DirecTV Response; Say Media On TV Time Shifters

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December 12, 2011 – 12:03 am

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DirecTV Response

While cable and satellite operators have long sold advertising directly to media buyers and marketers, their marketing services have never been as robust as the TV networks featured on their systems. As video-on-demand, over-the-top and "TV Everywhere" services become more mainstream, the companies that control the set-top boxes will increasingly ramp up their ad efforts, especially as they seek to keep high subscription prices in check, lest more consumers embrace cord-cutting more quickly.

So when DirecTV said it was integrating its Nielsen ratings and demographic data with CoreMedia's direct response media buying platform, the message to agencies and marketers was clear: we want more of your business.

For the most part, TV advertising is largely driven by big brand spending; the "call now" ads are generally thought of as cheap, infomercials – kind of like most display ad spending online. But as TV viewing becomes more interactive, DR spending will be a bigger part of the mix.

"The amount of DR advertising we do ebbs and flows and is primarily based on seasonality," said Amy Leifer, VP of Advertising Sales for DirecTV, in an interview with TVExchanger. "For the most part, DR ranges between 25- and 30 percent of DirecTV's total inventory. And yes, the holiday time tends to attract more DR ads."

With this agreement, DirecTV isn't claiming anything revolutionary here: CoreMedia's data was already integrated into DirecTV satellite rival Dish Network earlier this year. No, this is about the realization that as interactivity naturally opens up additional opportunities for not just DR, but for creating hybrid campaigns that are equal parts brand advertising as well, especially on a national level.

There's a larger message here as well. TV ad spending, for the most part, still relies on handshakes and verbal agreements, followed by (yes, still in many cases), back-and-forth faxing of orders. Companies like MediaOcean (the still-pending combination of Mediabank and Donovan Data Systems) are trying to bring the buying and selling process into the 21st century with its automated software systems, but there is more work to do on this than just a handful of platforms can handle.

By itself, DirecTV's deal with CoreMedia isn't a game-changer. But it is part of the larger change taking place, one that is progressing towards greater automation and interactivity.

Targeting TV Time Shifters

Here's something interesting for those advertisers trying to figure out how to reach online/TV multi-taskers: Of 170 million online users, 56 million are opting out of watching live TV, according to social media marketer Say Media, which is working with audience measurement company Quantcast to devise ways of capturing those consumers it identifies as being "off the grid."

The study, which was conducted with the IPG Media Lab and comScore last month, suggests that one-third of the online adult population has abandoned live TV viewing in favor of DVR-ing their programs or watching it through some other digital venue, such as web or an over-the-top service like Netflix or Boxee or an broadband video site like Hulu.

Since these TV viewers may be hiding from the traditional forms of advertising – the company cites a separate September study, from SEA Polling, that found that 88 percent of DVR users skipped at least 75 percent of the ads presented before them – Say Media believes it can root them out through behavioral targeting.

Apart from the boast and the stats on non-linear TV viewers, Say Media doesn't have much to say about its methods. (It says that one advertiser is currently testing its "Off The Grid" tools, but it declined to identify the marketer).

That said, given the data available through a number of avenues – Nielsen, for one, has made strides on tying together consumer data across all screens – the competition for TV viewers is certainly entering an interesting phase. Up to now, the contest to reach consumers with advertising from online and TV circles had been waged more or less indirectly. TV networks are no longer competing just among themselves. But now, blog networks like Say Media is making a clear play for consumers.

Still, this effort probably represents more of a option for TV networks, as opposed to a threat. If Say Media can make a compelling case for finding the viewers lost to live TV, it may also develop some important network partnerships. Or, perhaps even more likely, TV networks, through their own increased use of social media apps and networks and existing troves of consumer data, will begin developing deeper ways of targeting consumers even wherever their consuming media.

Apple vs. Microsoft

Excitement has been building for a true "Apple TV" -- a fully interactive TV set, as opposed to an over-the-top box – ever since Walter Isaacson's biography of the late Steve Jobs offered the vaguest hint at such plans (see this earlier report from for the details, such as they are).

But in the last two weeks, Microsoft has suddenly captured the eye of skeptical (cynical?) tech writers, who had long ago written off the Redmond software giant's futile attempt to challenge Google's search dominance with Bing or beat the iPod with its Zune player.

But one area where Microsoft is not taken for granted is it's the company's highly successful gaming and entertainment device, the Xbox. For example, the NYT's Nick Wingfield and Brian Stelter could scarcely contain their excitement over the continuing expansion of Xbox Live online entertainment subscription service and the Xbox 360 console.

And there is a lot to be impressed by. Just as Apple's latest iPhone 4S addition, the voice-powered digital assistant Siri, has knocked everyone's socks off, the Kinect peripheral for the Xbox will soon provide the greatest upgrade to the remote since the "clicker" was first started appearing in the '70s and '80s. Essentially, users will now be able to do "voice searching" on their remotes controls. Yes, we agree, that is pretty cool. And since we're talking about the central living room device, it does seem much more of a leap than Siri, which is still just a smartphone app.

Epicenter's Tim Carmody has been sizing up Apple and Microsoft's battle for the living and feels that the former still is viewed too favorably over the latter, at least in the TV arena. "If Apple's going to succeed in television, I think it will be by surprising everyone like they did with the first iPad: by bringing in a product right away that's both inherently compelling and priced much lower than everyone expects," he writes. "That will also keep copycat products from Google, Sony, Samsung or whomever at arm's length."

Tablets, even as an idea, were not that widespread even in tech circles when Apple set the world on fire in April 2010 with its first iPad. But TV is a different story. There is a lot of competition in the connected TV marketplace. And Google TV's poor reception with programmers and consumers can serve as a cautionary tale – remember the hype that product was greeted with? Unless Apple can charm the TV networks and studios more than Google has – and those constituencies may be looking to build up a rival against Google – it will have a difficult time offering an interactive TV that lives up to expectations.

That said, no one has gotten rich – at least not in the past several years – by counting Apple out.

But Wait. There's More!

By David Kaplan

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December 12, 2011 – 12:03 am

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