After years of disappointing financial returns, video-on-demand (VoD) could be on the cusp of generating significant ad revenues for Canadian cable operators and other pay-TV providers.
So say a group of cable programmers, equipment vendors, and media measurement experts. Speaking at the recent CTAM Canada forum in Toronto, they predicted that a new golden age for VoD could soon unfold for cable operators and other service providers as they start implementing new systems for tracking on-demand viewing of TV programs after their initial run.
Once those measurement systems are put in place, the executives said, content and service providers will be able to prove to advertisers how much on-demand viewing is growing. As a result, they said, providers will be able to demand top-dollar for targeted ads dynamically inserted into the VoD replays of the shows.
Although viewers may be watching on-demand programming on an increasing array of devices both inside and outside the home, "we know they're there," observed Jack Tomik, chief content officer for Rogers Media, a unit of Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI). "It's really a matter of tracking down" all that other viewing beyond the traditional TV platform and crafting a way to measure and monetize the viewing, he added.
BBM, a Canadian TV ratings firm, will soon release a system to track on-demand viewing up to seven days after a program's first broadcast, according to BBM President Jim MacLeod. He added that an even more advanced system for tracking 28-day playback is in the works. With playback of programming on other video devices now accounting for about 4% of all TV viewing, he said the new measurement systems should boost program ratings and give advertisers metrics for tracking on-demand's growing reach.
"As the industry moves, we'll be ready to move with it," he said. "This is an opportunity now to take these impressions and monetize them."
Errol Da-Re, senior vice president of sales for Shaw Media, noted that Shaw Communications Inc. unit's sister Global network now offers 95% of its linear programming schedule on an on-demand basis. He said this VoD programming alone pulls in up to 2.5 million views per month.
"It opens up a whole new category for sales," he said. "The fact that we're not monetizing that is a shame -- a shame for our advertisers, ad agencies, and everybody in the ecosystem."
Tomik concurred, stressing that Rogers is now "losing millions of dollars" in ad revenue because of a lack of on-demand ratings. "Everybody's getting a free ride and we're paying the ticket," he said. "This stuff has to be paid for. The consumer has to pay for it one way or the other."
Da-Re and Tomik agreed, though, that the problem can be easily solved. The senior Rogers and Shaw executives, whose parent companies control most of the major TV network programming in Canada, vowed that they would soon sit down "over beers" and create some kind of cross-industry group to aggregate, promote and sell on-demand advertising once the forthcoming viewing measurement is in place.
In an attempt to spur that much-awaited discussion, David Purdy, senior vice president of content for Rogers, promptly delivered two beers apiece to Tomik and Da-Re on stage. But that move didn't produce any immediate results.
The VoD debate offered far more comfort to video service and content providers than an earlier panel on TV Everywhere services. In that session, pay-TV, online media, and consumer electronics executives lamented the slow take-off of multiscreen video and spelled out numerous reasons why it has mostly floundered so far. (See Why TV Everywhere Still Struggles.)
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading