Tag Archives: DVR

If All Screens Are TVs, What Then?

TVolution Last week, the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences announced that they would be awarding prestigious Emmy Awards in an expansion of the short-form series category. The deeper explanation of categories and requirements is:

The Emmys has expanded the short-form series awards to four categories: comedy or drama; variety; reality/non-fiction; and animation. Series must have a minimum of six episodes with an average length of 15 minutes or less, and be shown on traditional TV or via the Internet. Awards have also been added for short-form actor and actress as well.

What struck me is the inclusion of something that was not traditionally television within a “traditional” television environment. While not completely out of line with what the academy has done in the past – they have a membership group that focuses on digital content and they already expanded the meaning of Primetime when they included cable shows that could effectively be consumed at any time (a la HBO, Showtime, BBC) nearly two decades ago, before even DVRs and time shifting came around – it certainly seemed a bit of a land grab for an organization to stay relevant in the shifting of landscapes to an unknown future.

Then, there’s a lot of noise about Facebook making a play for the streaming rights to NFL games over the past day or so that really brings to question:

What do we consider a TV moving forward?
If all screens are TVs, how are people going to interact with them and content?
When will we start gaining from data insights in making it a better experience?

Just looking at Facebook and their want for live sports content, they’ve already driven video views on the platform to 100MM per day. The opportunity to completely do away with second screen environments – where your friend’s comments appear adjacent to the video, effectively making it a huge virtual sofa – is an evolutionary game changer. And, the predictive opportunity for delivering content based specifically on what you’ve been interested in that day or even that hour is mind-numbing.

One challenge in all of this is how closely tied to the past TV – of any form -remains. Though the rising interactivity allows for lean forward video consumption, there are far more viewers sticking to the lean back model. They still might make a selection off their DVR, VOD, or even that time-worn event of choosing a channel, but why can’t we start moving toward content delivered in linear fashion based on what you would probably be interested in right now?

Why do we see a huge amount of content highlighted based on what we watched in the middle of the night on Netflix when I’m logging in with my kids mid-day on a weekend? How come I do an incredible amount of searching on Google, yet their owned YouTube only prompts videos that I’ve already showed my kids on my computer a month prior? When will Facebook come forward with a “You’ll Also Like” product based on what video I’ve consumed and not what my friends post? (To give Facebook credit, they’ve done something like this, but it comes across as being more advertising than value-add.)

I do see a time when we will be able to turn on a stream of content – both short and long-form – and predictive technologies will line up the content and you can choose to watch or skip. The reality is that there is so much data there, it’s sort of silly not to use it. Whether it is Google or Facebook that have people exploring on a daily basis – and they also deliver content – or Cable/Satellite providers who might have relationships with data providers, there should be an ability to curate in real-time what the viewer might want right now. The use of data right now is usually only good for showing me what I was interested in then. Imagine the possibilities if we could have what is top-of-mind now delivered to us.

Perhaps this thinking isn’t even breaking enough from the TV norms as we know them. As much of content is evolutionary, perhaps this will just be a step to opening our minds and experiences to enable an content distribution/consumption cycle we can’t even yet conceive of.

For those reasons, I’m excited about the question of “What Then?”


Tread Upon Our Content? We Won’t Take It! Or, Will We?

Last night, I caught the premiere of NBC’s new game show, TAKE IT ALL, hosted by Howie Mandell and had a little fun with it. While I absolutely enjoy narrative shows – sitcoms and dramas – more than game shows, it seemed that the bells and whistles were more reserved and made more sense with the context of the game show than they do on the other content I watch on broadcast and cable. Those bells and whistles I’m referring to are the incessant promotional graphics that come up in the lower-third, upper-third, corner or even full screen.  They are sadly more invasive than ever – partially due to DVRs, but seemingly more due to the lack of consideration for the content. How much will viewers stand to suffer as content is tread upon by messaging?

Courtesy of NBC

Courtesy of NBC

David Goetzl wrote about the intrusiveness of networks over programming as a response to DVRs in his MediaPost entry this morning.  While focusing on the encroachment of promotional messaging within a network’s shows, he posits that actually selling overlay advertising inventory may be right around the corner. I shutter to think how much that will diminish the actual content that provides the platform advertising relies on.

Back at the turn of the century – remember 2000? – product placement for television was not effectively seen in Primetime. At that point, it consisted of a bottle of Mountain Dew given to the winner of a SURVIVOR challenge. There was a debate between networks and producers while trying to figure out who would make the money from those “promotional considerations.”  Since that point, the integration of products with shows has reached – and perhaps exceeded – the high science of product placement in motion pictures. Back then, it was still reasonable to assume that the network could make their bucks through commercial inventory sales.  But, is that opportunity window closing to the networks with the growing penetration of DVRs?

