Cable Moving Steadily To Advanced Advertising (DBS Has A Healthy Lead In This Race)

Per this story by Steve Donahue in Light Reading Cable, Canoe is setting expectations for measured, steady progress in advanced advertising via cable. Interactivity is beginning to be rolled out now, but targeting at the individual household level is 4-5 years away.

Seth Haberman of Visible World is quoted in the article as estimating that 60-70 million households will be interactive and addressable and interactive during that 4-5 year timeframe.

Between now and then, the story will be all about EBIF deployment and steady increase in the sophistication of interactive capabilities offered. EBIF households should reach upwards of 20 million households by the end of 2010. DBS operators Dish Networks and DirecTV already offer substantial interactivity in programs and advertising to 29 million households. You might be wondering what the heck EBIF is. It stands for Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format, but really all you need to know is that it is a set of standards that will make it possible to deploy the same interactive code across all platforms that have implemented the standard. It looks like that will eventually be most Cable MSOs and IPTV providers.

What does this mean? Well, it means the long-awaited promise of TV interactivity is going to be gradually fulfilled. For programming, that means enhanced content and audience participation. For advertising, it means addressability, interactivity, and response built into ads. Finally, it means T-Commerce, which will make shopping on TV as easy and ubiquitous and easy as shopping on the web, and that will be available in programs and in ads.

The question is this: Will the internet absorb the functionality of TV (“Over-The-Top” delivery of TV programming) before TV absorbs the functionality of the Internet? We will have to wait and see. I think both will continue to exist, but will morph and mutate differently because they essentially serve different different viewer purposes and usage occasions.

The winners will be marketers and advertisers who crack the code about the right division of labor between the Internet, television, and mobile, delivering brand experiences that take advantage of the unique strengths of each available channel.

Alan Wurtzel’s Editorial in the Q3 Issue of the Journal of Advertising Research

More good metrics reading from the JAR: After my prior posting on metrics articles in the Q4 Issue of the Journal of Advertising Research, it occurred to me that I did not mention the editorial that NBC’s Alan Wurtzel wrote in the Q3 issue…

Now. Or Never – An Urgent Call to Action for Consensus on New Media Metrics” by Alan Wurtzel, President of Research and Media Development at NBC Universal
In this editorial, Alan Wurtzel lays out what he believes is a critical juncture for measurement of new media. He sums it up this way: “You can’t sell what you can’t measure, and, unfortunately, our measurement systems are not keeping up with either technology or consumer behavior.” The problem isn’t a lack of data – the samples are getting bigger and the precision is getting greater. The problem is that technical challenges exist that make it hard to assess the validity of measurements. Without precise and transparent definition for how data are gathered and metrics are being calculated from data, Wurtzel says programmers cannot depend on the numbers as a basis for decision-making. Proprietary considerations are holding vendors back providing this level of visibility into their processes.

Wurtzel cites a case – quoted by many sources last fall – where NBCU purchased and compared viewership data for the “Heroes” finale from several different set-top box (STB) vendors. The difference between the highest and lowest measurement of the show’s ratings was 6% – which translates into $400,000 of difference in revenue. While 6% sounds low, the “Heroes” example had high enough ratings that they should have had relatively low variation in measurement, meaning that the variation in ratings for lower-rated shows would be much worse. And this is variation in purportedly directly-measured STB data, which should have had little variation at all.

According to Wurtzel, there are serious differences between different vendors that cause this variation. For example, there is no standard way to determine whether or not an STB-attached TV is on or off from the STB data stream, so every data vendor has come up with their own algorithm for deciding when the TV is on or off, and they aren’t sharing these algorithms. There are other similar “edit rules” that each vendor carefully guards. This creates differences in the measurements generated. Now, when you think of the task as not just measuring TV, but an integrated understanding of how a program works across three screens (TV, Mobile, and Internet), now you are looking at huge gaps in comparability and meaning of metrics from screen to screen.

