Television

The Stroke of Midnight – Will Viacom Go Dark?


As I looked up from my desk today, I saw a news story that caught my eye: DirecTV is threatening to take 26 Viacom channels off the air at midnight.  Gee, I thought, I guess it has been three years since they last were at loggerheads with the operators.  But that was December, and this is July.  That was Time Warner Cable, and this is DirecTV.   That was 2008, and this is 2012.  Is this story new or an off-network airing of a 2008 episode?

I went to the “Always On” archives to see.  What I found was my post from New Year’s Day of 2009.  I recall going out the night before preoccupied with whether Viacom would still be on the air when I came home.  It was a dramatic moment!  Fortunately, as with Y2K, the stroke of midnight did not bring the terrors foretold.

(Ok, so what I mean here is that in 1999, people feared that there would be all kinds of havoc when we entered the new century because our computer systems would get confused – long story – and people prepared for all kinds of hardships including food and water shortages and lack of electricity.)

In any case, my plan this evening – July 10th – was to republish the post below, comment on how this will be a tricky negotiation given that Viacom has had significant ratings problems with Nickelodeon and MTV, reference the fact that Viacom’s stock price is vulnerable to adverse news given these ratings problems, discuss whether these standoffs have become more common, more public, or simply more on my radar screen, and call it a night.

Given that I had an image of the Sponge Bob ad from 2008, I decided to grab one from this summer’s dispute.  That is where the differences became apparent.  The Viacom ads – at least the ones I found – are simple and slick and use Comedy Central rather than Nickelodeon brands.  Somewhat interesting.

But what really struck me was DirecTV’s website.  Clearly planned well in advance, the site maps out DirecTV’s side of the story including a heartfelt video message from the company’s CEO Mike White.  The ability for television programmers and operators to communicate more directly, personally and interactively with their audiences and customers makes 2012 quite different from 2008 – even though the key sound bites: “Viacom wants too much money,”  “DirecTV/Time Warner Cable is taking your channels away from you” may sound the same.

Who”s the Enemy?  Who’s the Friend? - January 1, 2009

Cable operators and TV affiliates complain when programmers put content online. Programmers put content online because that is where viewers are going. Music producers ignored this “where I want it, when I want it” trend, seeking to protect their business model, and were leapfrogged into impending demise by iTunes. NBC Universal cites Hulu as a huge success story, but CEO Jeff Zucker fears that the web will turn “analog dollars” into “digital pennies.” Online ads may garner high CPMs and may be growing at rapid rates, but they are still dwarfed by broadcast.

Viacom, owner of MTV Networks, has for years sought to create a “360 degree” media presence that hinges upon the Internet. They now have a huge army of digital employees. Cable operators complain that hits like “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” are available in long form on Hulu. But who is benefiting now?

Viacom is asking for a 25 cent increase in monthly subscriber fees (25 cents more per subscriber per month) from Time Warner Cable across 18 Viacom networks. Yesterday, a crawler at the bottom of the screen for each of these networks warned of an impending blackout at midnight. (I rushed home at 1:20am to see the blank screens, but alas no MTV Armageddon.)

Now I watch Comedy Central more consistently than any other non-premium cable network (I love my Showtime – twisted as it may be), and my loyalty to the two programs above is on par with that for broadcast network programming such as “60 Minutes” – most other programming (“Eli Stone,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Ugly Betty”) comes and goes. I am proud and embarrassed to say that I get most of my news from Mr. Stewart and, to some extent, Mr. Colbert. So, what will I do if Viacom goes dark? I don’t envision doing much.

First, I don’t watch any of the other MTVN networks. I used to admire Viacom for its segmentation strategy, i.e., different networks for different age demos, but now what that means — for me as a single New Yorker, at least — is that I watch only one of their networks. And, as mentioned above, the two programs I count on are available on Hulu. In fact, Time Warner Cable is promoting to its subscribers where they can access Viacom programming online should it go dark on TWC. So, to whose advantage is the online platform now? Ironically, Viacom has made itself less indispensable to TWC – at least in the short term.