The line marking who profited (network/producer) from what type of integration has certainly blurred, but profit participation becomes secondary when when weighed against diminished content by distracting overlays.  An argument could be made that promotions are a different beast with the belief that “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” and all shows benefit from the promotion of other shows on a network. But as Goetzl writes, our time-shifting sort of makes that argument moot. Either way, if overlay inventory is actually sold and an item is distractingly pitched over important narrative content, the network might have the short gain of a sale, but the long-term risk to the actual content (and its viewership) being greatly diminished.

Going back to TAKE IT ALL, the ability to DVR proof promotional items within a game show is certainly a solution – but not something everyone can do. We saw how devastating game-show-full schedules can be to viewership in general (check that same turn of the century period) so a solution for narrative programming is required.  Is that solution a widespread jump to running advertisements on top of narrative content?  Absolutely not. That would lead even more viewers to stop watching or switch to the pay-TV programming that has gained ground on Showtime, HBO and Starz or shift to streaming options – definitely not good for broadcast and basic cable networks.

Whatever the winning decision is, my hope is that they don’t tread on the content and destroy the television programs that have been the height of storytelling in the past few years.  Enjoy the show, TAKE IT ALL, but don’t encroach on the content and Take It All away.


How Do You Force Viewers To See?

While watching an NFL game on DVR, my 3 year-old daughter yelled for me to stop speeding through the commercials.  I can only dream that she actually cared enough about football to be ensconced in what was on the television.  And, any marketer or media planner would be dreaming to think that this was a sign of the future – where people will be demanding that commercials not be forwarded through.  To be fair, Scrat (of ICE AGE fame) would have to be included in all TV spots to garner this much attention from a child on a regular basis.  The furry prehistoric rodent chasing an acorn was what forced my daughter to make me stop and go back to view the spot in real-time.  This phenomenon and other research within the last 6 months – and even released this week – point toward a dynamic, nuanced future of A/V media challenges and opportunities.


Back when DVRs came out, there was such a concern about viewers not watching commercials.  People were lamenting the end of commercials and the required changes to in-content product placement.  That execution of product placement has seen varying degrees of success, but the commercials still remain key.  Back in May, IPG Media Lab and YuMe released a report that showed these results regarding TV viewing:

When participants did use the DVR to fast forward TV ads, nearly half of them paid full attention to the screen during that process. Fast-forwarded ads had 12% more attention levels than non-fast-forwarded ads. Despite the advantage of eyes on screen, fast-forwarded ads had much lower recall than non-fast-forwarded ads.

Ultimately, we don’t know what the ads used were, but from my own experience, I usually DVR the same shows each week and the ads are pretty consistent from week-to-week.  Does the repetition factor of the same commercials being fast-forwarded through create a collective impression and conveyance of its message?  For years, research has proven that people need to see something numerous times for it to sink in – it shouldn’t be any different here. Again, from my own experience (and, I guess, my daughter’s) those ads with something engaging – whether through content or imagery – attract attention and cause me to check it out.

The key with DVRs is that you still have to look at the screen – even if just to see when the commercials end and the program begins. The IPG MediaLab/YuMe report also focused on online viewing of shows that force you to watch 30 second spots – causing a higher recall rate.  But the kicker (or relative ad destroyer) was the distraction of smartphones – causing a 60% distraction rate for TV and 46% distraction rate for online video.

The addition of smartphones to the mix is the focus of a recent Razorfish Outlook Report by Jeremy Lockhorn.  The report’s focus is on the multi-screen future – with its own set of challenges. Realizing that 80% of the respondents multitask on their mobile phone while watching television, further details are striking:

70 percent of respondents who multitask do so at least once a week, with nearly half (49 percent) reporting everyday multitasking. Furthermore, during the course of a TV program, more than 60 percent check their phones at least “once or twice,” and 15 percent stay on the mobile Web for the full duration of the show.

Now, the question becomes “How many people are actually paying full attention to the screen while my commercials are running?”  One response to this is, perhaps, that DVRs aren’t quite so bad.  At least we know there’s eyeballs on the images if people are fast-forwarding.  They aren’t having the time to disengage like they would with mobile or laptop communication. And, with the way we are learning to absorb information at faster rates than ever before, we can’t write off that fast viewing.  If my daughter can catch something of interest at 3X speed, then current and future adults should be able to do the same – if not better.

