The Google-Hulu Combo?; Samsung, Sony, LG And The Connected TV Conundrum; The Data Narrative

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July 5, 2011 – 12:03 am

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Google + Hulu?

As Google targets Facebook with Google+, aims to control the display advertising chain by buying supply-side platform AdMeld, and even works to replace the physical credit card with Google Wallet, now it is reportedly considering an acquisition of Hulu. The talks between Google and Hulu are only “preliminary,” the LA Times reports, citing unnamed sources. The NBC/Disney-ABC/ News Corp.-backed video joint venture is also talking to Microsoft and Yahoo as part of a possible sale as well. But a tie-up with Google is certainly the more interesting possibility, though both Microsoft and Yahoo have been stepping up their connected TV services lately through Xbox and Yahoo’s TV apps.

For one thing, there is no company that is as acquisitive as Google – let’s face it, the search giant gets what it wants. And it’s been more aggressive on building up Google TV, the company’s over-the-top service, after early setbacks with broadcasters. Last month, in fact, Google acquired Sage TV, a maker of software that turns computers with TV tuners in to DVRs.

Owning Hulu would immediately catapult Google TV above all OTT services, including Apple TV and even Netflix. Walt Disney Co. and News Corp., recently renewed licensing agreements to make Hulu more attractive for a sale and Comcast, which had to give up NBC Universal’s management control in the venture to get its acquisition of a majority stake in the broadcaster approved by regulators, is required to provide programming to Hulu on the same terms as the other owners.

Well, it can’t get more attractive for Google. And it will also be incredibly expensive. But Google’s deep pockets and willingness to pay any cost makes this a real possibility. (AllThingsD’s Peter Kafka also has a good take on what a Hulu sale would mean. Read it.)

TVs Beat Game Consoles

After years of waiting for a sign that would signal that WI-FI-enabled TVs would take off, a report from UK researcher Informa Telecoms & Media Worldwide predicts that sales of connected TVs will surpass gaming consoles for the first time by the end of this year. Gaming giants Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony are on track to sell 37 million consoles in 2011. In comparison, consumers will buy 52 million connected TVs from the likes of Samsung, Sony and LG.

Of course, the gaming console market is pretty mature and the big advancements are more than a year or two in the past. And the idea of the “connected home” only began catching fire over the past year. Still, if this sounds like apples and oranges, it’s not. As the Internet converges on the living room, all home electronics, whether its iPads, gaming consoles, cable boxes are on competing for the same space - literally, the living room.

The mainstreaming of connected TVs will benefit the big three: Samsung, LG and Sony. However, TV manufacturers will be faced with a conflict of interest. On the one hand, they must build and support a platform that works across both the latest and legacy devices, effectively reducing the differences between the two – and, on the other, they must persuade users that the latest version is somehow a vast improvement and worth the still high price amid a still-weak global economy.

Informa believes that the main losers will be media-streaming devices, which will remain niche products. This has major implications for players that have launched stand-alone boxes, not least Apple. Informa believes that, if Apple is to win in the connected home, it must launch a TV, or at least turn its Apple TV device into something more than a convenient way to access video via iTunes. The report is sold here.

The Narrative Of Data

The laziest debate you can have in advertising circles these days is which is more important: data or creativity? As Mark Lieberman, the head of TV ad analytics firm TRA, says in a Mediapost piece, neither works without the other. Building on Canoe Ventures’ David Verklin’s dictum, “As Canoe Ventures' David Verklin says, "Data is the new creative." Data now drives advertisers' connections with audiences in the way that creative did in the past.

So how do data and creative inform each other? Data has to be used to find the right audiences. After all, you have a great joke, but if your audience is elderly people who speak only Mandarin, it won’t matter a bit.

Here’s how data can work to tell an effective story. Now, Lieberman is in the business of using data beyond the Nielsen rating point, so take this with a little grain of salt. But his illustration does make sense. Looking at Bloomberg TV, a network that is not measured by Nielsen’s ratings, is nevertheless a natural platform for financial-products marketers. Data can tell that households that watch Bloomberg TV are far more likely than those that watch CNN or CNBC to hold an American Express card, drive high-end foreign cars, and own a brokerage account – in other words, the ratings may be absent, but it’s clear what advertisers should be telling their narratives on Bloomberg TV.

Still, there’s just one problem. Knowing where to tell a marketer’s story is important, but knowing how to tell a story is still beyond the realm of analytics. The over-emphasis on analytics has been noted many times, especially by brand advertisers. The sad truth is that money can inspire great creative, in the sense that given the resources, agencies can marshal the best thinking they have. It’s not clear that targeted TV is there yet. But perhaps better metrics can inspire marketers’ to take that chance.

But wait. There’s More!


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July 5, 2011 – 12:03 am

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