Tag Archives: ABC

Digital Upgrade At Your Own Risk – Brand Be Damned!

It seems that many apps and digital offerings have been updated since the beginning of the year – and an interesting trend has taken shape. What once was so wonderfully free – with few ad breaks and just slightly more privacy – has turned the corner and has become, well… less. Additionally, a huge sector of mobile users that excitedly upgraded to Android 4.3 before the end of the year have only further lamented the multitude of issues they’ve encountered since (with battery life reducing drastically being a consistent theme).  All of this leads to the question – To Upgrade or Not To Upgrade?  Unfortunately, in many instances, the consumer never gets the chance to question and the brand is damned to stumble.


The gray area is meant to have content served within.


In the case of ESPN, they chose to re-brand their scores and news app to be more aligned with their colossal SportsCenter brand – changing it from Scorecenter to SportsCenter. That change makes sense – as does the twitter feed from their on-air personalities.  What’s more challenging is that the app is much more volatile (see above) with nothing showing much of the time.  Even more annoying is the fact that users now have to log in or register in order to automatically keep track of their favorite teams. For most, this might not be an issue, but for those trying to hold on to the last piece of privacy, that component might be a deal breaker. The fact that there’s now far more advertising with page overlays and in-feed ads only adds salt to the wound.

Diminished revenue generation is definitely an issue for all content providers, but it will be interesting to see how conversion plays out as more and more previously free apps move into the paid model. Since the new year, at least 4 of my news apps have moved behind a paywall – with only headlines available for free – rendering it useless. Hopefully, we’ll soon see the ramifications – one way or the other – on this change soon. We’ll definitely see if people have an appetite for paying in multiple places for content.

Even in the free realm, questionable choices have been made:

  • ABC force upgraded the app leaving users with a lot less content choices and a lot more ill will. Checking the ratings on the App Store and Google Play shows a very large distaste for something that was the standard bearer for innovative video presentation. With the previous usage and inability to skip through commercials, it made sense.  Who knows what will happen now.
  • Yahoo! changed their mobile product to supposedly simplify their content delivery. The only problem is that the UI leads one to believe that if they click on search, they’ll be able to search within the category (i.e.,Entertainment, Sports, Life), only to find that it takes them out of the app environment and to their general search interface.
  • Sporting News is struggling to keep from crashing as they deal with issues stemming from iOS 7 in their newest update. The fix might come with the supposed release of iOS 7.1 in March, but that brings us to the next issue.

With all of the concerns users have with upgrading already – and the worries of what they will have to learn or not have access to – is the update to iOS 7.1 or Android’s 4.4 KitKat one that people will venture into widely or quickly?  Microsoft is having it’s own issues getting consumers to upgrade Windows OS – especially as people realized how much was still left to be done with each release. Is the same lack of concern for the user experience – and the interest of meeting ambiguous deadlines worthwhile for consumers who are quick to pull the trigger and move elsewhere? A concern is that, among developers, there is an excuse permeating that everyone expects issues. How sad is that?

The debate can continue as to whether it’s human nature to always want the new bright and shiny object. But, it is pretty clear cut that when forced to the new, something good should be delivered.  If companies/brands keep forcing the issue, they might be damned to losing the loyalty of those who just want to keep interacting the way they always have.


Spectacular Out Of Home Opportunities Optimize Success Or Confusion

With the further development of Out-Of-Home (OOH) advertising due to technology and placement advances, there are certainly some eye-opening executions popping up in malls and on roadways.  The thing is, they don’t always make sense – even if they are being leveraged in the best way.  In the past few weeks, we’ve seen some interesting executions pop-up in relation to some entertainment properties coming out his week and one that come out in a few months.  All of it points to opportunities optimized and missed – and not all of those are based on sound creative.

ProjectX brought Twitter into their digital billboard ads, and while they came up with a reasonable “cheat” solution for not having real live feeds in those billboards, the rollout added to confusion.  Their cheat is that they have booked numerous panels in a cycle so that, while a viewer is at a light, they might see it two times with different Tweets at the top of the feed.  One problem I had was that the first ProjectX billboards only showed the Twitter feed box that is showing  in the first example.  Obviously, at the time, it did not have the “3 Days” call-out.  With no clear dating shown, it made it seem that the movie was already out as the Tweets were in past-tense.  It wasn’t until this week that they started showing the anticipatory tweets along with the release countdown.  I do look forward to a time when you can actually have a live feed – I’m sure the Warner Bros. marketing team felt the same way.

