concern is that a similar milking of a legacy business method for profits, while its utility and performance erodes, is close at hand. I’m speaking specifically of traditional broadcast media advertising.

Last night I surfed through my hundreds of bundled cable channels after midnight to wind down after playing some late-night hockey, and clearly was not searching for commercials to watch. However that’s exactly what I found on the majority of channels I landed on.

The experience went something like this: Arrow down the Time Warner Cable program guide until I see a program I might like, select the program, see a commercial. Arrow down some more until I see another program I might like, select the program, see a commercial. Rinse and repeat several times until I land on HBO.

You get the point. My question is, who actually watches programs in the middle of the night and is not skipping away when those lengthy commercial pods come on?

The advertisers were not all direct-response or low-CPM media buyers, although there were plenty of those. But there were also quality brand advertisers that were running at this time. I suspect those were sold a portion of late-fringe or late-night inventory to reduce CPMs. But who saw those ads clumped into their lengthy strings of sales pitches? Ratings are still based on program ratings, not commercial ratings — so who saw the ads?

I believe we are at the beginning of a period where providers will “milk” legacy business models for profits, while the ad industry struggles, disagreeing on how programmatic buying can help the process and how best to handle the difference in measurement and buying currencies between digital/mobile impressions and opportunity-to-be-seen linear television/terrestrial radio ad units.

Sellers will do their jobs and hope the cash keeps flowing. Buyers will do their jobs and hope that they are savvy and smart enough not be to uncovered for buying “milk” for less value than they believe they are paying. And the question of who sees those ads may well continue to go unanswered  — until there are real commercial ratings for each and every ad on television, and equally sophisticated measurement currencies for radio.

And since the belief is that the buyer must beware, then awareness and change must come from that very buying community itself.


This article first appeared August 10, 2015 on

Posted in Advanced Television, Advertising, Broadcast networks, Cable TV, Commercial load, Connected TV, Media Consumer, Satellite TV | Leave a comment

Time For Television/Video To Adopt ‘Host & Guest’ Model

It’s time for T/V to get over its longtime love affair with the “cat and mouse” approach to advertising. Can you imagine the hospitality business constantly hounding their guests to do something they don’t want to — that has nothing to do with the reason they have come to the venue?

In the early 1920, even before television, broadcast radio was a medium looking for a way to monetize and cover the cost of producing and distributing content. Advertisers would literally produce a radio program, introducing it as “brought to you by …” — and then pretty much get out of the way. Television also followed this model for a while, and when multiple advertisers began to run within a show, TV put self-imposed limitations on how many minutes of ads were allowed per hour to avoid government regulation.  These were overturned in the 1960s, when broadcast networks could now expand the ad load per hour  — which they continued doing for the next 50 years, with abandon. Television ads became not only intrusive, but immensely interruptive.

Google took a page from the original radio concept when it was looking to monetize Internet search in the 1990s by building around sponsorship. The “host/guest” relationship was seemingly restored, and advertisers paid more for this concept.

As bandwidth increased and video became viable online (and on mobile platforms), a variation on the old sponsor model was introduced by YouTube and others. The “pre-roll” required, as a cost of entry, that viewers give their attention to an ad of reasonable duration — after which the content was delivered and advertisers got out of the way. Content was no longer interrupted by ads. By treating consumers more as “guests,” along with using new tracking technologies, digital video also restored advertisers’ faith that an ad was actually seen.

Traditional television providers now need to respond to this trend, since we are already seeing traditional television dollars shifting to the better experience and accountability of digital video.

Many Millennials, who grew up in an on-demand world, loathe the idea of linear advertising and are drawn to Netflix and Amazon, where content is paid for at a cost well below cable, and ads are absent. So is there room in the future of T/V for ad-supported media delivery?

We need a bold media company to step up and make explicit a new contract with and for consumers, becoming a gracious host that respects a valued guest, as in other businesses.

