The term “cord cutter” has come to define people who cancel their cable, sometimes their Internet subscriptions. But as the Wall Street Journal reports, they are not necessarily giving up television: some are returning to its airwave roots.
The Journal profiled TV-antenna dealer Richard Schneider of St. Louis, whose company Antennas Direct sold 70,000 antennae in January. He sold 600,000 in 2011, up from 400,000 in 2010. Best Buy and Costco both sell Schneider’s antennae, and Wal-Mart has just signed on to do so as well.
It is a matter of sheer economics. Antennas Direct sells models from $50 to $150. But basic cable and Broadband costs more than $91 per month. Eliminate the cable, and viewers can watch most of that content over broadband (chiefly on Netflix and Hulu), and reduce the monthly bill to about $48. Schneider claims the savings are higher.
Another company, Boxee Inc., sells a combination set-top box for streaming video, with a $49 optional antenna for broadcast TV.
By some estimates, less than 10% of U.S. households watch broadcast-over-air, versus the 100% from pre-cable days. Schneider claims that his users get between 30 and 45 channels, under optimal conditions, which would include local network affiliates and UHF channels like CW and Fox.
The number of broadband-and-broadcast-only U.S. households jumped 23% in Q3 2011, according to Nielsen data, for a total of 5.1 million.
Mimicking the May network upfront ad bazaar, digital video providers Google, Yahoo, Hulu, Microsoft and AOL are teaming up for “Digital Content New Fronts,” reports the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
The upfront will take place in April in New York (location to be determined), and each provider will have a day to meet advertisers and outline marketing opportunities, e.g., plans for video programming in the works. WSJ describes this as a clear indicator of an “intensifying effort by the online video world to challenge television.”
A digital upfront is due, believes eConsultancy’s Patricio Robles. Last year he observed that “Thanks to sophisticated web analytics tools and DSPs, advertisers have the ability to optimize their campaigns, shifting budgets and resources to maximize ROI, in real time.”
While digital content may be streaming network content (consider the full episodes available through network websites), WSJ also reported on the boom in web-only content. For example, veteran producer Brian Robbins, who was behind several TV shows like “Smallville” has 35 teen-oriented web-only programs in development. These include a hipster version of “The View,” starring teenaged luminaries of Twitter and YouTube. The creators of CSI are filming a series of YouTube thrillers, and Tom Hanks and Kevin Spacey are producing shows for both Yahoo and Netflix, respectively. Google in particular is funding 100 YouTube channels, with $5 million apiece. The show creators usually retain ownership of the content, thus, can take their digital programming to television (should the need arise, which only time will tell).
Connected devices do not replace traditional media, opines eMarketer Senior Analyst Paul Verna. “Without movies, TV shows, games, photos, books, magazines, newspapers, video clips and music, few [consumers] would care to own a tablet, a touchscreen smartphone, a connected console or an internet-enabled TV.” But they do own those devices, and use them increasingly to consume content. Moreover, they expect digital content to be available on all screens, all the time, and in all locations. Verna, who authored eMarketer’s new report “Smart Devices: Evolution and Convergence.”
That demand is behind the evolution of the devices. Smart phones were once text-based tools, and are now multimedia hubs. The first eReader was the black-and-white Kindle, which in just a few years has evolved into the rich media-enabled Kindle Fire. Televisions, game consoles and media players are gaining Internet connectivity as well, with access to the blizzard of digital content. This of course complicates the ad buy: should a brand advertise in, for example, Sports Illustrated or on SI.com, or through the SI app?
For now, advertisers can be assured that as connectivity grows, content will grow along with it (e.g., in over-the-top YouTube channels like "CollegeHumor" and "Mediocre Films"), alongside digital presentations of traditional media on, for example, Xfinity On Demand or Hulu.
Growing acceptance of smaller screens
Moreover, consumers will become accustomed to smaller screen sizes. As Media Post reports, a new study by Chadwick Martin Bailey (CMB) reveals that consumers increasingly use tablets and smart phones to stream video programming, even in their homes where TV is available. A survey of 1,500 consumers revealed that 58% of those who viewed programming on a tablet at home, and 63% did so even though the program was available on TV. Thus big media cannot rest assured that a larger screen will lure viewers away from their tablets and smart phones. (Consider the 13.7 million hours of Web and mobile video that NCAA basketball fans consumed in 2011.)
eMarketer expects more than 26 million mobile phone users to upgrade to smart phones in the next two years, to reach more than 50% of U.S. mobile users by 2014. Tablet penetration will grow even more rapidly, from a user base of nearly 55 million by year-end 2012 to nearly 90 million by year-end 2014; thus, more than 33% of U.S. Internet users will have a tablet device.