The images below are related to the introduction of future-tense Tweets.

Universal is releasing THE LORAX on Friday and their OOH has been as varied and head-shake inducing as you would expect from a Dr. Seuss-inspired film.  The top image is the facade wrapping for the cinemas at Universal Citywalk.  It conveys the required wonderment for the story in a scale that works perfectly.

Where they get a little wonky is in the standees placed in front of the box-office (please excuse my equally wonky image.)  It’s great that they allow the public to interact with and take their own pictures as part of the film’s iconic image and character.  But, I don’t understand why they would design it so that the entire head fits in the hole instead of just the nose and above.  They should have done a better job of incorporating into the actual character design rather than looking like a bizarre Amish Lorax…

In addition to the standard billboards, Universal did both a Digital Billboard and a three-dimensional one.  It’s too bad they didn’t do anything to animate either one.  Even if they could have just moved the eyes a little bit on the digital one, that would have been nice, though I don’t know if it was possible on the digital billboard.  I do think it was a huge missed opportunity on the Sunset Strip-placed billboard shown below that had three dimension element.  I really wanted to either see automation that moves the eyes or the sides of the moustache to bring it to life.  Even if they had used the technique employed by Disney in their Haunted Mansions with a concave (or negative) build of the eyes to give the effect that it’s following you.

Even though THE DICTATOR doesn’t come out until May 11th, bus shelters and this huge billboard below have been popping up all over Los Angeles.  They all have little to no explanation of what the images of Sacha Baron Cohen’s character is related to, but they are great teaser posters.  The one below is on La Brea Avenue (a major North-South artery in Los Angeles) and it is huge – the image doesn’t really do justice to how much it stands out.  Of course, the void from fact that they don’t clearly state the movie information is negated by the television and video support for the title.  First, there was the Super Bowl tease trailer and then, at the Oscars, there was the hugely popular video of Cohen’s altercation with Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet.  The video that E! placed on YouTube a few days ago has already garnered close to 7 million plays.

Lastly – and related to the Oscars, Jimmy Kimmel always has a great show directly following the award telecast.  This year, they even placed raw postings around town to tease this year’s long-form video – the latest in the annual string of huge videos created for his post-Oscars show.  The interesting thing is that it was very unclear what the posters were about.  Even knowing that it was related to Kimmel, I did a search of M:TM prior to the show and found nothing.  I searched for M:TM and Jimmy Kimmel and found little more – and was still confused.  It was only after the show aired and the video was posted that I was able to figure out that it was about their trailer for Movie: The Movie.  I guess they figured it would be all good for the re-airing in Prime-Time tonight.  For the general cost it took to execute this campaign, it seems like the penetration and awareness were not the highest among Kimmel and ABC’s marketers.

Here’s the actual star-studded trailer of Movie: The Movie

This very clearly was a small spattering of OOH executions for entertainment properties and, even though we are just beginning to see what digital executions are providing, there is still a long way to go.  The point of real interest is that it doesn’t matter how cool the technology is or how simple (or old-school) it is. Without proper thought and execution behind it the best case scenario behind a fail is that it is not noticed.  The worst is that it can cause confusion.

The Silly App Constraints of Streaming Premium Content

Time Warner Cable announced at the end of last week that they are now providing their users with the opportunity to stream live television on their mobile phones and tablets.  Exciting, yes? Well, not too exciting.  You see, it only works when you are within the confines of your home wi-fi network. Doing a quick search online, there was a report from Nielsen last January stating that the average TVs per U.S. household numbered 2.5 with 31% of households having more than four TVs.  With those numbers, will people be able to find a place to watch TV on their personal devices outside the range of one of their televisions?  At first glance, the announcement of such a seemingly inane addition of yet another screen in the house is silly.  But when you look into it deeper, the issues are more complicated and perplexing.

The silliness stems from the fact that you can’t just stream content to your device anywhere.  The perplexing part relates to the further fragmentation (and possibly confusion) of content delivery.

