May 28, 2007 Television: Welcome To The Machine
 

Television Tap Dances to a New (Media) Tune

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As Television Shifts Towards the Consumer, Will Advertising?

By Paul McEnany

In a previous article, I compared the two heavyweights of peer-to-peer television, but only the winner of that comparison seems to be taking old media by storm. As Joost moves towards full launch, they've been making some pretty big announcements.

First, the inaugural crop of advertisers signed up for the initial release, including Coca-Cola, General Motors, Microsoft, Nestle, Purina, IBM and Intel, among others. Then, the news of the extra 45 million in funding from five selected investors including CBS and Viacom came down.

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It seems as though things are just now starting to move quickly for them. I've been predicting big things for this little start-up, but I never expected it to stream roll so quickly. Soon, we may see many more large networks do as MTV and Comedy Central have already done, opening up there content for increased distribution.

And we see NBC and FOX delving into their own joint venture, appropriately named ClownCo by the masses discussing the possible fate of the as-yet-unnamed company. (Seriously guys, don't announce without a name. Otherwise, we'll name it for you, and you might not be so happy with that). This new venture is expected to essentially have a youtube-like experience, with open distribution that allows for a huge penetration across the internet.

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NBC has now moved a fledgling, but critically acclaimed show, the Black Donnellys exclusively to the web, releasing new shows at their normal Monday night time. And NBC's number one drama, Heroes, will be releasing "making of" videos for the web to tide their audience over with new content in between seasons. It's not a new move for NBC, which has become the number one trafficked website of all the major networks.

Not only that, but just yesterday they announced that each show will feature supplemental content hosted only online. They're building in social tools, giving the ability to have virtual watching parties between groups of friends.

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ABC, not one to be left out, revamped their online offering to allow for full screen viewing at a surprisingly high quality. Although they made the stupid mistake of requiring a download in order to enjoy the feature, it's still another step towards creating an online experience that can rival that of traditional television.

So, now it seems that the networks get it. They understand that their online offerings will largely affect offline viewership, and the only hope for their continued relevance lies in ceding control back to where it belongs. This means embracing the long tail. It means being on when and where is best, as decided by the men and women who will ultimately pay their paychecks.

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Television is in the middle of a revolution. Even the dissenters decrying the death of the thirty second spot are coming around, accepting the fact that declining influence and escalating prices will eventual equal abundant unsold inventory for less and less valued networks.

But, these dissenters are wrong to admit it so easily. While there has been some innovation with advertising structures for those involved in these new platforms, they have still remained heavily reliant on the thirty second spot. It's the umbilical cord that advertisers have grown far too old to have still attached. I don't blame NBC, CBS, Joost or anyone else fleshing out these new distribution models nearly as much as I blame us, the lazy advertiser looking for something that more closely resembles the things we're most used to.

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I've heard it said in with both good and bad intonation that "nobody's ever been fired for buying television," and the same now can be said here. Nobody's ever been fired for buying a 30 second spot. Even if it is the worst possible place to put one.

Joost looks as though they're most willing to try new things. They have essentially provided the opportunity for a branded experience for any advertiser, but those advertisers have been slow to respond with much more than a re-purposed tv spot.

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And, with all the major networks, there's ample real estate to push advertisements past the 30 or 15 second shackle and into something we never thought they could be in terms of value and relevance. There shouldn't be any awards or pats on the back for just getting there. It's just not enough. We have to make ourselves better than we've ever been before. Why would we strive for anything less?

These advances get me excited, and I hope they do you, as well. Just as advertising helped change and shape a nation through pop-culture in the 50's, we can have major effects on the way people consume media, engage with brands and think about advertising for the next 30, 40, 50 years. We can now develop our next Bernbachs and Burnetts. We can find the thing that made our service valuable in the first place. We can reconnect, redefine, rediscover, rethink what it means to be relevant.

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There can be a day when people no longer think of us with distrust and distastefulness. With everything is changing around us, I would hope we can look back on today and know that we not only facilitated, but pushed, improved, and ignited these shifts. We simply can't afford to be the last caveman. So with this new age of video distribution, I encourage each of us in our industry to think about how we can make it better, regardless of whether it's easy, or looks anything like the old way.

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Paul McEnany is a new media and marketing strategist at Levenson and Hill in Dallas, TX and works with clients in business categories ranging from logistics to QSR. He is a contributor to Beyond Madison Avenue, one of the most popular marketing blogs as well as his own personal marketing blog, Hee Haw Marketing. A budding activist, he can be reached at paul.mcenany@gmail.com.

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