January 18, 2007
Replacing Viewing Fees with Advertising Leads to Huge Growth in Web, Mobile Big Brother Views in UK

Are ad-supported models becoming the definite winner in terms of mobile content? Endemol UK has reported increasing its audience for mobile video clips of Big Brother in the United Kingdom when it started making the clips advertising supported instead of pay-per-download.

If last year's generated 100,000 paid downloads, my math skills inform me that it means the show has reached the million mark for the current season with free ad-supported video clips instead.

The discussion was part of the "Mobile ++ Conference" from the NATPE in Las Vegas. Daisy Whitney with TelevisionWeek reports that the show also received a significant boost in broadband downloads, jumping to 24 million downloads of ad-supported content, as opposed to 5,000 to 10,000 downloads of clips online in 2005.

Whitney writes, "TV producers have expressed interest in exploring ad-supported models for mobile content, but they'll face challenges as many consumers don't want to see ads on their phones. A study by the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau last fall found that the mobile phone is the video screen on which consumers have the lowest tolerance for ads."

However, people also have a low tolerance for paying overpriced fees for short video clips, which might help explain the "exponential increase" in viewers of this content. The response isn't necessarily proof that people enjoy ad-supported content but rather that they consider watching the one ad preferable to paying too much money for a few video clips, especially when the video clips are show summaries or previews, without meaningful new information generated through the mobile and broadband videos.

Of course, almost anything is better than models like the VOD service I wrote about back in September, when my wife purchased an episode of CSI on Comcast in high-definition and, in addition to having to pay for the episode, also had to sit through advertising. People may do what they can to avoid advertising, but it's an evil they've come to understand. Overpriced download content is another story. When the novelty wears off, people just feel exploited for having to pay inflated prices for something merely plunked over from another platform. (See December's post on V CAST, for instance).

So, in the case of people's "preference" for advertising, according to Endemol, the data is not necessarily incompatible with the study Whitney brings up. Just because people prefer watching a short ad instead of paying for video clips does not mean they enjoy the ads. It means they find the ads the lesser of two evils.