With fans consuming 13.7 million hours of Web and mobile video in 2011, the men’s college basketball tournament coverage was a “marquee Web video ad buy,” as Adweek describes, and “one of the most popular TV-on-the-web offerings every year” according to Ad Age. Its broadcasters know that, and are gambling in 2012 that they can monetize it better.
CBS and Time Warner on Wednesday announced that cable nonsubscribers can watch the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament digitally, for a one-time fee of $3.99. Subscribers can watch it digitally as well, but will have to authenticate themselves.
Turner Sports, CBS Sports and the NCAA have rebranded digital delivery of the tournament. It is now NCAA March Madness Live or MML, formerly “March Madness on Demand” or MMOD. MML will this year provide college basketball fans with “more opportunities to watch every minute of every game" of the 2012 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, Turner and CBS promise. Produced by Turner Sports Interactive, NCAA MML Live is a suite of live products presented across multiple screens, including online; as apps for iPad, iPhone and iTouch; and for the first time, on Android phones. NCAA MML will also be available over Wi-fi and 3G for $3.99 to nonsubscribers of cable TV, beginning on March 7; as well as on cable channels TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV. Coverage begins with the NCAA Basketball Selection Show on Sunday, March 11, continuing through the National Championship Game from New Orleans on April 2.
CBS in 2010 partnered with Time Warner to share the cost of the games, and in 2011 began sharing coverage with other broadcasters, specifically TBS, TNT and TruTV, ensuring that every one of 67 games would be broadcast. The broadcasts were supported by ad revenues and cable subscriberships. But in 2011, CBS and Time Warner reported that free digital viewing garnered an average 2.4 million daily unique visitors on broadband and 702,000 daily unique users of a mobile app.
Time will tell how this will affect digital viewership and advertisers. Adweek predicts that CBS and Turner “risk alienating an audience…conditioned to receive every game whenever they want.” That, plus the confusing authentication procedure, means it is likely that MML will lose some of the 3.8 million daily unique visitors MML enjoyed in 2012. But it is arguable if those non-paying viewers are worth keeping, for the sheer prestige of record-setting digital numbers. As Turner Sports VP and General Manager told Ad Age, “The models around digital media and the models around sports media are continuing to evolve,” which requires the broadcasters to evolve as well.
The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) reports that, among newspaper and magazine publishers it has surveyed, just 12% see themselves as being all-digital in the next five years. Fully 76% believe they will still have a print publication, while the remaining 12% is unsure or has no opinion.
That 76% sounds like high numbers, but, the survey reflects a significant shift. Only 5% surveyed in 2010 foresaw a digital-only future, versus the 12% today.
None can accuse ABC of print bias; while the organization was born to measure print circulation, it has a strong investment in digital measurement as well. In January, its ABC Interactive (ABCi) arm released the first mobile audit or m.Audit report, covering a publication’s app and mobile websites. ABC Interactive took this maiden voyage with the Orange County Register, and revealed that the newspaper’s mobile website averaged more than 4.5 million monthly page impressions. Also true, ABC and ABCi joined forces to conduct its 2011 survey “Going Mobile: How Publishers are Maturing and Monetizing Their Offerings.” Among the highlights from that survey, released in November 2011:
- Eighty-five percent of newspaper and magazine publishers surveyed had mobile content for smartphones, e-readers or tablet devices, which was up from 76% in 2010
- Newspapers at 88% were most likely to have mobile initiatives in place, followed closely by consumer magazines 83% and business publications 79%
- Development and maintenance costs were the key inhibitors to establishing a mobile presence
- Eighty-one percent of U.S. publishers had a mobile strategy, and reported that mobile websites account for up to 15% of overall website impressions.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has released the final version of its “Guidelines for the Conduct of Ad Verification,” in cooperation with the Media Rating Council (MRC). The advantage to advertisers and marketers is truth in numbers: IAB is promising that with a common set of standards, “companies engaged in the verification of interactive advertising campaigns can themselves be audited against a common, transparent standard.”
The participants in creating the guildelines include both buy- and sell-side heavyweights such as the New York Times, NBCUniversal, Turner Broadcasting, Yahoo!, Google, and verification services like AdXpose and Telemetry.