Perhaps the winner here for “traditional” media is online video – where people are forced to watch spots at commercial breaks – even if it is just one commercial at 30 seconds instead of four of them equalling two minutes on air. When watching video on your mobile, tablet or even laptop, it is more challenging to whip out that second screen to interact.

The future does provide more opportunities.  We are seeing the unleashing of many second-screen applications for synchronized content – from HBO GO, to the ABC products, to numerous others – including the FoxPop App that I developed for 10 home entertainment properties only to be killed too soon because it assisted platforms other than Blu-ray.  If those second-screen iterations are done correctly, they can provide the opportunity to remain connected to their social networks, the web and the content on the screen (with all its advertisers represented fully.)

But, again,the future holds more opportunities that we do not yet see. What we see as the pariah solution now could end up being the best solution for the future. As shown above, the DVR is not necessarily the ad killer we once were worried it would become.  If the right frequency of rotation is booked and the spots are clear enough, even the fast-forwarded commercials can make an impression. Through proper evaluation and strategy, the concerns or challenges of today will bring the solutions for tomorrow without having to force consumer’s eyes against their will.

Marketing Triage?

Near the beginning of the series, TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY, one of the main characters, an ER Doctor, realizes that they have to do a radical change in the way they work the ER – because when nobody can die, triage priorities change in how you treat people.

By no means is consumerism making such an abrupt change, but one could wonder if that change has already begun and we should be evaluating how the rules of engagement might be changing in advertising.  Certainly, consumerism fluctuates with the times – sometimes people spend more and sometimes people save more.  The way in which they consume was relatively steady with the forms of consumption growing, yet following a similar path of bartering, going to a store to buy or ordering through a catalog.  But the growth in the past decade or longer has made that change exponentially – you can still do the above (thought bartering keeps rearing its head as an alternative either making a comeback or retreating further into obscurity) but you can also do a huge amount of research and make numerous purchases without leaving your bed.  One of the largest shifts in consumerism is that, sometimes, those purchases from bed are against other people in bidding on second-hand market items.  The questions surrounding the secondary market are too huge and divisive to even get into here, but technology is completely enabling people to not only ascertain a product’s value when they want to buy, but also make a decision to buy based on the value they expect when they have completed their use of it.  Alas, the opportunities to consume are seemingly endless while individual’s abilities to spend are not so limitless.

It also used to be that the timing dynamics of advertising were much shorter – the ad was either in print or on TV for a period of time – and the assumption (or hope) was that consumers would act immediately in response to those influences.  With technology being what it is and the economy being in a state that is sometimes hard to even know when you’re up or when you’re down, those timing dynamics are shifting in increasingly dramatic and variant ways. We would need to pair a degree in marketing with a PHD in mathematics, economics, psychology and perhaps even quantum physics to get to a point where we might have an absolute solution.  As we don’t have that, we’ve got to work our own way through by looking at examples around us:

  • I am so far behind on watching shows in my DVR that, if I actually pay attention to commercials, they are from months ago if not last year.  It was helpful in some instances where images of last year’s NFL promos brought happiness while the lockout was going on this summer.  I can’t tell you how many movie trailers were shown during my time-shifted shows that were already out of the theatres by the time I watched the shows a few weeks later.
  • When looking through websites and apps, I’m seeing ads for items I’ve already purchased or are not in the market for – meaning a wasted impression.
  • Digital billboards are cool, but there are now so many more opportunities to miss the impression as the billboard rotates through slides. Perhaps the only time I’ve wished for a red light to be longer was when I had just caught the last millisecond of an ad and wanted it to cycle through again…
  • With so many requests to be Liked on Facebook or hash-tagged on twitter, there is so much information to pour through and if I’m not online at just the right minute, I miss MANY things entirely due to the volume of feeds on my FB Wall or my Tweetdeck.
  • There are so many choices coming at any one time through all the types of media, there is a much higher proclivity to say “Forget about it. It’s too much and I’m turning it off.”
  • Alternatively, there is so much information that recall is limited and we are left searching for hours comparing products – but who has the time to do that.  Effectively, with this example and the two directly above,the choices are so many that it can physically and mentally be debilitating.
  • This list can go on and on…

Again, this doesn’t touch on the current concern in the economy that PEOPLE JUST AREN’T REALLY SPENDING MONEY.  There are many things on my mind that I want – from the cool Adidas Superstar sneakers at the Undefeated store to the Mercedes SUV I want as my next car – but they are all waiting.  The key is – what will I recall that I want?

