TV ads getting an evolutionary makeover
It is estimated that by the end of the year, more than 25 million U.S. households (nearly 25 percent) will have at least one digital video recorder (DVR) and more than 34 million (about 31 percent) will be VOD-enabled. Add to that the 4.4 million TiVo subs, and you've got a society gaining more and more control of the television set.
And with new technological advances tapped for the coming years, TV advertising as we know it is getting a fabulous makeover. No, it's not dying, it's adapting.
According to a Nielsen study, DVR users watch about 40 percent of the ads that they skip over. Which ones are they watching? Well, the ones that visually grab their attention, of course, because you've got to sing opera while dancing the polka and juggling buffalo to get an American's attention these days.
But the best way to get TV viewers to watch ads is to tell a story, to make the audience feel a connection with a product, to make a miniature award-winning movie, basically.
Take the Mac versus PC series of commercials, for example. "The original, unexpected, simple way that Mac does it makes me want to stop and watch," says Jim Signorelli, CEO of the Chicago-based advertising agency ESW Partners. "Advertising has to make you want to stop, especially now. It's critical. If you don't have something that is going to build on top of something that people are interested in, that builds on an emotional response, what have you got?" Well, probably a skipped-through ad.
So the trend is continuing a story in ads, such as the Geico "so easy a caveman can do it" spots. I don't own a DVR (yet), but when I do get one (soon), I will definitely stop and watch that lispy character deal with any-and-all insulting situations. I don't think it's enough to warrant an ABC sitcom, but . . . .
This trend isn't necessarily anything new. We all recognize the annoying-yet-somehow-loveable Energizer bunny that will probably never go away. Storytelling is just far more imperative in this time-shifting, anti-commercial age of TV. And so is placement. "I want to be first in the pod," says Signorelli, "because I have a chance, before anyone hits the remote, to get exposed."
But then there's the interactive future of TV advertising, because according to Lucette Mercer, director of research for Comcast Spotlight's Southwest Division, "Television's best days are ahead of us."
One company offering the new innovative technology of an interactive, Web-like experience on the television is ICTV Inc. Its ActiveVideo platform allows for channel branding, where if you're watching CNN on a linear stream, an overlay can appear that says, "For more information about this story, press the 'A' key." You can then move from that linear stream to a live extension of CNN.com on your TV, which is a great opportunity for targeted and interactive advertising.
Telescoping is another ICTV offering, whereby you can click on an ad and "go into a telescope" with VOD technology, says ICTV's COO Ed Forman. The example he gave was someone being directed from a humane society public service announcement to a list of available dogs, with each having its own six to eight minute linear video. "This is what's coming next, coming after what's already out there," Forman says.
And transactional capabilities are already up-and-running, Forman says, where you can store your credit card information and order products from your TV, just as you would on a computer.
And then there's Terayon's trusty CherryPicker, which inserts digital ads on top of MPEG-2, and now MPEG-4. (Watch a Terayon digital ad insertion video here.) While most ads on VOD content are "baked in," says Terayon's head of product marketing Buddy Snow, and targeted nationally, the CherryPicker allows for targeted, localized ads to be sliced into the VOD content.
The telcos have an advantage with this, Snow says, because they send video to individual households, one at a time, while cable operator's broadband networks send video to the masses. The new trend is for cable operators to get unicast, he says, to allow cable operators a one-on-one connection to individual STBs, allowing for targeted and localized advertising. He sees unicast and switched digital video—where a cable operator can stream individual channels to requesting households instead of broadcasting 250 channels to each sub—becoming realities in the next decade, and the CherryPicker is designed with this in mind.
Since I've never known a world without 15-, 30- and 60-second spots, it's hard to imagine this new age of TV advertising. Sure, I think commercials are a nuisance, but so are 45-second intros to leaving a voicemail. But I can't wait to see the new Mac versus PC ad, and if Super Bowl commercials ever go away, well, it wouldn't really be America anymore.
—Traci Patterson, Web/News Editor - CED, Editor - xOD Capsule
Imagine adds VBR/statmuxing to SDV system,
integrates with TandbergTV
Imagine Communications announced its Switched Digital Video (SDV) system now supports variable bit rate and statistical multiplexing (VBR/StatMux) to improve video quality and bandwidth efficiency. Imagine claims the ability is an industry first.