This was written last Fall. What grew out of this thinking was the CIMM, which I have discussed in prior posts. What is likely to happen in the long run is anyone’s guess, but Alan’s article reads like a set of product requirements for the ultimate three-screen audience metrics platform, so the best outcome would be for some smart entrepreneur were to develop just such an offering. Hmmm… I’d say keep your eyes on the marketplace.

CIMM Meeting With TV Measurement Companies set-

According to an article today in MEDIAWEEK (see article here), the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement is meeting with Nielsen, Rentrak, TiVo, TRA and TNS Media Research to get feedback about their set-top box research RFP (see my last post). I would love to be in on those meetings – it would be like getting a glimpse of the next 5-10 years of media measurement. In any case, they would not be boring – especially the one with Nielsen, whose current ratings are the thing that CIMM is looking to replace with something better.

The article states, interestingly that CIMM: “… can depart from the typical RFP process of awarding a single contract and instead foster a collaborative relationship among the research and data providers to identify multiple projects that would meet the RFP”. Perhaps they, too, wonder who would respond.

Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement – the CIMM – Gets Launched

The Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (the CIMM) launched their website last week ( Members in the coalition consists of TV programmers, advertisers, and ad agencies. While AT&T is represented, it is their Brand Marketing and Advertising SVP who is sitting on the council.

The CIMM released two research RFPs on their site last week. The two areas for investigation:
1. Investigate the current and future potential of TV measurement via set top box data
2. Cross-platform measurement of video across Television, Internet, and Mobile

This may sound simple, but don’t let the short sentences fool you. The first one alone is loaded with gotchas that will make responders think twice. First of all, they have to be the first of the set-top box vendors willing to be completely transparent with their data and their processes. This is unlikely to be undertaken by an operator for the usual price of a research study.

Who knows? Maybe I am wrong and one of them will step up in order to get first-mover advantage in the data-vending business. Maybe AT&T will get pulled in because of their participation in the council. The reason I am skeptical is that the operators are unlikely to arm programmers with better information to use against them in negotiations around carriage fees etc. without getting a really huge concession or advantage in return. Perhaps it might make more sense for a company like TiVo to participate than it would for a cable, telco or DBS operator.

As someone who wants access to the information, I hope I am wrong and would love to be proven so. We’ll see.

How To Maximize Viewer Participation In Your Interactive TV Applications

Here are several ideas to drive maximum interactive participation and duration for your interactive television application:

Idea One: Begin With the End in Mind (apologies to Stephen Covey)

What is your business objective? If you get specific about what you want viewers to do with your interactive experience, you can design to make that more likely. For example, if you want viewers to interact for a long time, that favors design that is immersive and absorbing, with lots of content and lots of features. On the other hand, if you want to get the highest possible number of viewers to participate in the experience, then an unobtrusive and streamlined experience is what you want, with very focused functionality (e.g., opt in, vote for your favorite contestant, then exit).

Idea Two: Have a Compelling Viewer Value Proposition

Once you know what you want the viewer to do, you need to design an experience that meets that objective AND gives the viewer compelling value for the time they spend interacting. A weak viewer value proposition yields weak performance vs. your business goals.

Idea Three: It All Starts With a Click (No Click = No Participation)

Viewers will likely have no advance knowledge about what a particular interactive application does (or even what iTV is), or why they should care about it, so whatever is displayed on the screen to entice/enable them to start the experience is critical. I visualize the flow of viewers into an interactive application as a huge funnel with a very tiny hole in it. You want to:
1. Make the hole at the bottom of the funnel less tiny – make the prompt visible, enticing, and self-explanatory
2. Increase the “pressure” in the funnel – present a call to action that makes it obvious and compelling why viewers should interact (communicate your viewer value proposition)
3. Fill the funnel with as many potential interactors as possible – by presenting the opportunity to start the experience to as many of viewers as possible.

Idea Three: Present Many Opportunities to Opt In

Interactive experiences with more opportunities to enter them get more viewers participation. That means:
1. Present the opportunity more frequently during a given program or ad
2. Present the opportunity in multiple contexts (triggers in programs or ads as well as listings and banners in operator interactive portals)
3. Present the opportunity at multiple times of day