Archives For Advertising

At Apple’s earnings call earlier today, COO Tim Cook reiterated the second class citizenry of AppleTV. As paraphrased by Macworld:

Apple TV market isn’t that large, so that’s why we classify it as a hobby, so nobody gets the wrong impression that it’s anywhere close to the other markets. A number of us use the product, love the product, so we’ll invest in it.

In my mind, there are three developments that individually or collectively could thrust ATV into the spotlight.

First and foremost, Apple TV cannot be a primary television device as long as we receive the majority of our television programming through mostly locked down cable and satellite providers. CableCARDs, in their current form, stifle innovation and competition. But the FCC is pushing for some sort of home television gateway prior to 2013. That could dramatically change the landscape. Then again, by 2013 we may all be watching Hulu online from our iPads. Leading to point number 2…

Apple’s got a proven app store business model. As soon as they migrate it to the Apple TV, they’ll simultaneously stimulate development and sales. And, of course, they’ll take their cut of app revenue. We’ve already got a number of decent video-centric iPhone apps that could work well in a lean-back environment, such as Showtime, Slingbox, and Netflix. However, significant work would need to be done to support the various resolutions, aspect ratios, and entirely different form of (remote) interaction.

Lastly, if Apple’s unfortunately named iAd platform proves successful in the mobile space, it’s not inconceivable to envision them pumping an ad-infused ATV (in conjunction with the enhanced functionality noted above) to generate additional revenue. But it’s not going to happen in 2010. As CFO Peter Oppenheimer described their new advertising initiative today,

We’re putting our toes in the water, so don’t expect much from us this calendar year. We think we’ll learn a lot for the future.

android-set-top-box

Just a few weeks back we heard noise of Google heading into the set-top box space. With DISH Network. At the time, it wasn’t clear if this was merely a rehashing of the upcoming DISH apps or a more significant Android set-top platform play. As it turns out, it does look like Google aims to conquer the television with a dedicated offering. And why wouldn’t they take their open source platform and ad serving business to a larger screen? Following in the footsteps of Yahoo TV, Google has also partnered with Intel and is going with the generic “Google TV.” Beyond DISH, other likely launch partners include Sony and Logitech. Although no concrete functionality, timing, or pricing has been revealed. From the NY Times:

For Google, the project is a pre-emptive move to get a foothold in the living room as more consumers start exploring ways to bring Web content to their television sets. Based on Google’s Android operating system, the TV technology runs on Intel’s Atom chips. Google has built a prototype set-top box, but the technology may be incorporated directly into TVs or other devices.

While the space is getting crowded, television-based Internet content delivery is still in its infancy compared to the mobile marketplace where we’re starting to see some real polished, mature platforms and consolidation. And as you’d expect, the incumbents are firing back. Roku’s CEO says a Google box requires an expensive chip and could run over $200, compared to their highly regarded $99 unit. However, I could easily see Google’s solution subsidized by carriers or advertising. Maybe both. It’s good to see new players and experimentation, but I’m guessing it’ll be at least 2011 before we more clearly see the path forward. Which is also about when I expect the cable industry to start opening up.

Fortunately, I don’t need to come up with the perfect ‘Ads of Super Bowl 44′ lede as NewTeeVee pretty much nailed it: Beer solves lots of problems, women hold men back from their dreams and this year, pants are optional. But I can’t say there are any commercials we’ll remember beyond this week. My personal fave was the Kia ad (above) – fun, engaging, not crass, and it made me think about their product. (What does Go Daddy do again?) Speaking of crass, the most entertaining pantsless commercial didn’t even make it on the air. And I’m bummed Denny’s Nannerpus nemesis has been replaced by chickens.

In what’s become an annual tradition, TiVo determined the top ads of Super Bowl 44 “using aggregated, anonymous, second-by-second audience measurement data about how 30,000 TiVo subscribers watched the game, and for the first time, determined not just the most viewed commercials, but instead the most engaging ads throughout the game.”

1. Doritos  – “House Rules”
2. Snickers – “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry”
3. Focus on the Family – “The Tebows Celebrate Life”
4. Doritos – “Underdog”
5. 2010 Intel Core Processors – “Jeoffrey the Robot Gets Hurt”
6. E*Trade Financial – “Baby Love Triangle”
7. Bud Light – “Observatory”
8. CareerBuilder – “Casual Fridays”
9. TruTV’s NFL Full Contact – “ Punxsutawney Polamalu”
10. Hyundai Sonata – “Brett Favre MVP, Still Playing at 50”

If you missed any of the commercials, or just want to catch them again, hit Hulu, CBS, or YouTube. What were your favorites?