Imagine is integrating with Tandberg Television's OpenStream SDV Platform. The VBR/StatMux allows operators to supercharge their VOD and SDV deployments with up to 50 percent more streams per 256-QAM channel, the company said.
Using the multi-rate CBR feature, Imagine ensures that difficult-to-compress services will have equivalent perceived quality relative to other signals. The CBR rate for each service is automatically determined by analyzing actual empirical data from each signal.
With VBR, Imagine enables up to 15 SDV signals to be statistically multiplexed in a 256-QAM channel, while maintaining the video quality of the incoming VBR digital broadcast signals. The QOD Gateway allows operators to maintain centralized bulk encryption of their SDV signals.
Imagine-processed VOD and SDV signals can also be multiplexed through a common QOD Gateway hardware platform and can support optimized EdgeQAM sharing. Also, Imagine's products employ industry-standard open interfaces, allowing interoperability with any Session or Edge Resource Manager (SRM/ERM), EdgeQAM device and VOD server.
Imagine CEO Jamie Howard said, "One of the goals of a successful SDV deployment is maintaining the quality of experience for digital cable subscribers with respect to video quality and channel change latency."
Imagine will showcase its QOD product suite at NCTA's The Cable Show '07 in Las Vegas, May 7-9.
Vudu spell coming
It took more than two years, but Vudu Inc. has built a small, Internet-ready movie box that connects directly to TVs and offers instant access to more than 5,000 titles without a PC, cable or satellite TV subscription. The product is expected to launch this summer.
The company said it has closed deals with seven major motion picture studios: The Walt Disney Studios, Lionsgate, New Line Cinema, Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Studios and Warner Bros. Entertainment. Upon launch, Vudu said it will be the only company to offer instant access to movies, and with no wait-to-download time.
"We've created the product everyone wants, the product many have tried to build, and, until now, the product no one has succeeded in delivering," said Tony Miranz, founder of Vudu.
The company has also struck deals with 15 top-tier independent and international film distributors.
Concurrent unleashes next-gen on-demand suite
Concurrent has launched the MediaHawk On-Demand Back Office Software Suite (MHBOSS), which enables apps such as time-shifted TV and nDVR.
The suite, built on Oracle's 10g database and Real Application Clusters (RAC), is scalable and can extend to support any number of emerging apps, the company said. And as on-demand utilization increases, the suite's capacity can, as well, with the addition of computing and storage modules.
MHBOSS' open architecture allows interoperability with multiple VOD server vendors and numerous software apps through interfaces such as XML and SOAP, and the suite is designed for integration with OCAP apps, the company said. The software also provides Web services for any apps that require information from the back office.
Concurrent's MediaHawk 4500 and 4000 lines of video servers are compatible with the new on-demand offering.
Concurrent will demonstrate the MHBOSS at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Orlando, Fla., June 19-22.
Sun Microsystems launches streaming video platform
Sun Microsystems Inc. has introduced the Sun Streaming System, a video delivery platform for cable and telecommunications operators offering new video-based services and personalized video streams to each consumer.
The system, designed by Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim, enables the Sun Streaming System to support up to 160,000 simultaneous video streams, at the rate of 2 Mbps, at a price of less than $50 per stream for a complete video headend, the company said.
The system leverages the Solaris 10 Operating System (OS) to deliver video streaming capacity via existing optical network infrastructure.
C-COR firmly in the black, but stuck at a level
C-COR reported results for Q3 of fiscal year 2007, ended March 30.
Sales for Q3 were $82.7 million, compared with $60.4 million year-on-year and $80 million from the previous quarter.
C-COR's Q3 net income was $7.4 million, compared with a net loss of $7.9 million for the same period last year. The company's Q3 profit builds on several sequential quarters of profitability, however, and a book-to-bill ratio consistently above 1.0 recently.
C-COR's sales have apparently hit a level, though. The company said it expects net sales for Q4 of fiscal year 2007, ending June 29, to be between $78 million and $82 million.
