Monday, May 18, 2009

Video Insider: The Real Big Shift in TV and Online Video

The Real Big Shift in TV and Online Video

The debate continues on Video Insider and throughout the industry: When will there be a significant shift of ad dollars from television to online video?  Most recently, Eric Franchi's "big shift" articles captured the attention of many readers and sparked a number of responses.  That's a sure sign of a good article and a hot topic.

But as some of you expressed in your comments, I think questions about if, when and how "the big shift" will occur lead us into the wrong debate.  Granted, the Internet has emerged as a major disruptive force for the advertising and publishing industries.  If you're a masochist and follow "The Media is Dying" on Twitter you can get minute-by-minute updates on the latest publishing death spiral, mainly with print media outlets.

When it comes to online versus print, online has emerged as the undisputed winner, literally bringing print to its knees.  The current economic crisis delivered the knock out blow and we watch in shock and awe as one venerable newspaper after another falls and disappears, seemingly overnight.

But don't hold your breath for a David and Goliath scenario with online video versus TV. As MediaPost's Wayne Friedman  and Joe Mandese  reported in their coverage of a recent Magna study, even with rapid growth online, video's share of advertising spending will hardly register for years to come when compared to the ad dollars big brands spend on television.

  Arguments that online's superior targeting and measurement capabilities are bound to tarnish the "gold standard" of TV content and result in brand marketers running screaming from television to online video also don't hold water.  The digital revolution in television has already taken place.  Video On Demand (VOD) technologies now provide consumers with more choice and brand marketers with behavioral, demographic and self selection data for improving ad targeting, which in turn improves the viewer experience. 

Just last month Virgin Media announced the results of VOD ad trials gathering consumer responses to ads from leading brands such as Kellogg's, General Motors, Royal Mail, Bodyform and the British Army.  The ads were inserted around selected on-demand programs viewed in 100,000 London homes.  Fifty-four percent of the trial participants reacted positively to the ads, which drove a 62% increase in consumer awareness of the featured brands.  There are currently 55 million views of VOD content across 55 percent of Virgin's 3.5 million subscriber base. VOD is growing fast and emerging as a significant network in terms of audience share.

Cable operators in the U.S. are conducting similar trials and soon targeted advertising within VOD content will become a common part of the television viewing experience. 

Sounds like the Internet, doesn't it?  Only it's happening on the best screen in the house.


At this point you might think I'm falling into the same debate trap like everyone else -- in this case trouncing online video in favor of television.  You could look at it that way, but in my view I'm just being pragmatic and accepting the findings of study after study pointing to fact 'the big shift' isn't coming any time soon.  As TV continues to learn from the Internet and become even more interactive, "the big shift" isn't likely to happen in any significant way at all. 


But that doesn't mean online video advertising will never come into its own.  As evidenced by much of the data and studies cited in Video Insider, there's plenty of research showing that online video advertising is growing and will continue to grow as an important avenue for brand marketers to reach consumers.  So, instead of "Waiting for Godot," let's focus on what's exciting about how the digital revolution continues to advance and improve video content and the viewer experience - whether online or on television.

Now content producers and brand marketers have more opportunities than ever before to reach the right people at the right time with relevant messages - online or when they're getting settled in the living room to watch their favorite television programs, live or on demand in playback mode.   And we haven't even touched on integrated campaigns between online and television video content.

That's the real "big shift" that's happening right now and for the future.

Simon McGrath is CMO of SeaChange. Simon can be reached at

Video Insider for Monday, May 18, 2009:

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