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Cable, Convergence and Consumption

Jeanne Rogers
Cable, Convergence and Consumption Jeanne Rogers

Video IPOD, PSP, mobile phones and the home computer are collectively making easier ways to distribute digital content to consumers as new distribution points. Not new news anymore…however, I wonder how this new distribution will affect, specifically, cable VOD and ITV. Will cable TV companies lose control, as predicted by many?

The Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas just ended, and media convergence was announced frequently and across multiple manufacturers, foretelling the future of what is to come. This led to some follow up with a few folks who have been leading the way of cable VOD content and ITV. 

A consistent voice in this realm has been Navic Networks. Navic has been developing ITV formats for some time for both satellite and cable operators with success, particularly with Time Warner Oceanic (since 2002) and now several others including Charter Communications. HyperGate, their core offering that supports a suite of Navic interactive applications, is an efficacy data transport technology. This enables operators to move data two ways between the headend and millions of digital set top boxes. 

The cable television headend is a master facility for receiving television signals for processing and distribution over a cable television system. The headend facility houses electronic equipment used to receive and re-transmit video over the local cable infrastructure.  Source -- Wikipedia.

Consumption, quality of viewing, convergence

According to Chief Technology Officer and founder of Navic Networks, Chet Kanoija, "the quality of content is strategic to the nature of cable ITV and VOD." Kanoija adds that these "new formats fill gaps in consumption, but they are not the whole experience or the primary form of consumption." In fact, he goes on to say that, "it is the quality of a multi-channel operator that is the cornerstone of providing service." 

What are your thoughts on convergence in formats? Kanoija says. "There is a separation in the description of content in that some is informational versus entertainment." He further states that, "For short content and information, these new distribution points are ok but are not for long-form entertainment." Lastly, Kanoijia predicts that operators will gain alliances and partnerships and participate through those efforts in the mobility of content.

So, you are an enthusiastic consumer and you have invested in a home theater system with a plasma, big screen or HDTV quality television set, and your investment surrounds getting content from everywhere you can. How do you feel about not being able to direct that content to your home investment? The answers are coming-- soon.

I spoke with Todd Stewart, corporate vice president of national advertising sales and development for Charter Communications, and fear not-- there is more quality viewing to come. 

These newer distribution points, visually speaking, have less quality simply due to the small format for viewing and reduced resolution. That leads to the opportunity for convergence. "Convergence will be complementary", says Stewart. "If we consider how consumers spend their time, then content delivery will be a competition for their time. However, the user experience hasn't totally migrated to these venues." 

Operators can compete, holding ground simply by the fact that they are a preferred distribution point, are internet providers in broadband service and simply have access to upscale high-speed and digital cable customers. In fact, Time Warner offers Road Runner, their high-speed internet connection with all the benefits of the America Online service, their sister company. We should expect more from global offerings and integration efforts with other cable products. Most of the top operators are media conglomerates and are already combining various media products for top brands. We should expect more strategic partnerships and acquisitions to take place to fill the gap in new media and bundled services, specifically in wireless.

Furthermore, expect gains in technology to increase operators and their ability to converge and expand on ITV and VOD service. Some of the key elements currently available and in the early stages of deployment in VOD include Charter Communications' 'I Channels,' which enable news, sports and weather to be distributed by a local zip code or neighborhood. These 'I Channels' ('I' for independent) will allow natural relevancy and interest to take the consumer through banner ads with the ability to link to an RFI (request for information), marketer micro-site or a VOD landing page for long-form product viewing. 

If we consider the 'where and how' of television consumption for the majority of viewers, are these new distribution points that appealing? And is it about the commercial free viewing more than the place of choice for viewing? iMedia Connection's Editor-at-Large, Masha Geller, recently shared how most television consumers, or 62 percent of responders in a specific survey effort, expressed their preference to watch ads in on-demand programming, rather than pay the $1.99 charged by Apple, Google and others for commercial-free video content.

As always, cable operators' move slowly compared to fast pace changes in internet technology and network programmers who, I believe, see new distribution as an opportunity to create brand loyalty. This may be simply because their additions in technology tend to be very expensive and deployment is cumbersome. However, their advance media efforts, according to Charter's Stewart, "match their core strategy, relevancy and measured results in the ad space and quality of service in the entertainment space."

Jeanne Rogers is a contributing writer for iMedia Connection. She has spent 11 years in local cable advertising sales and marketing and, most recently, internet new media sales and marketing. She is the creator of a new business model for cable acquisition and retention services directly related to interactive television, building subscriber loyalty. She has been a Cable Advertising Bureau (CAB) finalist three times, most recently in 2004 with a CAB win in 2002.

Community is the heart of soul of iVillage, which attracts more than 30 million women each month to connect, share, and seek advice on topics that matter most to them. To put the power of storytelling directly in the hands of these millions of women, iVillage and NBC Local Media launched a unique, nationwide search for local citizens across America to contribute, chronicle, and share "real" women-centric topics that matter most to them and their community. A top selection committee of journalism experts, including Today's Natalie Morales, MSNBC's Contessa Brewer, LXTV's Jane Hanson, and iVillage chief correspondent Kelly Wallace, chose 15 diverse and dynamic community members to become part of a newly created program called "iVoices on iVillage." Through this unprecedented program, these women were given a one-of-a-kind opportunity to provide blogs and video commentary for iVillage, and possibly select NBC local markets. The topics center on areas that are most important to women in categories such as health, pregnancy and parenting, finance, entertainment, and beauty and style -- mirroring the kinds of meaningful conversations that are being discussed on iVillage each day.