In an executive summary of the guidelines, IAB claimed as one of its goals to “reduce the chaos that has surrounded ad verification practice since its inception,” and to improve the trust between both buy- and sell-side industry organizations. “While ad verification in principle is valuable to the digital advertising industry, the lack of accountability created tension between the publishers and marketers.” said Steve Sullivan, Vice President, Advertising Technology for IAB. The Bureau “developed these guidelines to introduce a level of consistency into campaign assessments commensurate the industry's standards for impression measurement.”
The guidelines provide a detailed set of common methods and practices for verification of online advertising, useful to verification vendors and users of verification services (both buyers and sellers). They include mobile, e-mail or lead generation campaigns of all types and address a wide range of topics, including:
- Ad-serving prevention (“ad blocking”) carries larger implications to the buyer and/or seller because the intended ad serving transaction is interrupted. The guidelines recommend that ad blocking may be used in instances where the relevant domain or page-level URL is already on a blocking list, for competitive separation and fraud prevention. Ad blocking should only be built into ad serving systems, so decisions are made pre-serve.
- Nested iFrames are often recognized as legitimate technology, but because of browser operational/security considerations, there is limited visibility into the legitimacy of iFrames filled with content from outside the parent domain. For that reason, the guidelines recommend ad verification vendors have procedures to classify and report whether advertising served into iFrames from other domains has been appropriately executed. In addition, the general nature of the verification tools used to view iFrame content should be disclosed. Moreover, it is recommended that the industry minimize the use of nested iFrames.
- Geo-targeting IP-based processes can vary in quality based on the geo-targeting vendor used. The guidelines recommend geo-targeting vendors subject their processes to independent auditing and that natural differences in geo targeting accuracy between vendors be taken into account.
“Consistent and transparent conduct of ad verification is vital for deepening confidence in the industry and driving the advancement of digital advertising,” said George Ivie, Executive Director and CEO of the MRC. “We believe the issuance of these guidelines represent a major step toward achieving these goals.”
IAB has made the guidelines available on its website.
Upfront Digital: “Parade” Ad-Supported App | Google+ Favors Male Students | TWC Streams on PCs, Macs
- Parade (that slim magazine that comes with Saturday and Sunday newspapers) has gone digital with an ad-supported mobile app, “Celebrity Parade.” Min Online sees this as a good move, as “Most magazines seem distracted [by] the big shiny object, the tablet,” while ignoring the smart phone. Parade developed the app with Zumobi, which is behind apps for MSNBC, Motor Trend and Good Housekeeping, among other brands.
- NBA Digital (a partnership between Turner Sports and the NBA) will deliver multiplatform coverage of NBA All-Star 2012 through the league’s portfolio of television, online, digital and social platforms, highlighted by the first ever “NBA.com Social Spotlight” that will feature the best fan tweets, photos and videos throughout All-Star in one convenient and easy place to view on NBA.com. During NBA All-Star, NBA TV will deliver fans more than 95 hours of dedicated All-Star programming including interviews with LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin and many other NBA All-Star participants, and an exclusive live presentation of NBA Commissioner David Stern’s All-Star press conference on Saturday, February Feb. 25.
- Time Warner Cable (TWC) is beta-testing a live TV streaming service (called TWC TV) for PCs and Mac computers, reports Multichannel News. This builds on its original iPad version. The 100+ channel line-up includes no Viacom networks, as TWC and Viacom have yet to hammer out an agreement. TWC TV provides seven days of searchable TV listings, a "Watch on TV" button to change channels on set-top boxex, DVR management features and parental controls, among other features.
- In online ad targeting 2/3 of google+ users are men, says BizReports. Website-Monitoring.com compiled a profile of google+ users from a number of sources (including Google’s official blog). Top 10 brands include H&M, Samsung, Pepsi and Toyota. The #1 occupation for a Google+ user? Student, at 20.01%. The second highest is “software engineers,” at just 2.65%. The remaining occupations all fall under 2% of share.
- Still hesitant about video ads? Mobile video traffic comprised 52% of wireless data usage by the end of 2011, according to Cisco Systems, as reported in Multichannel News. Cisco expects video traffic to soar 25 fold through 2016 and account for more than 70% of total mobile traffic. Global mobile data traffic grew 2.3-fold in 2011, and will increase 18-fold over the next five years to hit 10.8 Exabytes (10.8 billion Gigabytes)/month by 2016.