Time Warner Cable had launched an app last year that would allow its subscribers to view content anywhere.  Due to court challenges and general push-back from providers, TWC dialed it back and removed the feature. This announcement for the iPhone and iPad allows users to watch some shows live in addition to the ability to manage your DVR, search for shows and some other things. Yet, you still have to view shows on apps from HBO, ABC and others.  And, TWC even has a totally separate App just to manage the account – much like HBO offers a completely separate App to enable social interaction with their shows. Which leads to the perplexing part…

One of the beauties about television is that you know where to find everything on one box.  You can search through the guides in umpteen different ways and find what interests you.  As discussed in this blog last week, the challenge in finding everything online is quite challenging.  It shouldn’t be so for the content we want to find on our cable or satellite systems. Even if we can’t get everything through one happy shiny app, we shouldn’t have to download multiple brand apps just to be able to fully consume and interact with that brand. The confusion this brings only leads to a further barrier to adoption.

There are huge economics at play in terms of who owns what with streaming, but most people don’t want to have to bounce between a handful of apps to watch their shows.  I would rather have one App to do it, and if Time Warner, DirecTV, or Verizon is my provider in the house, I would much rather access through one app.  Even with the NFL Sunday Ticket mobile app that I have through DirecTV, I have to open up another app just to view that content.  Is it horrible to have to do this?  No.  But I won’t do it with multiple apps for all the different cable networks I subscribe to – it’s just to unwieldy.

Further to the economics, I pay extra for the Live NFL content on my mobile because I knew that was an add-on premium.  If I had to pay more for the mobile version of other premium offerings, I think I would balk.  That is a nice thing about the HBO Go product and others like it – it comes free with my subscription – but there’s too many apps to download when it could be just one. As more and more people become open to viewing video on mobile platforms, the kinks need to be worked out and access fragmentation is one of those biggest kinks.

As a society, we have sadly become more cynical. So, it might hurt the situation more than help it by coming out with a release that causes people to question whether the products are even worth it.  Perhaps companies can learn a lesson from Apple and only put out press releases when there is really something solid to cheer about.  In the case of the TWC release about Live streaming, it’s a total tease because you’ve got to read the fine print that you can only view the content where your access already exists.  Even though people have supposedly been waiting for live streaming to come, this could be considered a waste of excitement and we’re better off waiting for a live ANYWHERE  product that could be streamed through wi-fi or our data plans. As those data plans start bringing in more money, that may be where the companies will have something to cheer about – especially the ones who have bundled the mobile with cable/satellite.

So, thank you for the offering of live streaming in the house. I’m just not buying it – even if it is free.

In Saturated Markets, How Much Is Enough?

In the ever-growing saturation of the online video player market, TumTiki has just entered the fray and its future is not entirely clear.  While they seem to be aggregating full TV episodes, movies and short-form content from other sites like Hulu and Amazon.com – with a reported 700,000 free videos at launch – their business model is a little unclear.  They are running ads from the serving sites and don’t plan on selling their own advertising for a while.  The site is backed by rural communications company, Frontier Communications, and they will have to do quite a bit of marketing and promotional programming to drive users to this new site amongst many.

Before looking at the possible upside, its important to look at the issues:

  • The video quality is quite jerky at the beginning of each episode.  They are certainly not of the quality of Hulu or the ABC App.
  • For a media planner, will it be even more confusing as to who they would go to for an ad buy?  Currently, just the ownership of Hulu and questions of which team to buy through is challenging enough.  With added resources, TumTiki’s ad sales team will seemingly have even more issues.
  • While they did just launch yesterday, it seems they need to do a bit more work on the UI to make the site more compelling than other video aggregators.  I would argue that they truly need an editorial staff to strengthen the offering and attempt to make it stick out from the pack.
  • On a nit-picky side, I watched a ONCE UPON A TIME episode and it quickly moved on to play an episode of GRIMM’S.  I would have preferred a setup like youtube that shows video options after a video plays rather than going directly into another episode or one from another series. Also, once the other series begins, the browser chrome should change to the new series (but that’ just being really picky…)

There are some good possibilities that are still too early to tell whether they will work or not. 

  • There is the seeming promise that you will be able to comment while watching the show, but it does not say whether that comment will appear at the same time in the episode.  The technology for that has been available for more than a year, so it should be included.
  • They intro video also promises a loyalty rewards program based on how much content you watch.  Depending on what the mechanics are and what the payoff could be, that piece could be integral to the site’s success.
  • In some markets, they will be offering local content mixed in with the rest of the content.  This could be good for finding items, but I’ve got to imagine that if someone is really searching for local content, they will find the originating source as this site is just an aggregator.

