Exploring Web Video’s Impact on TV

Nov 4, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Programmers’ reaction time can be much more immediate on the Internet than on traditional TV.
When Herb Scannell’s Internet video company Next New Networks debuted a new segment on test-driving fast cars on its auto-centric broadband channel Fast Lane Daily in September, Internet viewers quickly let the company know how they felt about the new show: They didn’t like it.
The week of Sept. 24, Mr. Scannell said Next New received 30 e-mails from viewers about Fast Lane Daily, and 25 of those notes were from people who wanted “Test Drive” yanked. They thought it was too long and its production values weren’t high enough.
So Next New simply pulled the plug on the show on Sept. 28, just five days after its premiere.
That type of instant reaction is possible on the Internet thanks to the immediacy of the feedback mechanism, Mr. Scannell said during a keynote session at last week’s New Video Summit in Boston, a daylong conference covering the new business of Web video.
Other experts at the conference discussed the impact the Internet is having on advertising and expected changes in television measurement coming down the pike as a result.
During his speech, Mr. Scannell, who previously was president of Nickelodeon, broke down the difference in reaction times on the Web compared to TV. “The TV guys, they are used to delivering a tape and sitting back and watching everything happen. But on the Internet, once that video is uploaded, the work just begins as you start to reach your viewers and respond to what’s going on in the community.
All of our creators are very active in terms of checking out what the content and reactions are,” he said.
That includes the feedback on “Test Drive,” he said. “That was good feedback. We acknowledged that and stopped doing the test drives.”
Give ‘em What They Want
However, as the Internet continues to become a source for TV content, Web audiences will increasingly influence TV programming, he added.
“Production and the nature of what audiences are going to be wanting will come together, and the Internet will be a place and distribution mechanism for all kinds of television,” Mr. Scannell said.
“Over time you should get to a place where the quality [is similar]. You will have a generation of people coming into the Internet that will have their preferred toolkit and they can write and edit and don’t want to be compartmentalized by TV. These are the people that will define the Internet as being a different space,” he said.
Counting Users
As that transition takes shape, ratings giant Nielsen will change its strategy to take Internet viewing into account. To stay in the game as television viewing habits spill over from the TV set to the Internet with increasing frequency, Nielsen plans to measure overall TV viewership across both platforms, said Jon Gibs, VP of media analytics for Nielsen Online. By summer 2008, he said, Nielsen hopes to offer the equivalent of “gross impressions” both for commercial ratings and for programs across TV and the Internet.
“We want to measure programming on the online platform versus the TV platform and understand reach and frequency of those metrics for online and TV,” Mr. Gibs said during a panel at the New Video Summit. “We are doing a lot of in-depth work in tagging online video so we can get good census counts of how many streams are streaming, how they are streaming, and a very detailed analysis done on a sample-based approach. We are looking to do a capture of what the video audience actually looks like and we are taking a look at ad server data and getting a very granular view.”
Such a system is likely to make an advertiser more interested in buying ads across both viewing venues, said Peter Naylor, senior VP of digital media sales at NBC Universal.
“It’s not really the ad, it’s the audience,” he explained. “The Internet audience will be hugely informed by the audience on television. And we can use ad technology behaviorally to target on the Internet and that will influence TV.”
But even if measurement migrates to a one-size-fits-all metric, that doesn’t mean eyeballs will be weighed the same way. In fact, audiences for traditional shows on TV probably will still have more value for advertisers because they are predictable and safe, even if the numbers are equivalent.
“The cost for an ‘American Idol’ is going to be higher because the audience is more predictable and advertisers willing to go into that are ‘higher quality’ advertisers and they are used to paying for that type of content,” said Ben Weinberger, CEO of online video ad targeting firm Digitalsmiths, who spoke on the same panel.
As an example, the popular “The Landlord” Web video from Will Ferrell’s online comedy site funnyordie.com has received more than 47 million views in seven months, but it does feature a 3-year-old slinging swear words. “It’s a tricky thing,” Mr. Naylor said.
That’s why it’s incumbent on technology firms to provide a “brand-safe” environment for advertisers, said Amir Ashkenazi, CEO of video ad targeting firm Adap.tv, which places text ads as overlays on contextually relevant video content.
In fact, many of the emerging video ad-targeting providers are touting their ability to match ads to content that has been screened and is therefore dubbed “safe” for marketers.


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