It reminds me a bit of our strategies in the middle east. We train the enemy of our enemy, even though that force was or could become our direct enemy. A bit of an extreme comparison, perhaps. But the question remains – to whom is the Internet a greater threat and for whom is it a greater advantage? Programmers? Distributors? Both? Neither?

Business minds around the world have not yet come up with a way to turn the enormous value of the Internet into a tangible, substantial monetary value. True, digital broadcasts of the Olympics, of SNL (Tina Fey) and of prime time programming do drive stronger TV viewing of these programs — something that was not necessarily anticipated. But, what is the long term business model? How can the television industry identify and transition to a new business paradigm? And, how will they accomplish this in light of existing carriage contracts and – even more specifically — Most Favored Nation (MFN) clauses that make change even more cumbersome?

Always On: 2011 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,800 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

 

As of April, I am now trending more than 1,100 views per month.  Thank you, everyone for visiting and reading.  You are my FAVORITE kind of person!

 

You’ve Been Placed. And You’ve Been Spotted


Product placement has become to video what social media is to media.  It is intrinsic to its fabric.  It has become second nature.  It has become indiscernible.  And that is why I continue to enjoy observing and calling out the placements I spot.  Here is my third installment.  (Stay tuned for more.)

  • Colbert and Wheat Thins: Colbert coins the term “Sponsortunity” on an episode in which he reads at length from the branding memo for “Wheat Thins” that only someone in brand management could have written.  A real treat and must-see for those in marketing.
  • Diet Coke: Diet Coke seems to have used product placement in its own ad (“Not All Stars Appear On Screen”) during the Oscars.  The commercial shows the evolution of a film from script to production with cameo appearances by Diet Coke cans, e.g., in the hands of the writers and those producing the film and placed on the shelves of the door to the sound stage.

  • Apple: I find it so interesting to see which programs use Apple computers but cover up the otherwise highly visible Apple on the back of each device.  Example: Two and a Half Men.  Clearly, the producers like the aesthetic and how it fits with Ashton’s character, but, I guess they did not strike a deal with Apple, so they cover up the fruit.  Other shows go all the way – do they get paid for that?  In Showtime’s “House of Lies,” the consultants use Lenovo Think Pads.  I would expect no less (and it makes me cringe a little when I think back to my pre-Mac years).

For more examples, check out: Place the Spot, Spot the Placement and Spot the Placement, Place the Spot.

The Australian Open – Two Weeks with Rafa, Roger, Novak, Layton and Jelena


As Eli Manning declares his plans to visit Disneyland, and New Yorkers bask in the afterglow of our ticker tape parade, I am still recovering from two intense weeks that were the Australian Open.  (That’s tennis for those less obsessed than I.)

Thanks to ESPN2 and my Time Warner Cable DVR, I awoke every morning for two weeks to a Christmas morning of sorts, full of 10 some hours of tennis coverage.  Putting aside the incredible athleticism, the fit and attractive main characters and the fashion considerations, just the fact that I had a window into beautiful summer weather made the tournament an uplifting addiction.

But there was more to it than that.  When you spend so much time observing the drama that was those two weeks, it is only natural to have thoughts that beg to be shared.  Shared with someone.  Friends, yes, but also, my blog.  (In great part because I have not had a chance to write in a while, so this offers great inspiration.)

So, some observations.  We know that psychology is important to sports and that tennis, in particular, is as much a head game as a game of skill.  In fact, I had the opportunity to have dinner with Tracy Austin a few years ago at which time she acknowledged that a primary reason she won her first U.S. Open is that she was too young to know what a big deal it was.

So back to the observations.  Andre Agassiz observed that tennis is like life.  And like Russian dolls.  Points make up games.  Games make up sets.  Sets make up matches.  Matches make up tournaments – in the same way that seconds make up minutes, make up hours and so on.  And what I find so interesting is that as hard as you fight for a particular point or game or set, when it is over, you are back to square one.  A set won 6-0 is equivalent to a set won 7-6 in a grueling tiebreaker.  Hence, when a match is tied 1-1, it is completely equal.  Except for this.  The player who won the second set is pumped, even deliriously happy as when Nadal fell to his knees after winning the fourth set of the finals.  And the player who won the first set, who came out of the gate flying, is dejected, frustrated, even angry.  I noticed this especially when the young 21-year-old Canadian player Raonic was playing the “old” 30-year-old Layton Hewitt.  Going into the break between the second and third sets, Raonic looked distraught and Hewitt invigorated.  But, from a scoreboard point of view, they were equal.  That’s what they mean when they talk about “momentum.”