 All in, it begs the question of launch strategy for new sites in any of the saturated markets.  Do you launch just to get out there with promises of things to come?  Do you tinker until it truly does set itself apart?  In the case of TumTiki, it seems like they might be getting buzz too early and those early samplers will not get the full value that they might have if there were a soft launch first.  Again, only time will tell if what they’ve done is enough to clear a big enough market share to be a big player.

Rich Media in The Print World? Really?

Heading into the Fall TV season, networks always brings some interesting forms of advertising like tune-in information being printed on eggs or billboards for fictional elements of the show it is marketing appearing in provocative places.  Those can be rich experiences, but they must really jump out at you. Are print publishers devising ways to provide “rich media” experiences in their magazines?  Some new show ads are as simple as a print piece in a magazine. And sometimes it is more than just an ad, but who knows if some of those things are just an opportunity to tout that they were “first.”

A recent attempt at this was on the back cover of Entertainment Weekly for ABC’s upcoming drama, Revenge.  The odd thing is that the key image was sealed, easily missed and not really logical.  You can see in the images below what it looked like when closed and also open.  Unfortunately, the pull strip was lost (revealing the full image that was not originally viewable), but it was not clear that you could even pull the strip down to open up an inner experience.


Readers only saw the copy,  “What Goes Around Comes Around”, but unless they were able to tell that the back page was thicker than normal, they might not have taken a closer look.  When the page was opened, you could see that there was not much more than title, tune-in and a QR code.  Users don’t know more about the show and are not really drawn to find out what’s behind the QR code.  So, they ‘ve put themselves behind the 8-ball as only inquisitive people who pay attention to page-weight irregularities (odd folks like me) would open it and then the numbers would drop off again for users who would actually scan a QR code.  Anyone who would be interested in scanning would be just as interested in finding out that they were releasing the pilot script on Kindle if they were to include that information here.  (But that’s getting too geeky and veering from the point.)

While this execution does not allow for digital tracking of interactions like digital rich media does, they could get some feedback based on how many people scan.  But those numbers will most-likely be so small that it could be depressing to present to network bosses who are more comfortable with the Millions rather than the hundreds.

I do give ABC credit for trying something new – and Entertainment Weekly for offering it in the first place – but this execution provides a strong argument for not just doing something “cool” but well positioned.  And, don’t forget that its got to have some narrative value that provides more for the consumer than what they could alternatively see in a simple print execution.  Experimentation is great as long as it is not wasted. We’ve learned a lot from the cool things that didn’t meet an audience effectively. Is this execution coming at a time where they should have known better?  Perhaps, but we don’t know enough about the mechanics of how it came to be.

In this case, they needed to provide some value for those who explored and found the expanding ad.  Just an image doesn’t cut it.  Additionally from an impressions viewpoint, they restricted themselves based on the mechanic and messaging.  Time is getting tighter and short of crazy flashing lights, executions need to break through the clutter in order to truly be rich.

There are definite opportunities for print media to become rich media, it really comes down to leveraging the proper publisher, the proper audience and the best storytelling.

Original Content and Original Distribution

In the wake of NBC/Universal shuttering their online original content group, NBC Universal Digital Studio, the question of original content and its value comes into play. An AdAge story covering the closure relays NBCU’s statement that they are having a change in strategy to only showing content that supports its shows.  Of course, that seems to be in conflict with what Comcast so richly cherished in the opportunities found in the NBCU purchase by broadening its advertising inventory for its clients to make more money.  Their original content group seemed to be at least lining up some sponsors for its programming.  Perhaps NBC saw the success in the additional digital content from shows like THE OFFICE that did more for generating buzz – which in turn could lead to higher profits in ad sales for the show without the value-ad expenditures that come with original content creation.

The article also referenced Albert Cheng of ABC, when he mentioned that “It could also very well be the nature of the content we were putting on. People weren’t ready for that type of production quality” when referring to the closure of it’s short-lived Studio 9 original content group. That could have been just one point Cheng made, but if that is the guiding principle for closing the studio, it’s a bit mis-guided and shows a lack of knowledge about original content and those who like to consume it.  Regardless of the fact that their sales team couldn’t seem to find any sponsors or the fact that digital original content can have phenomenal production quality due to technology, it shows that they didn’t seem to grasp what was involved with original content either at the start or throughout the group’s short-lived run.

