Oh, Did I Mention iTunes Kills Television Advertising

Josh at Splintered Channels ponders traditional ad spots within the new iTunes-delivered TV programs.

The TV I’ve had for the last 10 years has a 30-sec timer button on it. Hit the button, change the channel, and 30 seconds later you’ll automatically return to the previous program. Tivo time-shifted both the program and this ad-skip behavior (though VCR instilled this behavior decades ago, albeit without the sexiness of digital).

Josh is right, ad campaigns have a shorter shelf-life than the programs they interrupt. In all but the biggest of primetime television programs, the ads are also region specific (if not local). So, inserting a conventional 30-second spot in a digital iTunes download wastes at least the same amount of money as one delivered via the air waves.

As I’ve mentioned in the Economics of Podcasting and Podcasting is Closer to Voicemail than Radio, the pains of conventional broadcasting (FCC licensing, antennas, etc) don’t exist in the digital realm. Combine that with customers actually paying per episode and the advertiser/distributor relationship turns from symbiotic to parasitic.

If iTunes starts to include interruption-based ads within the TV programs they offer, 2 things will happen:

  1. An iMovie Applescript will magically appear that automatically slices out the annoyances.
  2. The programs with ads won’t sell….at any price.

Catharine Taylor at AdWeek’s AdFreak concurs.

“…not only is the video iPod a watershed, but, sorry advertisers and agencies, that commercial TV may just be f*cked, and it’s going to hurt advertisers much more than it will hurt the networks.”

I’m glad someone inside the advertising industry said that and cursed while doing so.

Once television advertising goes the way of the Wicked Witch of the West, where does that leave Nielsen Ratings?

ABC affiliates are asking that now.

“The prospect of the new device [video-enabled iPod] distracting Nielsen-measurable eyeballs from its own over-the-air programming is generating some anxiety from stations all over the country…”

Just as I can read the same email in a web-browser, in a desktop application, and through VersaMail on my Treo, all other media will shortly be liberated from it’s exclusive distribution channel.

Quick rhetorical question: What’s a television program that isn’t originally released on television?

I’m pretty sure Chuck, Steve, and Amanda have an answer.