I'm Sorry Sir, but Your Cable Agreement Clearly Says 'The Subscriber Will Watch the Ads and Like It.'
I’m not sure that the driving reason to get a DVR in the first place is just to skip commercials. I don’t fundamentally believe that. People can understand in order to have convenience and on-demand (options), that you can’t skip commercials.”
Looks like Walt Disney has finally come up with a theory to explain plummeting ratings at ABC and ESPN–as well as a plan to fix them. The company’s two big TV networks have struck a deal with Cox Communications to offer free on-demand broadcast of hit shows and sporting events, as long as Cox disables its fast-forward feature that lets viewers skip advertisements.
To Disney, the price of free entertainment is suffering through inescapable advertising, and its DVR-empowered viewership hasn’t been holding up its part of the deal. And so, beginning this fall, Cox will offer episodes of four ABC prime-time series, along with select ESPN on ABC college football games in the FreeZone section of its on-demand service. They will be available the day after their original broadcast, and Cox will disable its on-demand fast-forward option.
Will viewers accustomed to fast-forwarding through advertisements watch on-demand programming with unavoidable ads? And, more to the point, if they so clearly dislike watching advertisements, why would they watch programming like this at all? Why wouldn’t they use their DVRs to record the same shows as they air live and use that device’s fast-forward function to skip the ads? Cox President Pat Esser says viewers will understand the transaction it’s proposing. “People want their content, and they want it for free, but I think they realize that there is a business model to keep intact for them to get it that way,” he told The Wall Street Journal.
We’ll see, I guess. But I hope for Esser’s sake that Cox and other cable operators like it are investigating other ways of solving this problem. Like figuring out how to take advantage of the attention fast-forwarding requires. Because while DVR users often fast-forward through commercials, the very act of paying attention to what they’re forwarding through vastly increases ad recall. “There’s a pretty good basis for thinking that the active attention required to fast-forward could reinforce brand awareness,” said Kenneth Wilbur, associate professor of marketing at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. “There can be a real effect on purchasing behavior due to the attention required. … You could see extensive changes coming to creative formats and a great deal of research into how creative can best be adapted to fast-forwarding.”