What else?  Well, if it is not already the case, then Novak Djokovic’s girlfriend (Jelena Ristic) needs to be approached by a clothing manufacturer or designer for product placement.  All the players have logos galore, but she, who seems to be on screen more than anyone other than the two players, is left to her own impeccable taste to decide how to dress.  (By the way, she’s gorgeous if you were not aware.)  This is a missed sponsorship opportunity.

And, how about those tennis fashions?  For some reason Adidas felt compelled to subject those they sponsor to a disturbing combination of peach and coral that even men on the courts in Central Park remembered two weeks later.  My nephew, who plays wheelchair tennis competitively, tells me it’s because the manufacturers want to show off bright colors at this first summer event.  But I found it cruel.  It took me a while, by the way, to understand why so many players were wearing the exact same dress or style.  At first I thought they might be from the same Eastern European nation.  Then I realized it was Adidas.  I imagine they feel that by having multiple players, who may not make it very far into the tournament, wear the same outfit, they get similar air time as they would if a highly seeded player wore it for many rounds.  That said, the fact that the women’s tennis has become a game of “your guess is as good as mine” makes it hard to predict who might actually have significant airtime.  Even Sharapova, who made it to the finals, went down in a quite brief 6-3 6-0 match.

But let’s get back to Nadal.  Nadal has become my inspiration.  Yes, he’s cute and cuddly and muscular and fit and a magnificent athlete… wait, where was I?  Ah, right, inspiration.  As one of the commentators observed, Nadal plays every point as if it is match point.  No matter how unlikely it seems that he might win – as with the, sigh, U.S. Open of last year, he will never lose hope.  He will never stop fighting.  If Nadal (oh, and Djokovic too) can play a 6 hour final match, then I can (in theory), run for 45 minutes on the treadmill, or hold that tortuous yoga pose until the instructor lets me (please, for G-d’s sake) move on.  So, somehow, even when Nadal loses.  (And, don’t get me wrong, I’m still in mourning for this year’s final), I feel somehow inspired.

To expand upon that point, I have friends who are not Nadal fans.  I don’t fully get it, but it’s true.  Many are Federer fans.  And I can appreciate that.  He’s a class act.  But it does make me wonder what makes someone a Nadal fan and others a Federer fan.  (Putting Novak aside for the moment.)  They are, after all, different.  Nadal is wearing bright swaths of color.  Lime green and sporty blue – on simple (high tech) t-shirts.  Federer’s shirts all have collars.  (Federer has Rolex as his sponsor.)  But I love Nadal.  He’s PASSIONATE.  And he’s physical in a warm way.  When Federer first lost to him and was crying, Nadal put his arm around Federer’s neck and his head on his shoulder.  (I could die!)  When Nadal passed Novak on the grounds of the Ossie open, he patted his back rather than just shaking his hand.  It’s these little things that appeal to me.

So, back to fashion.  What’s up with the mismatched yet coordinated wristbands.  One blue, one white.  One black, one red.  I don’t know.  I can’t think of the colors, but it’s a thing.  Someone ordained it.  They take the colors from the tennis outfit and break them out into two wristbands.  This meant, of course, that when Novak switched from his white shirt to his black shirt in the second or third set – also an interesting move – his blue wristband didn’t make sense, as it was not reflected in the shirt.

So….  what was supposed to be a quick post feels like it could go on and on – much like the 6 hour final, so I must end it somewhat arbitrarily and abruptly.  I hope you’ve enjoyed my tennis musings – brought to you thanks to the coverage of ESPN2 (and the Tennis Channel) and the DVR functionality of Time Warner Cable.

