Cable TV Internet Convergence

tvNAB 1997
It was about 10 years ago or so that I was walking the floor at NAB. Everywhere the word “convergence” was being tossed around faster than the poker chips over at Caesars. Back then, no one was fully aware of what it meant. Somehow, technologies were going to seamlessly merge and create a utopian world for the user. Trouble was everyone had a different idea of how that world would look and feel and more importantly, how it would be accessed.

Some thought it would come through to your eyes on the good old TV. Some thought the PC was going to morph into the new electronic hearth. Now bring cell phones, game consoles, and portable video devices into the mix making the combo platters of content delivery endless and globally available. Will the delivery of content be a convergence or a collision?

Cable as the Content Gatekeeper
For quite a while now folks in the Internet business have had an endless supply of distribution channels and anyone with a few bucks could start a web page. However with bandwidth reclamation by cable MSO’s and the growing bandwidth highway that digital compression creates cable is finding itself having more space than content. There is very little content control on the internet but since it’s creation TV broadcasters and cable operators have always been gatekeepers. You may spend a few bucks a month to host a website but starting your own TV station or building your own cable head-end is a bit more of a dollar intensive undertaking.

Slowly as the model for cable is starting to shift (many more content streams) we will have to access to fill all this new space. The challenge for advertisers and their agencies is to find ways to access those eyeballs as audiences’ viewing habits veer father and farther from the beaten path. In the world of cable the new technology of On Demand will lead the way in finding those eyeballs. With On Demand the viewer is choosing the content to view thus making entertainment an active experience as opposed to a passive one. In the old world advertisers looked for audiences and hoped that they would tune in at the right time and day to see the message. Now viewers will seek out those same messages and the information they contain whenever they want to see it.

As I look in the crystal ball it becomes apparent that ads will become more and more intertwined with content, entertainment, information, and the advertising must flow seamlessly together. Not too far in the future, this might be a typical scenario:

On Demand
As you are at work someone tells you about a great episode of a show they saw a few weeks ago, so you go online to the MSO website and have that show downloaded to “Your Channel” on your DVR box. Then at lunch you remember that your wife wanted to watch a movie tonight, so you go online again and have it sent to your DVR. One the way home you’re talking to another commuter on the train about your guilty pleasure TV shows. You text message you box from your cell to download a few episodes of Gilligan’s Island.

Once you and your wife arrive home you tune to “Your Channel” on your DVR. Here are all your shows set for viewing. What you don’t know is that a computer also loaded ads into each of your shows based on qualitative research so that the ads match your buying habits on a nearly unique level. You use your remote, probably called an Air Mouse or something clever like that, and navigate to your movie. As your movie comes up the screen gives you the option to order a pizza right in the screen ad have it added to your cable bill.

You see some ads for Simon Delivers and since you’re spending the night in and since you have a little time before the pizza comes spend 5 minutes shopping for groceries. Any hey, since you’re a move fan how about a couple of trailers for in theater movies, and the chance to pre order the DVD? You spend a couple more minutes looking at the headlines delivered via an electronic publishing platform, then your cell rings and an automated voice tells you your pizza has left the shop ad will be at your door in 7 minutes.

Viola! Convergence. Now, if I could only get the clock on my VCR to stop flashing 12:00.

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