MSNBC Digital Network
The MSNBC Digital Network recently unveiled its new ad-rendering system called ServeView and announced that it has been rolled out across 100 percent of its story pages. ServeView intelligently places ads on the page when and where consumers will see them. With ServeView, the company says advertisers are assured that every ad impression they purchase has, in fact, been seen by consumers.

When a story page loads, consumers interact with the video, text, photos, and other content on the page. As that is happening, the ServeView technology seamlessly runs on the page and will only render the ad once the ad location is within the viewable area of the consumer's display. Then and only then is the ad counted as a delivered impression. ServeView works for each individual ad on every browser and every screen size.

In addition to better-performing ads, marketers benefit from optimized ad views without any effects or changes to standard ad delivery practices in use today. The MSNBC Digital Network says that ServeView in full compliance with the Interactive Advertising Bureau's impression measurement guidelines and, in fact, improves upon its baseline recommendations.

Baseball season is winding down, but NPR has bases loaded in the mobile space. As the world's largest podcaster and an innovator on the iPhone, NPR says its new iPad app has the network poised for a grand slam this year.

The strength of the app is in its simplicity -- an extension of NPR's uncompromising, uncluttered environment on-air and online. A magazine-centric approach is built for gesture navigation and generates significant user engagement in the app; user sessions last more than 10 minutes on average, with engagement spanning text, audio, and multimedia content.

The sponsorship treatment is both innovative and understated. Each sponsor receives a session roadblock, with its logo integrated into the app for the duration of a user session. With the launch of the media player, users also receive a short audio sponsorship credit tied to a full-page interstitial. This unit has seen click-through rates as high as 20 percent, helped by innovative creative developed in partnership with Medialets, a leading rich media ad solution provider for the app space.

The NPR iPad app has been downloaded onto nearly 10 percent of the iPads sold to date and is also used on demo units in Apple stores.

Financial news and information website Reuters.com prides itself on offering best-of-breed products, exciting early adopters, and creating customized solutions for marketers. With the launch of Apple's iPad, Reuters seized the opportunity to meet all three objectives by creating an application called News Pro that harnesses the IOS platform with video-rich stories, dramatic photography, and lively market data.

"We reach our customers no matter where they are," says Reuters general manager Riley McDonough. "And that means leveraging our strengths to the fullest by providing a rich, robust experience through multimedia storytelling."

More than 20 million page views are generated each month through Reuters' mobile touch points alone. These innovations, including Reuters News Pro app for the iPhone, which has been downloaded more than 500,000 times, caught the attention of FedEx. The company came to Reuters early on in the development of its News Pro iPad app to sign on as the inaugural sponsor and reach a targeted audience of business decision makers. "We have global scope and the targeted reach necessary for marketers to meet their campaign goals," McDonough said.

In addition, Reuters remains committed to bettering the customer experience and increasing advertiser demand with plans to revamp of all its mobile sites by end of the year.

At No. 3 in the comScore Tech News rankings, TechMediaNetwork is one of the fastest-growing publishers of high-quality technology and science news, reviews, videos, and reference articles. With the help of award-winning journalists, TechMediaNetwork focuses on helping consumers navigate the glut of information by becoming a trusted advisor on the subjects of interest to readers.

TechMediaNetwork starts with TopTenReviews, which offers reviews of more than 550 categories of products and services; Space.com, which is the authoritative source for astronomy and space exploration news and analysis; and LiveScience, focusing on the study of psychology, sociology, and human behavior for people curious about their minds, bodies, and the world around them.

This year, TechMediaNetwork expanded its trusted advisor role by launching eight new websites that focus on high-quality content in specific vertical areas of interest. Those sites include BusinessNewsDaily, a comprehensive resource for people who are in the process of starting up a business; OurAmazingPlanet, a site that explores the wonder and beauty of Earth; iPadNewsDaily, an accessible source of iPad news and information for both non-geeks and seasoned iPad users; NorthOrion, tools to help consumers and businesses navigate purchasing decisions in a wide variety of topics; and MyHealthNewsDaily, information about the latest medical research and health news and trends.

Turner/SI Digital sales, a division of Turner Broadcasting Inc., along with sales colleagues at CNN Digital, formed the Turner Network in 2008 as a solutions-driven alternative to third-party ad network and exchanges. It combines the company's exceptional digital resources under one in-house sales force to offer advertising partners distinct opportunities that leverage Turner's portfolio of digital properties that include leading news, entertainment, sports, and kids' sites.

One of the first exclusive products to come out of this collaboration was the Turner Netblock, which is a homepage roadblock that uses the OPA pushdown unit executed simultaneously across Turner-operated websites. The Netblock was developed to provide advertising partners quality audiences, at scale, under one safe branded platform to help clients achieve their campaign objectives. Executed for the first time in late 2009, the Netblock continues to be a popular and effective product with advertisers for its high-impact placement. From CNN.com to NBA.com, and everything in between, the product has proved especially attractive to clients unveiling new creative or launching new branding for a particular service or product. The Turner Netblock can be purchased alone or as one part of a comprehensive media buy.

Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal for iPad blends the best of print and online. It offers the look of the Journal while providing updated news and information, full-screen video, market data, and customizable features, including the ability to save articles and full sections -- such as What's News, Marketplace, Money & Investing, Greater New York, and Personal Journal -- for later or offline reading. Share and save features allow an even more personalized experience.

The platform allows users to experience the visuals and interaction of digital with the more familiar look of print, which has proven a successful combination; the app has been downloaded more than 700,000 times since launch. In addition, advertiser response proves the app's ability to help them reach the Journal's high-quality audience via innovative ad units in a dynamic environment; six exclusive sponsors signed on for the launch, with more on board in the following months.

Lori Luechtefeld is editor of iMedia Connection.

On Twitter? Follow Luechtefeld at @loriluechtefeld. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.


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