‘Tis the Season of the Webinar (and Conference)


Autumn is here, and  with it, a plethora of webinars, seminars and conference.  My dance card is filling up.  Here are some recent and upcoming events:

Upcoming:

A Millennial Perspective  on Diversity & Multiculturalism” – American Advertising Federation – November 9th, 2011 – various locations throughout the country

Recent:

The State of Mobile Commerce - Are You Meeting Your Customers’ Mobile Experience Expecations? – webinar – November 2nd, 2011 – NYC

Featured speakers, Sucharita Mulpuru, Vice President, Principal Analyst from independent research firm Forrester Research, Inc., and Compuware APM CTO, Steve Tack discussing:

  • The current state of mobile commerce and key mobile trends
  • Why tablet owners are a key component of mobile success
  • Common mistakes that prohibit companies from capitalizing on the mobile opportunity
  • Best practices to deliver quality mobile web and application experiences to smartphone and tablet users
To view the webcast slides, click here

 

Advertising Week NYC – October 3-7th, 2011

Advertising Week Videos available HERE.

Future of Media Forum – October 5, 2011

MediaPost’s Future of Media Forum brings to life MEDIA magazine’s annual “Future of Media” issue by gathering together prominent executives and intellectuals from all facets of media to discuss, debate and opine about the Media Industry’s future. This intriguing roundtable discussion — moderated each year by a noted industry journalist — will take place October 5th during Advertising Week at New York University’s Kimmel Center, hosted by the NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

How to Effectively Leverage Customer Insight to Deliver a Superior Multichannel Customer Experience, October 13, 2011

By the American Marketing Association (AMA): “Voice of the Customer is not just about surveys anymore.  Customers are interacting with your brand through multiple channels including the website, retail store, contact center and even social media. You have to understand all of these multichannel interactions collectively to develop a complete Voice of the Customer.  Join us on this webcast and learn how you can easily gather and leverage data from all customer touch points to deliver a superior multichannel customer experience.

Learn how you can:

  • Collect real-time customer insight across channels
  • Discover and act upon emerging customer trends
  • Deliver a more personal and targeted customer experience
  • Increase customer loyalty and reduce churn”

The World Technology Summit and Awards, October 25-26th

“On October 25th and 26th, 2011, at the TIME Conference Center in New York City, many of the most innovative people and organizations in the science and technology world will come together for an historic gathering – the 2011 World Technology Summit & Awards (the tenth incarnation) – to celebrate each other’s accomplishments; to explore what is imminent, possible, and important in and around emerging technologies; and to create the kinds of serendipitous relationships that create the future.

The majority of Summit participants are either current WTN members (primarily winners/finalists from previous World Technology Awards cycles, as selected by their peers as those doing the innovative work of “the greatest likely long-term significance”) or 2011 World Technology Award nominees. A combination of keynote talks, panel discussions, and breakout sessions… and potentially-career-altering-networking opportunities over two days concluding with a gala black-tie Awards ceremony on the second night held at the United Nations.”


How IP Geolocation Can Turn Your Local Marketing On – webinar – September 28th, 2011

“It’s a proven fact that located messages perform better overall but there is a discrepancy when it comes to online ads.  Currently, online CPSs are far below their offline counterparts (TV, radio, direct mail), and this correlates to the fact that half of all advertising is bought at the local level but there is no scalable way to reach consumers locally online.  For brands, targeting consumers locally is an essential and effective part of marketing as 80% of consumers’ disposable income is spent on businesses within 10 miles of their homes.

Advertising networks and online properties are boosting efforts to engage in increasingly local campaigns as clients are requesting geographically targeted ads.  IP intelligence provides the ability for super-niche targeting, allowing brands to create/provide the most relevant and engaging adds as it provides unique information about web browsers.  This increases marketers’ ability to reach their customers by targeting both business type, and consumer location, IP intelligence provides geographic, demographic and business information so that brands can effectively reach customers online the way direct mail and billboard ads are used to work offline.  Marketers will be able to zero in on trends, demographic information and cultural aspects to best target consumers.

Key learning points that audience members will take away from this webcast are: What is the need for geolocation targeting?  What are the statistics of geolcation effectiveness on advertising?  ROI?  What are some marketing strategies that I can implement around IP intelligence?

