The TV Industry’s Dreadful Little Secret

| Particle Debris

Nasty secretsWe all knew the business model, commercial breaks, for the TV industry is a mess. But now the foolishness has been taken to new heights. Fox has filed a lawsuit against Dish Network for taking care of its customers. The whole industry is ripe for disruption and may not even see it coming. Perhaps Apple does.

Is there anyone who actively seeks to watch commercials on TV? Forty years ago, people were getting up to use the bathroom during commercial breaks. Why? Not interested. There have even been stories of water pressure in some neighborhoods dropping in sync with a big TV event’s commercial breaks.

TV ads are an old and outdated business model. And yet the TV industry continues to fool itself. The networks play a game and try to fool the advertisers into thinking that ads are being watched. All manner of trickery and self delusion are used to quantify ad effectiveness: Neilsen, surveys, and even a formula for how much an ad counts when it’s played back on a DVR from a previous recording. As I recall. there have even been experiments with sensors on top of the TV to detect if anyone’s in the room watching during a commercial.

In turn, the advertisers fool themselves into believing that their ads are effective, and if they don’t seem to be, ever more draconian measures are invoked, including sex.

No one that I know of likes to have a good TV show or movie interrupted by ads. We’ve all just had enough of the silliness. I remember once, years ago, I clocked a commercial break during a late night movie at nine minutes. When the movie resumed, my wife and I had lost the thread of what was happening. In this era of DVRs, watching ads is not considered cool or useful anymore.

The theme articles for all this are multiple. First, Dish Network introduced “Auto Hop” for some of their DVRs that could auto-detect and skip over all the ads during a playback. This is basically what you do now with the 30-sec fast forward button, but the software does it automatically. One analysis I saw said that this was a weapon Dish was developing to counter ever increasing fees by the networks to carry their content. But the ostensible reason is to benefit the customers. Sounds good.

This brought the network executives into a hissy-fit. CBS’s Les Moonves wondered how he could possibly bring fine TV shows like CSI to his audience without commercials. Disney’s Bob Iger chimed in and reiterated that great TV shows can’t exist without ads.

And now, as expected, the lawyers have been brought in. “Fox Files Lawsuit Against Dish’s Ad-Skipping DVR.

Dish has countered by saying the Auto Hop software simply does what the customer already does manually. (Perhaps they want to save us couch potatoes from using a extra calorie or two.)

This is all lunacy. For the TV industry to grudgingly allow a 30-sec skip button but launches into howls of protest for software to do it is both amusing and ironic. Ironic, because it’s usually the other way around. That is, large, hightech companies have figured out how to use software and hardware to coerce us, invade our privacy, and max out our credit cards. But when software technology is used to actually serve the customer, the Big Guys go into a panic and call in the attorneys.

The way out of this mess has already been found by many. Customers buy a TV series, after the season is over, on DVD or Blu-ray. They watch Hulu. They rent or stream movies from Netflix. Or they pay for a good show, without interruptions, on Apple TV. This is not a pervasive phenomena yet because no single company has had the power, influence, and technological expertise to make the grand exodus from the silliness a practical and pervasive reality.

And that’s exactly what millions are hoping Apple will do.

For a final punctuation on this, check out “Stop Flipping! The New Rules of TV.” You’ll have to step through the pages, but this one is worth it.

Apple TV

Tech News Debris

It’s a holiday weekend, so I’ll keep this part short.

Fortune has posted a really good article on “How Tim Cook is changing Apple.” It’s a good read. And what’s truly interesting is that the pundits never saw this coming. They never understood how a new CEO with great talent might step in and run things a little different, fix some nagging problems, and do things better in small ways that Mr. Jobs wouldn’t allow. Instead, the shallow fixation was, “Jobs is gone, Apple is doomed.”

Tom Cook

BYOD causes significant problems for IT managers, but it also is the key to hiring smart young talent. The notion here is that Apple’s investment in youth finally paid off big time. Smart, technical, young people are saying to companies, in the hiring process. “If you’re going to force me to use a BlackBerry, I consider you all doofuses, and I’m looking for a different company to work for.” There more elaboration here by Ryan Faas: “BYOD Is A Great Fit For Small Business.

It turns aout that iPads play a pivotal role in helping Greece restructure its debt. Think of it this way. It’s was a lot cheaper to sell Greece’s Finance ministry 100 iPads than to buy the whole country. “100 Apple iPads save Greece $140 billion.”

I’ve said this many times, and still people don’t believe it. There are people on the Internet who want to make money by assaults on your device. They are highly motivated and have technical resources. Accusing the security experts of being self-serving is like accusing the police of being self-serving when they issue an Amber alert. Here’s more on the topic. “McAfee sees ‘malware explosion’ across desktop, mobile platforms.”

Finally, as we remember this Memorial Day weekend all those who fought and died to defend our freedom, a science fiction nightmare has come true and is upon us. “Congress Should Ban Armed Drones Before Cops in Texas Deploy One.”

