Friday, December 4, 2009

Getting Around the TiVo Ad Problem

Cable TV networks have long bemoaned TiVo as a way for their consumers to get around watching regular advertisements. And lately, they’ve also been getting a lot of pressure to put their shows online for free as many stations and networks already do – a double whammy for advertising and a serious threat to the cable networks’ profits.

Comcast is bouncing back with a double whammy of its own: In a test of consumer response, it’s launching several TV shows from a handful of major media companies – including CBS and Time Warner – into online venues. The catch? You can’t watch them unless you’re already a cable subscriber, and the online shows have the full panoply of advertisements, just as they would if you watched them on the tube.

There’s some argument as to whether consumers will accept the new dynamic after having been introduced to full-length TV shows, including many cable network shows, in an online forum for free. Beyond the cost issue, one of the benefits of watching a TV show online thus far has been the drastically shortened advertisements.

In a 30-minute show, for instance, viewers might see only two minutes’ worth of commercials – that’s about 8-10 minutes less than their normal exposure to commercials during the course of a show that length.

TV networks are working on finding a happy medium. More ads than the current brief spots might still be palatable to consumers. After all, fewer ads are still fewer ads – even if those online spots get a little longer than they are currently, they’ll still beat out their TV counterparts.