I offer the following as an ideal “win-win” route media providers can take to the next level of the T/V business model:

  • Give viewers a choice of a payment, micro-payment or exchange of reasonable attention to an ad in exchange for content.
  • Keep to 15- or 30-second ad pods for short-form content.
  • Never run an ad for more than 60 seconds for long-form content.
  • Always let the media consumer know the length of ad load prior to delivering content.
  • Explain the model itself: Content costs money, and is paid for either by advertising, viewer fees, or a hybrid.
  • Allow consumers to navigate their own ad experience in exchange for content.
  • Advertisers will pay more when a viewer actually watches an ad, with even higher premiums when viewers choose what ad they want to watch. A viewable ad is not the same product as “opportunity to view.”
  • Continually explain that the provider is dumping the “cat and mouse” model for the “host and guest” or “sponsorship” model.
  • Eventually deconstruct the pre-roll to “anytime viewing,” where the consumer can view ads and earn credits for media viewing even outside of the content-consumption experience. After all, why do ads need to run within content? (Content used to be the surrogate identifier for audience, and now we have sophisticated addressable targeting tools.)

In the end, I believe consumers will gladly exchange attention for content if they are asked respectfully, feel they have a choice in the matter — and if they understand their role vs. the role of the advertiser/advertising and content provider.

So who’s going to step up and reinvent the ad-supported T/V model?


This article was originally posted on July 16, 2015.

Posted in Ad-supported TV, Advanced Television, Advertiser, Advertising, Broadcast networks, Connected TV, History of Broadcast Advertising, TV Business Model | Leave a comment

Unbundling Needn’t Be End of Profitable Revenue For MVPDs

One of the great emotional tug-of-war battles going on in television and video today is around the issue of unbundled vs. bundled content. I believe it is about to hit the pocketbooks of traditional television providers.

Holding one end of the “rope” are MVPDs (multichannel video programming distributors like cable, satellite and telco companies) who package thousands of programming options in bundled offerings at significant cost to subscribers. Consumer demand for pricing relief has resulted over the years in tiered bundle offerings from basic to sports to premium. The full ride can easily cost a subscriber over $100/month.

The other end of the “rope” is held by the media consumer — and as is the case in a real tug-of-war, the youngest demographic groups are anchoring the effort to have more choice and more control over final costs than the older demographics, who grew up with bundled television.

Looking on and ready to join the winning side once it is clear who will win are the traditional content producers like the Hollywood studios, broadcast TV and premium paid cable (e.g., HBO), along with new internet-delivered content providers like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Disney’s Maker Studios.

Demographic shifts among media consumers mean demand for less bundled, more “a la carte” choices in T/V (Television/Video) content is getting stronger. And these demographic shifts are more than age preferences. Consider that the majority of Generation X’ers grew up with the control of video games and most Millennials grew up with on-demand access to the World Wide Web. Even Baby Boomers have more than absorbed the instant gratification of media through the many changes in how it is consumed today.

Now something very interesting is happening this year (2015): Pew Research Center says that Millennials will exceed Baby Boomers in population size.

I would say that with these shifts, there will be more and more pressure on MVPDs to unbundle services in order to compete with ad-free OTT (over-the-top) video services like Netflix, Amazon and connected TV like Roku, Apple TV and Chromecast, as well as ad-supported services like Hulu. So how can MVPDs satisfy growing legions of customers demanding on-demand, while minimizing lost revenues?

Invest in consumer research. Ask your customers and prospects what they want and what they would be willing to pay or do for the content they want.

Create more bundle offerings. Design mini-bundles for the specific kinds of programming your subscribers will pay for, and for which you can provide multiple channels. Sports, celebrity, reality, learning, documentaries, international, popular television, and interests might be possible channel genre groupings. Consumers will guide you.

Offer more flexibility. Allow a “design your own bundle” option for a premium. Allow consumers to modify their selections any time they wish.

Offer even more flexibility. Use VOD (video-on-demand) channels for micro-payments to offer content not included in bundles. Consumers may be willing to pay $0.59+ for a program on a network they don’t watch ordinarily and don’t want to pay the full freight for.

Take a page from Pandora and online/mobile video. Do television ad pods that run as much as six minutes and take up one out of every three minutes of airtime ever really get seen? Develop and offer an advertising option that advertisers would pay a high price for: a “pre-roll” to an uninterrupted version of the content. Hulu has tested this online. Television could then sell viewability to advertisers, and compete with online and mobile engagement key performance indicators.

Invest in awareness campaigns. Tell the world about your new options, a friendly “new” source for information and entertainment T/V.

With changes like these, consumers can be declared winners of the tug-of-war, and MVPDs will win as well, with new revenue streams to counter losses in subscriber numbers — and a new consumer appreciation that their broadband providers are also great ways to receive T/V programming.