Original content is not an easy arm of broadcast television or cable or film.  Relationships to content, taste and expectations are different.  One of the biggest challenges is in conveying that difference to advertisers and executives who are sometimes expecting that what works on the big or small screen should automatically work on the internet.  Even with an understanding of that specific nuance, the sound distribution element is what is most often the missing piece.

What makes sites like Break, and College Humor successful as distributors is that they have their particular audiences and know them well.  They both have well-developed teams to produce the original content and the series that do well with their audiences.  Crackle is helped by the fact their original content runs among catalog features and TV shows. While YouTube is a great distribution vehicle, there is a bit more work that goes into driving eyeballs to a specific piece due to the breadth of content posted daily.  By using Break and College Humor’s teams – whether production alone or as a media buy, positioning and views are usually much more streamlined and effective.

Hopefully, a model will come for the effective viewing of more types of original content, but it certainly is not in the hands of the broadcasters.  There are developments on the set-top box side outside of the States that could be effective in the distribution of that content.  Imagine having channels that aggregate types of content – sort of like what BoingBoing does with its in-flight programming – that allows passive “streaming” of a viewer’s chosen type of original programming.   We’ll see if NBCU’s Comcast unit makes the decision to be at the forefront of that distribution, as it would absolutely leverage their stable of talent and resources (both production and distribution) and the fact that they actually own the set-top boxes the content would run through…

Searching the Perfect Break

Perhaps the only thing more frustrating than being behind the curve is being too far ahead of the curve.  It usually leads to the lamentation that “I was there first” when everyone else jumps on the “newest thing”  6-12 months after you have executed or even just thought about it. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of not having the strongest product and, over time, someone else comes up with a much stronger solution (Friendster – MySpace – Facebook) or sometimes its just when people just aren’t ready for it.

The key is to be able to  jump at that perfect time – almost like a surfer choosing a choice wave at the perfect spot and perfect moment – or get your ducks in a row so that you can quickly launch when you see that wave coming. As with anything, it is about timing, but preparation and a solid product are the only things that can help you ride that wave once it comes.

Thinking back on some projects I’ve been remotely or directly involved with, two come to mind that were just absolutely before their time:

David Frankel is a well-known award-winning writer-director who wrote and directed a pilot starring Bebe Neuwirth for ABC back in the mid 90’s.  It was a single-camera comedy that was extremely funny, but the decision was made that the format was too “different” than what many were used to at the time. Television comedies were all about multiple cameras with a live audience (or laugh track) and this had neither – though I think they might had tried one version with a laugh track – but it certainly was breaking some molds when it broke the fourth wall and characters spoke directly to camera. Whatever the reasons, it was not picked up. Ultimately, DEAR DIARY was submitted to the Academy in the short fiction category and won an Oscar (Dreamworks’ first Academy Award.) Fast forward and when you look at the comedy spectrum on TV, the most popular broadcast and some cable comedies are single camera without an audience.  By the way, I always felt like David should get some credit for SEX AND THE CITY because if you watch his film from 1995 starring Sarah Jessica Parker, MIAMI RHAPSODY, you can’t help but draw parallels between the two – character, substance and style.  I know he directed a few episodes of SEX, but…

I also remember sitting in a meeting at ABC in 1999 about a social networking site supporting the short-lived TV show, WASTELAND.  The premise was that there would be constant content added on its official site in the form of blogs and boards written in character interacting with viewers to generate awareness, loyalty and added engagement.  Everyone was really enthusiastic until one of the younger execs asked if there were going to be 3-4 million users per day.  Obviously, those numbers are beyond huge today, but they were even more unrealistic for online then.  Back then, it was also a much easier number to reach on-air that it is today.  I truly believe that this one was too early, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t on to something. Another thing to consider at the time was the cost of producing it. At the time, companies were charging ridiculously high amounts for production and this one site would have cost hundreds of thousands for an unproven show that only lasted 13 episodes. Ultimately, though, no one can argue how much this fictional/viewer or even just viewer interaction narrative has come into play over the years.

There may have been a few other things I’ve been involved with that might have hit too soon, or weren’t even allowed to go into the water because nobody really understood, that are commonplace today. Those events, products etc. have happened A LOT over the years for many people and companies in many industries and will continue to do so. But it makes the times that the wave was hit perfectly even that much sweeter.

Here’s a toast to the perfect break and may we all find it soon!