WPP And TRA Tangle; Moving Beyond Cable – At The Cable Show; Can Targeted TV Open Local?

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June 20, 2011 – 12:03 am

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The ability to precisely match consumer purchases and advertising has been the Holy Grail of advertising ever since commerce emerged out of early barter systems. And the battle to do so appears to be intensifying. Case in point: WPP Group has filed a lawsuit against TRA, a company that the ad holding giant has invested in, over patent infringement, Adweek’s Janon Fisher reports.

Specifically, WPP’s Kantar Media Audiences, along with fellow TRA investor, Cavendish Square Holdings, is requesting a determination of whether WPP is infringing on TRA’s patent for studying consumer activity. Prior to the suit, TRA filed the first salvo in a letter to Cavendish, claiming that Kantar’s Rapid-view Retail offering appears to be a “misappropriation” of TRA’s ability to connect TV viewing data with purchasing data. Kantar concedes that TRA had an existing product before it launched Rapid-view in March. But the suit appears to have something to do with TRA worrying about how much it should share with its investors, who after all, can be potential competitors.

Looking Beyond Cable

One of the most important topics that came up repeatedly at this past week’s National Cable Telecommunications Association Cable Show in Chicago was about how MSOs can keep up with their subscribers and move beyond the cable cord and box. As Andrew Rowe, head of software product management for Ericsson’s Solution Area TV, told Multichannel News’s Todd Spangler, “Cable operators are not really cable TV operators anymore.” Ericsson demoed its Media Delivery Management System, positioned as the “next-gen” VOD and TV platform (one heard that kind of preamble a lot at the conference) and it expects to ship the product, a successor to the current OpenStream VOD system, in Q3.

There’s good reason for MSOs and related businesses to look beyond – but not necessarily away from – the traditional set up. As recent Nielsen research shows, bout 70 percent of tablet owners and 68 percent of smartphone owners surveyed said they use their devices while watching TV. Providers are finally catching on to the idea that if they don’t expand their reach to hand-held devices, they will join newspapers and the record industry in dustbin of media history.

Cable’s (Over-)Confidence?

Staying on top of emerging technologies is what will keep the cable industry in the proverbial catbird seat, Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) Executive Vice President and CTO Mike LaJoie trumpeted during a Cable Show panel session. Of course, not everyone is moving at the same pace or in the same direction. TWC, which has tried to get past the cable box with an iPad app that lets subscribers view authenticated programming within their home, is facing a great degree of pushback from Viacom over moving its shows to a venue that is not measured by Nielsen. And that’s really the big “if” hanging over all these “beyond the set-top box” and “TV Everywhere” maneuvers by MSOs. If programmers can’t get advertisers to accept that there are viewers watching, there’s little interest in Viacom supporting a system that renders their potential ratings are represented by phantoms. So while the industry has smartly embraced ways designed to limit the challenge from over-the-top services from Netflix or Roku, it has a long way to go into making the OTT world viable for programmers. Read more at FierceCable

The Enemy Is Apple

As the cable industry tries to cope with managing new technologies and devices, it needs to know where the greatest challenges are. Right now, Netflix is considered Public Enemy No. 1, by dint of its growing library of streaming content. But as Ad Age’s Andrew Hampp writes, maybe Apple is the one to watch out for. Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes indicated that the cable industry was getting beaten at its own game by tech companies these past few years. "All [the content] you can get on smartphones and tablets, it's because of this infrastructure led by the people in this room. We're now being copied and augmented by telephone and satellite companies."

The industry’s main answer continues to be “TV Everywhere.” And it’s a good jumping off point as the industry has to balance the traditional ways of doing business – which is where the money will continue to flow via subscriptions for the next few years. And News Corp. COO Chase Carey is right that TV Everywhere need to be available at scale and with relative ease for customers in order for cable to truly compete with other technologies.

But in an age where the device where content is consumed is king, programmers and MSOs, like the record labels and magazine companies, will find that unless Google or some other tech company can provide stronger competition, it’s Steve Jobs’ world and the rest of us just live in it (and we pay him for the privilege.) Facebook is another platform that draws consumers together and could eventually evolve to serve programming in a more robust way than it currently does. After all, how many more people are watching YouTube clips on FB versus the Google video site? Supporting the creation of competitive platforms to Apple and Netflix are what the industry should be (and should have been) doing to prepare for the future.

More Ad Time

Cable companies are calling for more advertising time as spot and local cable advertising rose 20 percent to $6.6 billion last year. That figure suggests that advertisers are clearly not done making the shift from broadcast to cable and MSO’s are finding it necessary to open up more local ad inventory, reports B&C’s Jon Lafayette for Multichannel News. As things are looking more uncertain in the wider ad economy – Magna Global just revised its ad spend forecast down (read the release) – local is still seen as a growing force. In fact, as the economy weakens, local businesses find advertising as a necessity, not a luxury. Targeted TV can help unlock those local dollars by promising greater ROI. Apart from local businesses, local advertising demand is expected to pick up as activity around next year’s political races picks up for what is surely going to be another record breaker. But here’s the problem: if MSOs open up their local inventory, that will likely bring a competing problem, namely ad clutter. Still, as budgets at the national level tighten, clutter is the lesser concern.

But Wait. There's More!

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June 20, 2011 – 12:03 am

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