This article was originally posted on June 5, 2015.

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My ‘Mad Men’ VOD Experience: What It Means For TV Business Model

Video-on-demand (VOD) is a benefit of a viewer cable subscriptions, but still not front and center in the television ad model discussion. So where does it stand as an ad medium today? I had a chance to find out in a snapshot experience when my family forgot to DVR the first three programs of of the final half-season of “Mad Men” on AMC.

With a bit of dread from previous VOD viewer experiences, we turned to Time Warner Cable’s Entertainment on Demand AMC listings, and hit play. The first hurdle was finding out whether fast-forwarding would be disabled, which is a deal-killer in my home. And wonder of wonders, fast-forwarding is enabled! So on we were carried into the Madison Avenue advertising world of spring 1970.

Here’s the formatting time line of my 55-minute experience. Ads are in boldface:

0:00 – 0:30: Single pre-roll ad for Capital One Venture (:30 Total)
0:30 – 20:00: “Mad Men” program including “previously on” and opening credits (19:30)
20:00 – 21:30: Three-unit ad pod: Jack Daniels (:30), Geico (:30) and CarMax (:30) (:90 Total)
21:30 – 29:00: “Mad Men” program (7:30)
29:00 – 30:00: Two-unit ad pod: Fan Duel (:30) and AMC “Turn” promo (:30) (:60 Total)
30:00 – 37:00: “Mad Men” program (7:00)
37:00 – 38:30: Three-unit ad pod: JCK Daniels (:30), Jet Blue (:30) and Fan Duel (:30) (:90 Total)
38:30 – 44:30: “Mad Men” program (6:00)
44:30 – 45:15: Two-unit ad pod: Deleon Tequila (:15) & Fan Duel (:30) (:45 Total)
45:15 – 45:17: Transitional (:02) billboard for AMC program “Turn” (:03 Total)
45:17 – 51:17: “Mad Men” program (6:00)
51:17 – 52:17: Closing credits (1:00)
52:17 – 52:47: One unit “post-roll” ad for Fan Duel (:30 Total)
The remaining 2:13 is accounted for by ad-loading latency, lead-in and lead-out time and a margin of error on exact timing due to reading minutes rather than seconds on the video player.

— The total VOD non-program content load for this 55-minute show is at 3:48, a most reasonable 6.3% of total program length. Compare this to linear television, which commonly packs 20 minutes of non-program content into a 60-minute program, or a most unreasonable 33% of viewing time.
— By allowing fast-forwarding, AMC and Time Warner Cable provide a far superior viewer experience, and even got a bit more ad-viewing from me than they would have on linear DVR playback. For instance, when I did fast-forward, the play/pause functions did not jump me back to the start of the program. I found myself rewinding and ended up watching about 10 seconds of the last ad, along with a few seconds of the first ad.
— Dynamic ad insertion is here. While measuring these pods, I sometimes “timed out” on the pause function, and when I returned, rewound and replayed the content. A new ad was then inserted into the position that I had paused on.
— A larger and more diverse set of advertisers are participating in VOD. A few years ago, I would see the same ad, or often the same network promos, again and again within a single program.

What it means
–- When ads do interrupt VOD content for only 90 seconds maximum, it is much more tolerable to a viewer than the sometimes 5-6 minute pods seen on linear television. Does anyone really believe that human beings are actually watching all the ads in those super-pods?
–- Avoiding the strategy of “forcing” viewers to watch ads (by disabling fast-forwarding) can counter-intuitively create more ad viewing.
–- I am glad to see that dynamic ad insertion technology has finally arrived. Advertisers get more reach and less viewer wear-out across a schedule, and viewers are not bombarded with the same message over and over again within a single program.
–-A larger and more diverse number of advertisers indicate that the buying side is waking up to the value of VOD as use of dynamic ad insertion increases.
–-The first :30 pre-roll seems like a pretty sure thing as far as viewability, given an audience’s previous digital experience with video pre-roll. As an advertiser, I would pay a high premium for that VOD unit.
–- Who will cover the current cost/revenue differential for shorter ad pods? I believe the revenue difference should be addressed by both advertisers (higher CPMs for greater value for less ads) and content providers (no longer charging for the mid-pod ads that go unseen). Overloaded ad-formatting was created over time by both advertisers and content providers. As the digital world figures out viewability standards, this rebalancing is a necessary element for television to stay competitive with the accountability of digital video advertising.


