September 10, 2006
New Technology Allows for Time-Sensitive VOD Ads

My wife and I have generally not purchased television content through our digital cable (except my subscription to WWE 24/7 On-Demand, of course), but Amanda decided last night to watch an episode of CSI for $1.50 while I was working on a project, since it's just the kind of show you can watch one episode of without having to have any context going in or any lingering questions coming back out.

But she was shocked when, a few minutes into the show, she hit the first round of commercials. For her, she felt that the $1.50 she had just paid should be enough to keep her from being subjected to advertisements. However, VOD full ads are becoming the norm, especially with technology introduced last week that allows advertisers to tweak the ads that are run with VOD content.

Paramount Pictures is the first to launch a trial of this ability, placing ads in MTV Networks' VOD programming in the Lawrence, Kansas, market through cable company Sunflower Broadband. The advertisements, to promote the Sept. 22 launch of Jackass Number Two, will be paired with content when the viewer requests the show rather than lined up months in advance, thanks to technology from Atlas on Demand and SeaChange.

What does this mean? It means that the advertisements can change depending on how close the movie is to release date or whether it has come out, and the ads can also be tweaked for content. The technology also allows Paramount to monitor how many people are watching the ads and whether the ads were skipped or fastforwarded.

The move is being declared as a breakthrough to convince advertisers to embrace VOD technology, since ad content is not locked in place for months at a time but rather can be adjusted accordingly at any time. This means that time-sensitive messages can be replaced and that companies that previously were not so keen in running VOD ads now not only have a mechanism to but also a potential measurement system to have instant feedback on how successful their ads are.

On the other hand, as VOD advertising grows, there are going to be people on the consumer end angry about paying a fee to watch a show and then having to endure advertisements as well. The eventual answer may be, if there is enough ad support, to do away with the subscription service, or to provide both, or to find ways to target ads to particular viewers now that ad content does not have to be statically set for months at a time with VOD shows.