The recall is the key. What can we do in marketing that will not only influence demand, but also influence recall when the time comes that the consumer can actually afford to consume?  Some verticals have this easier than others – especially daily consumables that need more active replenishment and are, therefore simpler to recall.  But others, like those mentioned above or lifestyle, fashion, beauty and travel products, need to take the long-term benefit of their efforts into account.  How will they generate excitement and interest in their product and enable them to easily recall that product when the time comes?

We need to find or create the vehicles to help consumers with recall.  Alternatively, we need to be open to new outlets that might be able to help achieve this effectively – both in cost savings and extended reach.  Whether it is being a founding sponsor for an event, charity or business, or a marketing plan that includes spends with new dynamic cost-effective applications that enable residual awareness beyond the original marketing window, there are ways to derive revenue by driving or growing recall.

In far too many cases, companies and organizations are leveraging their slimmed-down workforce to produce the output the company was doing before with fewer resources.  When this is done, there is no choice but to follow the status-quo and do things the way they have always been – even when the economics and the consumers are changing.

Just as the members of the fictional ER of TORCHWOOD determined that its more effective to treat those with the smaller injuries first since the others couldn’t die, let’s hope that we collectively take a good look at what we’re doing before we find the relationship between advertisers and consumers entering into triage.

Becoming Numb to the Screaming and Welcoming the Whisper

Back when I was developing movies and miniseries for television, I lamented how the broadcast products were being placed against premium cable products during awards season as they had a fundamental difference – broadcast movies had to have a seven act format that required some heightened element to draw people through the commercial break while cable movies were able to maintain a traditional three act format.  When comparing the two, I even felt that the traditional was more palpable as there was no annoying manufactured cliff-hangers or “Fake High” leading into each commercial break.  Looking at other forms of storytelling, I enjoyed and had emotional connections to the instances where they were able to convey narrative, and just plain breathe. 

Now, it seems like everything is reliant on the ultra-kinetic energy that was witnessed in those days of longform television.  Even watching television shows on pay cable that have no commercials has become exhausting as it feels like they’re afraid you’re going to walk away or change to another show that’s saved in your DVR.  Maybe its not because of our collective ADD, but because of our collective desensitization to all things shocking.  We’re not just talking graphic elements, but storyline as well.  Some of our favorite protagonists are serial killers, drug dealers, meth manufacturers, vampires and they just get zanier by the season. Images of death, destruction, sexuality, insanity and grossness just don’t register as being different or exceptional like it used to. 

We’re also seeing this type of reaction to the general population’s higher threshhold for advertising gimmicks and attention grabbers.  Just a few years ago, there was an outrage when Calvin Klein posted billboards with the following image:

Now, those types of images are standard in billboards.  It seems that there might be a fuss when one campaign does something shocking, but then we all forget about it and it becomes the norm.

But this isn’t about billboards.  It’s about the drive to just do something that will grab people’s attention but with seemingly no attempt to even convey what the product is – either through storytelling or description.

One such example of late is the commercial for Toshiba’s Thrive Tablet.  It is all about noise with giving no details about the product other than saying its the “First one to get it right.”  Huh?  With iPad being the leader nowadays and the the fact that they convey the multiple uses of their tablet in every outlet possible, why would Toshiba think this is a good use of their advertising dollars?

We’ve always seen the same thing in TV, Movie and Home Entertainment Television spots – where the emphasis is on breathtaking images and review lines without conveying much, if any part, of the story.  The thing I hear as being so good about RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is the humanity and storytelling.  It is almost like the special effects are just an assist to that instead of the main focus.  If you watch any of the spots on TV, all it shows is action, reviews and one out-of-context intimate moment between two apes.  I’ll see it because I am a fan of the franchise, but my intent is not helped by the spots.

There is so much emphasis put on “New” and “Groundbreaking” when it comes to marketing these days that it is collectively losing any meaning or power.  It reminds me of the early days of the internet when ads were just made to flash on and off or have a starburst around it or some lights or more lights.  it all became just a bunch of nothing.  We’re seeing it today where the rich media expandable ads provide no additional experience or connection that a standard unit could not have smartly shown.  There is such a drive for data but no real push for analysis and real strategy.

I recognize that Social Media is still relatively nascent, but many people are looking at it as their bully pulpit by just shooting stuff out into the ether with no real plan for enhancing engagement or community. 

This post is all over the place – just like all of the media exploding at consumers – it all just seems like noise.  The true challenge is to just take a breath and begin the connection to the audience or consumer.  The communication does not need to be loud – just thoughtful and well targeted.

It is much more easily said than done, but we’ve got to find a way to make our screams matter and our whispers mean even more.