T/V (Television/Video) content exists within many kinds of “walled gardens.” Created mostly by media content creators and distributors, these have their benefits, but are also ultimately confining for viewers and advertisers. The question arises: Would building more doorways into and through these walled gardens make for a richer, more dynamic business model for advertisers, viewers and ultimately the media providers who rely on them for revenue and profits?
The Garden Keepers
Cable and satellite systems
- By offering VOD and DVR-replayed programming as well as TV Everywhere options, these distributors are fighting hard to keep the linear television walled-garden subscription model intact as viewing behaviors shift. At the same time, fast-forwarding functions (when active) allow commercial avoidance – a mixed message to advertisers. Cable networks pressure content creators to not sell rights to OTT (Over-The-Top)/online distributors, believing that outside the walled garden everyone’s profits will plummet.
- Advertisers are not served by the ad skipping, excessive ad clutter and by the artificial effect walled-garden supply limits put on annual price increases. Also, when advertisers pay for C3 (day of + 3 days of replay ratings), do they account for the ad avoidance inherent in non-live viewing?
- From a subscriber standpoint, most of the bundled programs will never actually be viewed, though they are still paid for. Subscription rates keep rising (to an average of $75/month for cable alone). The “cord-nevers” who grew up with video games and on-demand Internet do not expect to pay these kinds of dollars for T/V. Ad-load demands within these systems are totally unreasonable.
Online Content Providers
- Streaming services Netflix and Amazon Instant Video have no advertising, charge a far lower subscription fee (under $10/month) than cable/satellite and are entirely VOD. Hulu Plus, owned by NBC, ABC and Fox, and CBS.com, do the same with advertising. Until now, the pod-lengths on Hulu have been much smaller than on traditional linear T/V. HitBliss allows viewers to “buy” content with credits from ads viewed away from the content and at the user’s convenience.
- Hardware providers like Smart TV-makers Sony and Samsung along with OTT devices/services like TiVo, Roku, Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast offer services like Amazon, Hulu Plus and Netflix, with the role of advertising still being defined. Game console makers Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo now include content streaming as part of their package of features along with incremental ad sales. Smartphones, tablets, laptops and “phablets” are emerging distribution platforms for streamed T/V content with many advertising possibilities.
- Intel, Apple, Google YouTube and Microsoft are reportedly building T/V content services that would compete with local cable/satellite operators and other providers. Will they all create walled gardens around their content, as Apple has done with iTunes?
Seeing this fragmentation of T/V suppliers and the shift to an “on-demand” world, William S. Paley must surely be spinning in his grave.
These changes do, however, open up an opportunity for advertisers and viewers as allies for a change.
An Opportunity For Advertisers and Viewers: T/V Search
A recent article talks about how Google Search has added television episodes and linear TV schedules to search results if a program and the words “TV show” are typed in. Google Search, IMBD.com, TVGuide.com and TV.com are all players that help consumers search for and learn about T/V content.
An important viewer service and a tremendous promotional platform for content promotion are there for the taking with neutral, multiplatform “cross-garden” T/V search. With the kinds of algorithms that Google and others are using, aggregating what T/V options are available to consumers where and when can be a “killer app” for the business of ad-supported media. By helping viewers see how to access programming (and ads) across all the distribution channels identified above and others that haven’t been created yet, these search engines can go far beyond their current focus on traditional silos of distribution.
It’s time to open up the borders of walled gardens and embrace the new age of global T/V business for the overall health of our rapidly changing industry.