“A car that's always on the move. Breaking new ground,taking the driving experience in new and exciting directions. Enjoy the quiet luxury of the new-”
“Brewed alongside cool mountain streams and clear blue skies,no beer goes down smoother. It's part of our uncompromising commitment to quality. It's a reputation that makes us the official beer of the- ”
“We're an insurance company that is always there when you need us,because we care. In fact,we were recently ranked No. 1 in customer service in a recent nationwide poll- ”
Flipping through advertising has,over the years,become an established routine of the television watching process. Some find two programs to switch between; some idly and aimlessly make their way from channel to channel in search of a good time-filler; some inadvertently abandon whatever they had been watching before the commercial break. Few suffer through the entire multi-minute span of advertising. With the spread of new television technology,however,these habits may be a thing of the past.
Personal video recorders (PVRs) – better known under brand names such as TiVo and ReplayTV – are currently in about 2 million American households and quickly rising,said Bill Niemeyer,an industry analyst and founder of Centrimedia,a television technology information company. PVRs offer the ability to pause and record live broadcasts so that shows can be watched whenever it is convenient for the viewer. However,PVR manufacturers are taking the technology further,developing new versions that would allow viewers to automatically skip the commercials in their recorded programs.
Wait a minute. No commercials? Like,for real?
“The technology is being totally revamped,” said Joe Boyle,vice president of corporate communications for the cable service iN DEMAND. “There's equipment now that will let you skip commercials. Your programs can be advertiser-free.”
No more channel flipping. No more enduring the same ads over and over again night after night. No more sitting on the couch,staring slack-jawed at the screen waiting for a rerun of “Sanford and Son” to come back on. And you may not even have to buy a PVR unit,as satellite television companies such as EchoStar are developing ways to inject these same capabilities into their satellite service.
“The way we get TV is undergoing a fundamental change,” said Ron Fellman,the chief technology officer at Path 1 Network Technologies. “People are going to watch what they want to watch when they want to watch it,whether or not that is convenient for broadcasters.”
PVR technology,industry analysts agree,may very well revolutionize the techniques used by companies to advertise. One direction that some advertisers may try involves “advertainment,” said Niemeyer. Advertainment describes separate,short programs on a sponsored event or specialized broadcast that a company has sponsored. Viewers must choose to select and watch.
Although this style of advertising is still being tested,there has been some positive response. Volvo recently ran a 10-minute spot highlighting the sponsored Volvo Ocean Race,a sailing event,followed by a short plug on its newest car model. Surprisingly,Niemeyer said,people looked at it. This format could also be used for short sponsored films similar to the series recently released online by BMW.
“These things are not interrupting the viewing experience,” he said. “They are the viewing experience.”
On the other hand,advertisers might not have the time or resources to develop their own material,said Ed Graczyk,director of marketing communications for Microsoft TV. Graczyk suggested that companies might simply sponsor shows that are already running,much as businesses did when television was in its early stages.
More likely,he said,is that product placement in television will become the norm. Already,the WB network has announced that a new reality series will be shown commercial-free and rely totally on product placement. But the future of product placement doesn't stop at lingering camera shots on merchandise and blatant close-ups of labels.
PVRs and similar interactive television technology will allow viewers to click on items on the screen that they are interested in – for example,a sweater that Jennifer Aniston is wearing on “Friends.” They would then have the option to visit the clothing line Web site,order the sweater,or see the company's ads,he said.
“If people will skip through the ads,then companies will just find a way to circumvent people skipping through,” said Graczyk,noting that testing in Europe has allowed viewers to click on players during sporting events for stats,or order a pizza by clicking on the advertisement on the screen. “Not only that,it's the ultimate platform for impulse buying.”
The more foreword-thinking businesses are already planning their advertising strategies. Still,the entertainment industry generally does not react well to new technologies that tamper with their control over the medium. Music sharing and Napster come to mind. As the public finds itself with more and more capabilities to personalize their entertainment,some companies are less willing to adapt and more willing to litigate.
“There are a lot of issues that have to be solved with what PVRs can do,” said Seth Haberman,CEO of Visible World,a media service provider. “The major studios are joining together to fight it. The legal battles have just begun,and they'll be going on for years.”
One solution may be that no-commercial television service may be accompanied with a fee,or viewers may have to pay to subscribe to the service,said Fellman.
The technology may be available faster than we realize. Niemeyer predicts that the price of PVRs will fall under $200 by next Christmas,making it the “gift of the season.” So even though less than 2 percent of television owners in America currently own PVRs,as Toshiba,Sony and Zenith release their models,their spread is “inevitable.”
And after all,why not? Easy-to-use,convenient and interactive,PVRs represent the best in American technology,a mark of creativity,innovation and ingenuity,from a company where breaking new grounds is commonplace-