Speakers: Miten Sampat, VP of Product Strategy, Quova.  Steven Cook, CMO, Co-CEO, i.e., healthcare.  Alli Libb, Moderator, AMA.”

OMMA Global – September 26-27th, 2011

And, uh, the aha is…


@adscientist posed the following question to me about Advertising Week’s overflowing goody bag of panels and presentations: “Did you learn a lot last week or did you look at it as a lot of obvious statements? I was looking for more insight than i got.”

His comment made me stop to think whether I could identify 5-10 true  “a has” from the conference. Here they are:


1. The ruling on the purchase funnel is not final.  Most agree publicly that the traditional funnel, e.g., awareness, consideration, intent, purchase, loyalty – or as I was taught in business school, AIDA: Awareness, Interest, Desire, Acquisition, needs to be updated.  The patch to purchase is no longer a straight line.  The funnel of choice seems to be the McKinsey oval, which you can view in my summary of the panel.   (No mention of the Forrester “path to purchase” in the age of social engagement – see below).   The key takeaways being that: (a) the process is iterative and circular (b) must include advocacy (b) many include “loyalty,” but that’s not new, that’s just “adoption.”  However, when we got to the TV panels, the upward and lower funnel nomenclature was still front & center.  A disconnect?

Figure I: Forrester Path to Purchase in the Age of Social Engagement

Figure II: Harvard Business Review – Traditional Funnel and McKinsey Consumer Decision Journey

2. I was incredibly impressed with Comcast’s Xfinity vision of how its subscribers will be able to interact with their cable TV menus and the ways in which it will connect to the digital world in terms of (a) broadcasting “likes” (b) finding out what friends “like.”  And, RADICAL, there will be KEYWORD SEARCH!  (When I asked about search functionality at an Advanced Advertising panel in 2010, I received a combination of perplexed and blank stares…) – See Graphic to the right

3. Everyone is on the Facebook bandwagon.  We’re convinced that consumers want us there, and, while I don’t necessarily disagree – after all, a truly successful brand is a “friend” to an emotionally connected consumer, I’m concerned that we may tip the scale and kill the golden goose.

It’s (a) about the balance of push and pull in terms of broadcasting info (b) the ratio of real people to brands.  If kids leave the service when there are too many adults, what will adults do when there are too many brands?

4. Brands are content creators.  This is not new – see Larry Kramer’s recent book C-Scape, Conquer the Forces Shaping Business Today and recall Coke’s Polar Bear campaign (ahead of its time, or pre cursing the future that is today?), but it was a major theme, which means that it is becoming more mainstream.

5. SEM and ad networks are getting more advanced.  Google has new multi-media listings.  aol, yahoo and microsoft are creating a three-way ad network.  Programmed trading (wait, are we talking about finance), is growing.

All for now except:

If you don’t have an iPad, you’re so not cool.  Get thee to an Apple Store pronto!  (iPads, like Facebook profiles of a few years ago, have reached a point where it’s not that you’re cool if you have one but that you’re NOT cool if you don’t have one.)

Place the Spot; Spot the Placement


I can’t help it! When I’m watching “The Big Bang Theory,” and Leonard’s “Mom” holds her soda can just a little too long and a little too high, and the can remains visible for 5 minutes of the show, then it must be a product placement. It’s a bit of a game, a bit of an art to spot, so I’m reopening my log of potential spottings. I hope you’ll join me.  (See also part I of this compilation:  “Spot the Placement; Place the Spot”)

  • How I Met Your MotherTed has already used Bing (the search engine) twice before the first commercial break.  Once to look up the route from their bar to a steakhouse where Woody Allen is eating and then to look up the website where people rate their professors. (October 11, 2010)
  • Big Bang TheoryFresca, Fanta, Fiji Water- in the lunchroom at work – all other beverages have no labels; Fiji water especially well placed – full on label exposure.However, watching episodes a year after I wrote this bullet, it seems that the product placement was there when the episode was new but not for repeats.  Is that possible (see below)
  • America’s Got Talent, June 22-ish, 2010 – Filmed at Universal Theme Park in Orlando.  As with Ugly Betty below, lots of opportunities for shameless promotion and touring of the park, e.g., the host on the rollercoaster or next to the Jaws shark.
  • Reality shows are fantastic venues for product integration.  The book “Buyology” has some great examples, however, about how brands can overshadow each other in programs like “American Idol.” 
  • Rules of Engagement, June 7th, 2010 – Kiehl’s moisturizer on Audrey’s nightstand. Could be for character definition. In any case, awfully prominent, as in the only thing on the nightstand, just inside the shot and positioned so that you could read the label.