This article was first published on

Posted in Ad-supported TV, Advanced Television, Advertising, Broadcast networks, Ratings, Satellite TV, TV Business Model, TV Commercial Ratings | Leave a comment

The TV Apocolypse. Q&A with John Osborn.

This interview held by Charlene Weisler was first published in on February 24, 2015.

The TV Apocolypse. Q&A with John Osborn.

John Osborn of TV:The Next Generation is someone who believes that the traditional TV business model is entering an end of times. With the fragmentation of platforms, the emergence of digital and the stresses placed on the ecosystem with measurement, Osborn is convinced that television is due for a huge re-adjustment. And I don’t think he is terribly off base.

In this provocative interview, Osborn mines his deep agency experience and comments on the new television model based on programmatic, native advertising, addressability and measurement as it applies to commercial ratings, cross platform measurement and the almost apocalyptic changes that he predicts will happen to the television business.

There are four videos in the interview:

Subject                                                    length (minutes)

Background                                                    6:26

Measurement and Cross Platform                  6:19

OTT and TV Revenue                                    6:54

Predictions                                                      5:38

CW: What do you think the deficiencies are in the measurement of television today?
JO: The deficiencies are that traditional television has never gotten down to the core of the business which would be the interest of advertisers which is to measure commercial viewing and commercial ratings. It has always been using that surrogate of program ratings that translate down to estimated commercial ratings. But now in the digital world, the measurability is there. The accountability is there. There is no reason why an advertiser couldn’t know that the commercial was viewed or not. And of course with the clutter of traditional television (where the enormous amount of ads that are squeezed into a pod and the amount of pods that force viewers to watch 20 minutes of advertising out of every hour of content) has trained the viewer to avoid advertising. There are so many tools now – the DVR – and just multi-tasking has created so many ways for the viewer to avoid advertising that I don’t believe television advertisers are really getting what they think they are getting. Television is a valuable medium but it is time to move into this next level of measurement.

CW: Do you think there is anything that television can do, using the new technology, to encourage people to view advertising?

JO: I always liked the idea of a television network and the advertisers that support it getting more on board with what the viewer is there for. The viewer is there to watch the content. When I was growing up there were about ten minutes of ads in every hour of content and now that has just exploded and I think the idea is, let’s trick the viewer into watching ads by putting them into these pods. Then there is a greediness that has evolved over the years – we can make more money if we run more commercials in those pods. Those pods have gotten so long that the viewer is not watching. For me the solution is more of a quid pro quo and in the on-demand world, the quid pro quo would be like the concept of the pre-roll online. You want to watch some content, here is a reasonable amount of commercial time, maybe a half minute or maybe a minute, in exchange for a half hour of content. That will blow apart the CPM based transaction of buying and selling of television but I think it is time for that.

Charlene Weisler interviews John Osborn who talks about his background and TV deficiency in this 6:26 minute video:


CW: In terms of cross platform measurement do you see digital using television measurement or will television have to adapt to digital measurement?

JO:  I definitely think that television has to embrace digital and all of the benefits of digital for the advertiser which is the accountability and the measure-ability – who is watching when, the target-ability. There is so much that digital offers, and when you think that the set top box, which is the majority of how television is delivered today, is a small computer that can store and record all of these things, there is no reason why that can’t be delivered back to the advertisers so that the value of it is understood.


Charlene Weisler interviews John Osborn who talks about Measurement, Cross platform and Connected TVs in this 6:19 minute video:

CW: How do you think OTT will impact the traditional TV business?

JO: I think OTT will be the tipping point. There are older generations of viewers who are used to the way television used to be delivered and when they go to other platforms they are more willing to accept the commercialization that is reflective of the television model. However the up and coming generation has grown up with the internet and has grown up in an on demand world where they get what they want. They expect no advertising because they grew up in homes where it is being avoided. So that is a generational growth thing that will put more and more pressure on the TV networks.

CW: It sounds like the TV revenue model will be squeezed.

JO: Yes, because the current model is built on a closed distribution system where supply and demand of available advertising is limited to 24 hours on x number of channels – maybe 1000 but it is still limited compared to the internet – and the comfort level in buying traditional television. Nobody got fired for buying traditional television. But now with the accountability that the OTT world has the capacity to offer and is offering in the online world and mobile world, this is a game changer.