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Image Credit: “Secrets” Shutterstock.

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11 Comments Leave Your Own

Lee Dronick

Is there anyone who actively seeks to watch commercials on TV?

Yes, I do. I often find them to be more creative than the programming. Not that I sit watching commercials and skip past the programming. It just that I can appreciate a good advertisement as I do with good art, and depreciate a bad one. Furthermore someone has to pay for “free” programming, just someone has to pay for a free website. That being said I understand the viewer’s point of view, it is all about the balance.

geoduck

Quite right about commercials. What bugs me the most is half hour classics (24 minute actually I think). Shows like Charlie Brown Christmas broadcast over an hour. That’s right ~60% of that hour is commercials. That’s B***S***. I watch these classics, along with any series or movies I care about on disk or download. I’ve been asking my wife why we keep cable. She watches her sports and shows online and I watch what I want on line. In the last three nights we had the TV on once, (three times actually but there was nothing on that I wanted to watch the other two). Any more she hasn’t had a good answer.

I’ve forwarded the BYOD article to my boss. It is a good read.

Armed Drones in Texas? I like the part where he says that tear gas and rubber bullets are used day in and day out. So are firearms and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the state that executes more people than most countries in the world hanging a shotgun or M-16 from it. Anyone remember the Tom Lehrer song “Who’s Next?” It made me think of the last line where he says “We’ll try to stay serine and calm when ... Alabama gets the bomb.” Replace Alabama with Texas and it fits perfectly. I wouldn’t move to Texas under any circumstances. They’re nuts down there.

Mike Weasner

Back in the good old days of radio (1940s, 1950s) and the early days of TV, commercials were part of the show.  It is fun listening to and watching ads that are done by characters in the show.  Remember how Carnation Milk was woven into the Burns and Allen Show?  Remember how the Johnson’s Wax pitch was presented in Fibber McGee and Molly?  The ads were part of the entertainment.  Maybe advertisers should return to this model.  That would keep viewers watching instead of running away.

Lee Dronick

Mike, I am up at 4:00 AM. At that time of day, on many channels, the ads are the programming. smile

Lancashire-Witch

You (in the USA) could always try the BBC-model.  Pay TV with no ads. Unfortunately it’s been under attack by certain commercial interests for many years.

skipaq

I’m old enough to have caught the end of radio series and the beginning of TV programs. Ads in programs are to the point of aggravating. Just try channel surfing and you will see the same ad on several channels in the same time slot. More maddening is seeing the exact same ad over and over and over…all during the same program. It is punishment for trying to watch an entire show!

Sports programming is saturated with ads when once you could enjoy your favorite pastime without it taking so much of your time. I fondly remember when “cable channels” we’re special because they were ad free. Try watching a movie on AMC today. Aggravation!

WetcoastBob

Don’t have a TV.  Netflix is enough and no commercials.  Don’t listen to commercial radio either.  iTunes , NPR and CBC is enough

MacFrogger

John said (with minor edits):

TV ads are an old and outdated business model. And yet the TV industry continues to fool itself. The networks play a game and try to fool the advertisers into thinking that ads are being watched. All manner of trickery and self delusion are used to quantify ad effectiveness: ......In turn, the advertisers fool themselves into believing that their ads are effective, and if they don?t seem to be, ever more draconian measures are invoked, including sex.

Perhaps it is an “old” business model, but I’m not so sure it’s outdated. After all, isn’t giving away your content/stuff/services for free also Google’s business model?  Facebook’s too?  And so many other internet-based startups?  Maybe the story here is what’s old is really new?

The biggest difference I see is that with a TV commercial, the entire content is “pre-empted” while most internet ads exist in a corner of the screen. But let’s face it - the use of the former on the internet is unfortunately increasing. For example, you cannot view a Forbes article without getting a full-screen 30 second ad prior to the article. (Fortunately, you can skip the ad if you notice the very tiny print that allows you to do this.)  I find these the most annoying ads of all…

ctopher

When did sex become a draconian measure? smile

makuribu

TV was described as a vast wasteland in the 1950s, and it hasn’t improved since. The ads are more and more intrusive (and sex is a first option, not a “draconian measure”). The broadcasters still crank the volume up for ads, all the while denying they do it. The network logo is now ever present, in case you record the show, or post a clip on Youtube. And if that weren’t enough, you now get singing dancing banner ads telling you what to watch next. Combine that with the randomly changing schedule (or sudden cancellation) of any show I’ve ever wanted to follow, and I gave up. If the networks want to treat me with utter contempt, I’ll find some other source of entertainment.

Lee Dronick

The network logo is now ever present, in
case you record the show, or post a clip on Youtube. And if that weren’t
enough, you now get singing dancing banner ads telling you what to watch
next

The TV screen is starting to look a computer monitor when you are running Office.

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