    What do you think? Is Kiehl’s helping to define Audrey’s character, or is CBS helping to promote Kiehl’s?
  • Colbert Report, June 8th, 2010 – Colbert wearing a lab coat with a big Lexus logo on the back during piece about Consumer Reports.
  • Colbert Report, June 7th, 2010 – Microsoft’s Bing search engine agreed to donate $2,500 to a charity of Stephen’s choice every time he said the word, “bing.” The show raised $100,000 for the Gulf of America Fund.

  • Ugly Betty and the Atlantis Paradise Island resort – the December 4th episode was one long, albeit beautiful, advertorial for the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas, interrupted only by, well, ads for the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas. There was even an entire scene designed around the famous water slide. If it weren’t for the MEMORABLE footage of the dastardly but oh so hot Connor Owens wearing minimal wardrobe, it might have been too much. Ugly Betty is a great vehicle for brand integration. And I understand that the Latin American version, which takes place in an advertising agency, milks the product placement cow even more completely.
  • Big Bang Theory, September 21, 2009 – new Diet Pepsi can – 3rd act of “Big Bang Theory.” The can is – for me – one of five characters in the scene. 
  • Big Bang Theory, September 22, 2011.  Interesting to me that they drink Fiji water in the cafeteria but always have it facing the other way.
  • Millionaire Matchmaker: 2011 NYC season – interesting interstitial in which she goes on a shoe shopping binge at Jeffreys.  Seemed natural at first; then it made me wonder.  She likes dropping names.  She went with her stylus/make up artist friend.  I suspect she was promoting her as well.  Reality TV – the advertising gods gift to brand integration.
  • Chips Ahoy cookies in the new Planet of the Apes film.  A key plot element. (September 30, 2011)
  • Boardwalk Empire – Canadian Club. I saw a beautifully done window “billboard” on the glass of Beacon Liquor next to the Beacon Theater – has the appearance of being etched into the glass. (October 1, 2011) Arresting – at least to me – and despite unfortunate placement of window pane.  However, evidentially controversial:Through a marketing partnership with Canadian Club, which HBO calls “a brand authentic to the period,” the pay-TV network has been placing Boardwalk Empire displays and window signs in some real-world liquor stores and wine shops. The campaign also includes bar events, such as re-created speakeasies featuring a special cocktail menu. According to HBO Vice President of Brand Marketing Chris Spadaccini, the in-store displays feature crates of liquor with Canadian Club product and branding for the show. Some liquor store signs for the series have the appearance of being etched into the window glass.”Window displays are essentially street-level billboards, so these types of advertisements are helpful in reaching a broad audience,” Spadaccini said in an email about the ad campaign.But that approach — using liquor stores to target a wide range of consumers — marks what’s wrong with the campaign, according to David Jernigan, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth. “These are sources that children pass on the way to school. They can’t be turned off,” Jernigan says of the window displays, adding this campaign marks the first time he’s heard of a TV show advertising in liquor-store windows”See full article from DailyFinance:http://srph.it/hvwAiE
  • Yes… but they’re not showing alcohol in the displays, just club soda.  Thoughts? 
  • Glee and the Gap: The Feb. 8 episode of “Glee” had an extensive musical scene set in a Gap store

  • Revenge TV Show promoting itself within bars and restaurants in the Hamptons – where the program is set
  • I don’t believe that premium channels like Showtime sell product placement opportunities.  However, if they did, I would spot a lot – including Dexter’s altercation with a Nescafe coffee machine.  (Is Nescafe still around?)
  • Colbert, Colbert, Colbert.  He is the king of product placement.

For more examples, check out: Spot the Placement, Place the Spot