TV Guide goes interactive on Dish Network
EchoStar Communications' Dish Network said it will soon add an interactive recommendation feature to the TV Guide Channel. The application was developed for Gemstar-TV Guide by Ensequence.
The new app provides recommendations for what to watch for up to 10 different categories at a time. The TV Guide app will be available sometime before the end of Q2 2007.
Dish Network will also add other interactive features. Subs will be able to set program reminders, schedule digital video recordings, upgrade their Dish Network package and order pay-per-view programming.
At the same time, Dish agreed to have all TV Guide Channel programming be full-screen beginning May 2 on the new location, channel 117.
BBC launching VOD, free satellite with ITV
The BBC Trust has issued its final approval of the BBC executive's proposals for new on-demand services, with some modifications. The on-demand proposals are the first to go through a Public Value Test (PVT), the company said.
The two changes are for series stacking, where a 15 percent annual quota has been added and the editorial guidance of which series can be included has been revised; and for platform neutrality, where the Trust will audit the BBC's progress every six months and publish its findings.
The BBC has also been given approval by the Trust to launch a nationally available, free-to-view satellite proposition as a joint venture with ITV Network Limited.
"Freesat" will provide an SD- and HD-enabled digital satellite proposition, with a launch expected for spring 2008.
• DirecTV, Weapon7, MediaCom launch interactive ad campaign
DirecTV, Weapon7, a London-based digital iTV agency, and MediaCom Communications Corp. are developing and launching a global interactive advertising campaign for Royal Dutch Shell plc, which is already running in the U.S.
The new campaign is running concurrently in both the U.S. and the U.K., and it focuses on Shell's creative energy solutions, DirecTV said.
• Harmonic hands in a solid quarter
Harmonic Inc.'s net income for Q1 2007, ended March 30, was $1 million, up from a loss of $5.1 million year-on-year. The company reported net sales of $70.2 million, up 25 percent from $56.2 million year-on-year.
The provider of broadcast and on-demand video delivery solutions said that gross margins for the quarter were lower than anticipated because of an unusually high proportion of edge and access product revenue, which carries lower margins than other product lines.
• FTS, Sandvine enable service personalization
FTS and Sandvine have integrated the former's business control, billing and CRM solutions and the latter's deep-packet inspection (DPI) based policy management solutions. The combination aims to give operators the ability to respond to customer behavior in real time with personalized services. For example, if a premium customer orders a VOD stream, the provider can dynamically improve his or her service level to guarantee an optimal viewing experience.
• Streaming21 adds H.264 to support IPTV services
Streaming21 has added support of H.264 and IPv6 video streaming with highly scalable video delivery to its Media Server product. The new version, Media Server 6.0, enables delivery of MPEG-4 compressed video at much lower bit rates than standard MPEG-2. The groundbreaking technology cuts in half the bandwidth required to deliver broadcast-quality video streams for VOD and HDTV.
• Comcast's Q1 reflects VOD growth
In Q1 2007, Comcast Corp.'s video revenue rose by 8 percent to $4.4 billion, reflecting growth in digital cable subs and an increased demand for features such as on-demand, DVRs and HDTV programming, as well as higher basic cable pricing, the company said.
Comcast's pay-per-view revenue increased 26 percent to $181 million in Q1, driven by increasing VOD movie purchases. PPV revenue has increased more than 20 percent, on average, for each of the past nine quarters, the company said.
• Unicast launches 3D ad suite
Unicast by Viewpoint, an Internet marketing technology company, has unveiled the Unicast High Definition 3D Ad Suite (HD3D), which includes new 3D ad formats.
Unicast HD3D provides rich-media advertising by incorporating 3D technology rendered into an interactive 2D Flash environment. The suite comprises standard interactive 3D ad formats such as the 3D Video Cube, 3D product Configurators and 3D Advergames.
• VOD is confronting hurdles, according to an iMedia Connection article.
• Sony Pictures Television Intl. has secured its first free VOD deal in Korea, according to VarietyAsiaOnline.com.
• Bright House Networks has launched You On Demand in central Florida, according to an Orlando Sentinel article.