In Depth

Quotes: What does VOD need most in 2008?

TelevisionWeek asked analysts and executives at advertising agencies, cable networks, VOD networks and cable operators for their take on what VOD needs in the year ahead. Here’s what they had to say.

“It needs dynamic ad insertion to reduce creative lead time and speed up the data process. It also needs some type of measurement standard that helps advertisers understand the value of an ad in a VOD program versus a linear television stream. We are going on our fifth year of VOD advertising and, while the amount of available content has increased, dramatically little has changed in terms of business models.” —Michael Bologna, senior partner and director of emerging communications at Mediaedge:cia

“What VOD needs is more triple-A content and serious searchability. Neither are forthcoming and the number of people using broadband to watch TV content has already exceeded the number of people using VOD in the U.S., so that tells us where things are headed.” —Kaan Yigit, analyst, Solutions Research Group

“VOD needs to become more dynamic in 2008, and not just with ad serving but with the ability to shrink the lead time needed for content. Enhancements in user navigation, search and more branding opportunities would also be welcome upgrades.” —Douglas Craig, senior VP, digital media operations, Discovery Communications

“A better advertising model. The cable industry has used VOD to produce a real shift in the way people watch TV, but has failed to bring advertisers along for the ride.” —Ian Olgeirson, analyst, SNL Kagan

“VOD has the opportunity to be the most accountable television advertising. To realize that destiny, reporting must be open, consistent, complete and integrated into the everyday analytical, buying and reporting systems for broadcast and cable television.” —David Del Beccaro, president-CEO, Music Choice

“Nobody has published a network-by-network guide to how VOD does in terms of viewership. We don’t have a document that says, ‘Here is the network, here is how many homes they are in, the uniques and the gross impressions and the genres.’ That’s what I’d like to see this year, because otherwise how does anyone know what a VOD network is?” —Mitch Oscar, executive VP of digital, Carat

“Key game changers for VOD are dynamic ad insertion and intuitive navigation, both critical to ensuring the ability to compete with new means of distribution.” —Lucy Goldenhersh, VP of distribution, new technologies, Lifetime Television

“VOD needs a distribution solution across a national platform for delivery, insertion and measurement of dynamic ads, similar to the Internet. A viable advertising platform would invite top-notch content from network and cable, making on-demand a true must-see destination.” —Michael Bonner, senior VP, digital distribution, NBC Universal

“From a value proposition standpoint, VOD from a national programmer like Turner will change very little in 2008. This is not such a bad thing, considering it remains a key marketing opportunity for brand placement, offering a very limited-commercial-interruption environment with great brand recall capabilities. While dynamic ad serving still proves challenging, reporting is expected to improve in 2008.” —Chris Pizzurro, VP product and audience development, Turner Entertainment New Media.

“We need wide-scale support for direct marketing transactions to drive consumer connections. This can be used to present offers within VOD titles or links to watch additional related titles to capture more engagement for advertising clients.” —Raj Amin, CEO, HealthiNation

“With the increasing amount of on-demand content expected in 2008 and beyond, operators need to continue to develop the VOD user interface to be as consumer-friendly as possible. And the service still needs to be marketed and promoted. If a good/improved service and user interface falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?.” —Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst, Leichtman Research Group

“Cox is planning for still more time-shifted content on our network, both via on-demand and through customer use of DVRs. Within VOD, we will be offering customers substantially more HD content and expanding upon our My Primetime pilot, which is currently offering on-demand access to popular network shows from NBC and ABC starting on the day after initial airing. In addition to including other networks and adding more of their shows to My Primetime, we are looking to create structure or standards around the time-shifted network programming so that, for example, customers can depend on finding a number of the most recent episodes of their favorite shows at any given time. Cox is also focused on the enhancement of our [interactive program guide], both in 2008 and over the longer term, so that navigation is even more intuitive and helps customers to find more of what they want on television.” —Steve Necessary, VP of video product development, Cox

“If VOD doesn’t make some important advancements soon, it could die on the vine. It’s got great potential, but lacks speed in yielding an exciting advertising-supported model. The top five things VOD needs to get advertisers and their agencies excited are: better content (Where are the top-rated shows?); better navigation (No more sausage hunt, please!); dynamic ad insertion (Current lead times are laughable.); better ad delivery measurement (Exact “perfect play” commercial delivery with demos would be nice, and is feasible.); and the only real choice for a working model is to make the advertising as relevant as it can be (Think household addressability.). With collaboration, these issues can be overcome. However, almost all these fixes are in the hands of the cable MSOs—and I wonder, where’s a Canoe when you need one?” [Project Canoe is a cable industry initiative aimed at building a common ad-tracking platform.] —Tracey Scheppach, senior VP/video innovation director, Starcom USA