Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Avoiding TV Ad Interruptions

As the holidays approach, gifts may include new Apple TV, TiVo, or Roku boxes, a Slingbox or Hopper or two, a subscription to Netflix or other services designed to help us avoid ad interruptions.  These products are popular, not just because they let us watch TV shows and movies, but because they let us skip through or avoid television ad messages.  And the more comfortable we get using these outlets, the more we seek them for our viewing pleasure. 

For content obtained off our TV, it is just as easy to record first and watch later with our finger pressed on the fast forward button every time an ad appears.  For cord cutters and those watching through OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime, shows can be viewed without ever an ad in sight.  We pause when we want to and not because an ad is present.  And so as TV ratings decline and we watch our shows on our DVR or mobile device, we can enjoy all our shows without those dreaded commercial break.

For advertisers, the challenge becomes watching ad rates go up for spots on linear TV viewing while viewership declines.  The economics seem off.  Consumers have grown tired of these ad interruptions with the only exception being big event programming like the Super Bowl where the ads become more interesting and note worthy.  For almost all other times, they are an intrusion. 

This trend toward ad skipping and ad avoidance with subscription programming will only continue to grow.  The current model seems broken and it may now be time to revisit the TV ad model.  Branded entertainment, product placement, show sponsorship may now become the ideal means to assure that advertised brands get noticed regardless of where or how the content is being consumed.  You can't avoid ads baked into the content of the show.  Till then, ad avoidance seems like to continue to grow.

The Digital Age At A Crossroads

While Sony's latest movie release, The Interview, may lack any sense of good taste, it is certainly in their right to produce and distribute it.  Why they chose to use an assassination of a live foreign leader, no matter how notorious, is beyond understanding.  But freedom of speech certainly gives them the right, even if it lacks a certain common sense.  Would the movie have even gotten made if it was about a current domestic leader?  Highly doubtful.

Still, two wrongs don't make a right and the work of hackers to infiltrate Sony and release sensitive information from their computers clearly crossed the line as well.  Worse comes threats made from these same hackers alluding to loss of life at movie theaters that go ahead and play the film.  Given such threats, some movie houses have already canceled showings of The Interview. 

The problem with all of this is that by succumbing to these hackers and their threats, it sets a dangerous precedent for future hackers to follow the same playbook.  Like they say about secrets, the moment you share something with someone else, it is no longer a secret.  And the moment we communicate digitally, it is there for eternity.  It may be meant to be shared with one or a few, but like secrets, others will try to access it.  In a world of great freedoms of expression, we sometimes forget our manners.

To the hackers exposing Sony secrets and threatening lives, one wrong move does not condone another.  And as a society, much must be done to stop these hackers from succeeding.  Not so this particular movie can play but that our freedoms remain intact.  And in the future, perhaps as a society we need to regain our politeness, our moral fiber, our consideration of others, for once something is said, it is there for an eternity.