John Osborn talks to Charlene Weisler about OTT and the impact on the TV Revenue model in this 6:54 minute video:


John Osborn shares his predictions on the future of TV and the media landscape with Charlene Weisler in this 5:38 minute video: 

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Is ‘Programmatic’ The Right Word For Automated T/V Advertising?

Five years ago the term “programmatic” began to be applied to ways of transacting automated, software-driven advertising deals on platforms more akin to the trading of stocks than traditional ad buys. Digital display was the sector in which it was first applied. Many tech start-up companies emerged and attracted advertiser interest by applying Wall Street-proven capabilities of software, algorithms and online connectivity to the cumbersome processes of digital buying of display ads. The promise of more marketplace information through this kind of buying was and is compelling to ad buyers.

Language certainly matters. In recent industry conversations, I perceive a hesitancy to use the word “programmatic” in the emerging T/V supply-side space. Instead, I am hearing more and more companies use the phrase “automated ad sales” rather than “programmatic.” Is this euphemism necessary?

I believe the more traditional providers of T/V, fearful when watching the programmatic display experience from the sidelines, have been cringing at the label. Some of those fears are legitimate. The initial mechanics and software for programmatic were developed on the buy side of the business, thus opening new levels of transparency into inventory value and market conditions. This makes publishers wary of dealing with buyers that may know as much or sometimes more about the inventory than the publishers themselves. But the sell side SSPs and exchanges are rapidly catching up.

Another fear that publishers/content producers have stems from confusing programmatic with RTB, having seen some scary pricing drops for display inventory when RTB first came out. Five years ago, display-driven open exchanges led to a kind of Wild West where blind or semi-blind deals were happening way down the long tail, and pricing reflected these non-premium placements.

Online video, unlike display, is now at a place where demand outpaces supply, and sellers also now have increasing control over what kind of programmatic sales they use for video to increase revenues and profit margins. T/V buyers have always been more concerned with brand environment / brand safety than display advertisers. They won’t be leveraging long tail sites blindly to lower CPMs.

Quoted in a February 2014 post, Google’s Bob Arnold, digital media and strategy lead, North America, defined programmatic, noting that “the ecosystem is very complicated; a lot of terms are being used interchangeably. For example, many people call real-time bidding programmatic media buying, but real-time bidding is a subset of programmatic as a whole. So it’s going to take more education and a simplification of the ecosystem.”

That education process is still needed. But the good news is that the intervening year has clarified what options are available for those entering the programmatic world. And it is really no more complicated than some of the options for buying traditional television:

Traditional Television Buying subsets:

1) National broadcast/cable network buys (national footprint, locally distributed via “wired” networks).

2) Local broadcast/cable or “spot” (market by market).

3) National Syndication (e.g., “Jeopardy,” “Ellen” — national footprint via “unwired” networks).

4) Upfront (long-term commitments for discounted pricing) vs.scatter (short term deals) marketplaces.

Programmatic T/V Buying subsets:

1)    Automated Guaranteed buys (Reserved inventory at pre-agreed/fixed pricing with one seller / one buyer. Also called programmatic guaranteed, programmatic premium, programmatic direct, programmatic reserved).

2)    Unreserved Fixed Rate (Reserved inventory at pre-agreed/fixed pricing, one seller / one buyer. Also called preferred deals, private access or right-of-first-refusal).

3)    Invitation-Only Auction (Unreserved inventory, auction-determined pricing, one seller / few buyers. Also called private marketplace or PMP, private auction, closed auction, private access).

4)    Open Auction (Unreserved Inventory, auction-determined pricing, one seller / many buyers. Also called RTB (real-time bidding), open exchange, open marketplace).

While the precise nomenclature for each of the programmatic buying subsets has not been universally settled, it will be. The functionality, opportunities and meaning of these four new subsets are clear, and can be easily understood. It won’t be hard for stakeholders to acclimate to the right jargon as they set up programmatically. Then the machines can do the work of communicating with each other. So. yes, “programmatic” should remain the term that it is, even for T/V.


This article first appeared March 12, 2015 on

Posted in Ad-supported TV, Advanced Television, Advertiser, Advertising, Cable TV, History of Broadcast Advertising, Ratings, TiVo, TV Business Model, TV Commercial Ratings | Leave a comment