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Apple Store King of Prussia Mall Black Friday

While I avoided the lines at 4:00 in the morning, I couldn’t resist stopping by the local King of Prussia Mall later in the day yesterday to see how Black Friday was shaping up. Frankly, the mall wasn’t as crowded as I expected it to be, but there were still more than a few folks in the Sony Style store, and the Apple Store could have used traffic cops to keep the hordes at bay. Of the Sony products available, one customer rep I spoke to said the laptops were getting the most attention, specifically the VAIO NW and recently launched VAIO CW series. I asked about the Sony Reader products and was told they were being more heavily promoted at a kiosk elsewhere in the mall. Blu-ray players? Not doing so great, unlike last year. Despite the discounted price, this stack of Sony BDP-S360 players didn’t get one interested passerby in the time I was there.

Sony Style store King of Prussia Mall Black Friday blu-ray players

Meanwhile at the Apple Store, it was difficult to move a foot without running into another body. According to the employee I spoke to, the hottest sellers of the day were the Nano and the iPod touch. I also got a quick glimpse of the new mobile payment system in action. Actually, I overheard one clerk asking another where to find the cash drawer he’d just opened with his iPod, so possibly there are still a few kinks being worked out. However, everyone seemed happy with their gadget shopping experience, and I even convinced a guy behind the roped off area to give me a close-up shot of the iPod he was using to ring up orders. Unfortunately, the shot’s blurry because I didn’t have time to adjust my camera settings before I had to move on.

iPod EasyPay Apple Store King of Prussia Mall Black Friday

More shopping photos below. Anyone else have stories of braving the stores yesterday?

virgin-tivo

As TiVo does, they fire off feel-good news (for investors) along most quarterly earnings calls – to possibly soften the blow of continued subscriber defections. Today, they’ve announced a deal in which Google will be mining our TiVo commercial viewing (er, skipping) behavior to enhance their television advertising initiative. Yawn. Much more interesting, via a release late to the wire, is news that TiVo will be re-entering the UK television market in a big way, by partnering with Virgin:

TiVo will become the exclusive provider of middleware and user interface software for Virgin Media’s next generation set top boxes. Virgin Media will become the exclusive distributor of TiVo services and technology in the United Kingdom. Virgin Media currently anticipates its first TiVo co-branded product in 2010.

In other partner news from the call… The fabled, new DirecTV TiVo hardware will indeed launch next year. And, in my opinion, surely juice TiVo’s subscribers numbers. Although no specific timeline has been provided. The Comcast and Cox TiVo initiatives continue to sputter along. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if either, or both, cable providers pull the plug at some point.

Lastly, something perhaps previously alluded to by a TiVo employee on Twitter and something I’ve been scouring the FCC records for, “a new keyboard remote control” is under development. Which could be related to the re-upping and expansion in 2009 of their 2005 RFID remote patent application for personalized viewing experiences. But we remain in the dark regarding the mysterous wireless access point.

Cash Register on White with Clipping Path

The interwebs are abuzz (OMG!) with Hulu’s confirmed exploration of paid tiers and pay-per-view, in addition to the current ad-supported video content model. News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch, as quoted by the Associated Press:

Are we looking at it with a view of adding subscription services in there and pay-per-view movies? Yes, we are looking at that.

However, a company spokesperson acknowledges that free video supported by advertising does “resonate most” with viewers, so I doubt we’ll see it go away. Having said that, I have very little use for the current incarnation of Hulu. It’s content library still exhibits the “random crap syndrome” – which I had hoped would be cured when Hulu exited from beta. Didn’t happen. Still hasn’t happened. Shows come and go. Good luck finding an entire season/series. (ALF doesn’t count.) And then there’s the restrictive playback policies. No PS3 for you. Screw you too, Boxee. I appreciate the Internet as my video transport mechanism, but I prefer to watch television… on television.

So bring on the pay services, I say. I’m an adult with an adult salary and limited free time. Offer me something worthwhile at a not-outrageous fee, and I’ll pay for premium content and the convenience of quality aggregation. Should Hulu manage to provide it.

zilliontv-ui

If the ZNF tip line is any indication, ZillionTV has recently expanded their pilot program:

You are eligible to become one of the first television viewers to register for the ZillionTV service for a 1-Time payment of only $99 (plus tax). The ZillionTV Device and motion-sensing remote are FREE, including FREE shipping. There is NO monthly subscription fee. The ZillionTV Service is all about putting you in control. Choose the movies and TV shows you want to watch, when you want to watch them; choose the ad categories you want and view for FREE, or watch no ads at all and pay a nominal ‘pay-as-you-go’ fee. Gain access to a compelling combination of new and classic TV shows, Hollywood movies, classic movies, sports, documentaries, music and so much more.

So the first take away is, as I suspected, the formerly “free” ZillionTV hardware/service is out the window. And the few times I’ve seen startups charge for advance or “beta” access, it seemed to coincide with serious organizational dysfunction. We do know Zillion’s dumped about 30% of their staff, rethought their business model, pushed their official launch into 2010, and replaced their CEO today. Of course, as a gadget guy, most of that is background noise. I’m far more interested in finding out what happened to their sexy hardware renders, as this D-Link router-looking STB shipping during the pilot fails to inspire.

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