- Another forecast from Cisco Systems: There will be more than 10 billion Internet-connected devices in 2016, exceeding the projected world population of 7.3 billion people, according to a BizReport story. This is behind that 18-fold rise in mobile data traffic. Cisco’s VP of Product and Solutions Marketing Suraj Shetty told BizReports that by 2016, “60% of mobile users—three billion people worldwide—will belong to the 'Gigabyte Club,'” generating more than a gigabyte of mobile data traffic per month.
Advertiser Perceptions, provider of research-based advertising insights, has announced its 2011 Advertiser Perceptions Highest Rated Media Brand awards. The company based its rankings on what advertisers think of a mix of websites, magazines, television networks, mobile sites and digital ad networks.
ABC took top honors as the highest-rated media company, out of more than 25 such companies.
In terms of brand strength, the winners were fairly obvious: People Magazine in print, Facebook in digital, ESPN in cable, YouTube in mobile, Google Display Network in ad networks. But the winners for overall satisfaction held some surprises.
In mobile—the humble Weather Channel, which claims 15 million+ unique visitors to its mobile applications per month. According to Nielsen data, that places Weather Channel as the #1 content provider on the mobile web, with over 24% reach of the mobile web audience.
In print, Sports Illustrated took top honors. SI is one of very few consumer journals to see a rise in subscribership in 2011, albeit by a modest .14%, to 3.174 million
In cable TV, Comedy Central. The network claims a median age of 37.1, with 46% of its demographic aged 18-34, 59% of it male, tuning into “South Park” and “The Daily Show.”
Advertiser Perceptions surveys thousands of U.S. agencies and marketers every spring and fall to gather their opinions and perceptions of the media brands they are considering for advertising. Through the Advertiser Intelligence Reports (AIR), these advertiser opinions provide the basis for insight-metrics used to gauge media brand and media company performance. The media brands and company that rank highest for each insight-metric and that possess a minimum required level of advertiser consideration are selected as the highest rated media brands.
Microsoft has announced what it calls “efficiency updates” to its adCenter, “to increase campaign management efficiency” and offer advertisers a more seamless experience. No official date yet, but Microsoft expects to make the changes before the end of this month.
Among other changes, duplicate keywords will be removed—easy to duplicate, when keywords approach the thousands. And, the Gener/Age demographic targeting functionality will be removed. If that seems counterproductive, those ads were reaching only those online for whom there was demographic data available, which significantly decreased an ad’s reach.
Because of its partnership with Yahoo, adCenter search ads appear in both Bing and Yahoo searches; given just-released comScore data, that is a potential reach of 29.3% of the U.S. online market.
Upfront Digital: NBC’s Straight-to-App Launch | Apple Targets App Bots | Subway Moves Digital Ad Buy
- NBC News launch its new documentary series “Hidden Planet” not on TV, but on the “Rock Center with Brian Williams” iPad app, reports Broadcasting & Cable in an exclusive. This will be the first time NBC has premiered a series that way. Episodes of the monthly series will be exclusive to the iPad app for one week, before it becomes available on RockCenterNBC.com. The series takes the veteran foreign correspondent to such exotic destinations as Timbuktu and the Sahara Desert—places generally off the news radar.
- Mobile app rankings (including those for digital magazines and newspapers) will not be manipulated, pledges Apple. As paidContent describes, the company has acknowledged that third parties are offering download-bot services to inflate app rankings; and to place favorable reviews on apps. Apple declined comment to paidContent, but quickly issued a statement on its developer site that “Even if you are not personally engaged in manipulating App Store chart rankings or user reviews, employing services that do so on your behalf may result in the loss of your Apple Developer Program membership.”
- Subway has moved its domestic digital ad business (including search, mobile and display ads) to MediaCom, and away from Publicis, reports ClickZ. The sandwich chain is reportedly consolidating its U.S. business, and MediaCom has managed Subway’s offline ad business since 2000. Kantar Media clocks Subway’s 2011 digital spend at about $12.7 million, excluding mobile, but the chain announced it will up that spending considerably in 2012.
- Elsewhere in digital/agency news, Ad Age discovered that AOL is searching for an agency to refresh its image and spread the word “why people should care about AOL again.” Supposedly, the company finds consumers vague on its value proposition. AOL struggles against competitors Google and Yahoo, has also struggled to support its Patch.com community news outlet, but has recently acquired online properties Techcrunch and the Huffington Post. AOL posted Q4 2011 display ad revenues at $363.8 million, up 10% year-over-year.