OK, is it just me, or do media executives need a firm smack upside the head by consumers?
Yesterday, Walt Disney’s ABC broadcast network and ESPN cable sports channel announced a deal at the Cable Show in Las Vegas to provide free on-demand video of hit shows and other content to Cox Communications, one of the bigger cable companies. Except Cox was required to disable its fast-forward feature to stop viewers from skipping over ads. Thus, those with Cox’s on-demand service lose that functionality, although subscribers with their own digital video recorder can still do as they please, thanks be to the TiVo gods.
This move is a disappointment to me, because I think Disney under the leadership of CEO Bob Iger (pictured here) is one of the more–excuse me–fast forward of the television companies, making big strides in moving its programming all over the Net and onto other devices beyond the television. Its own ABC.com, for example, is one of my favorite places to watch “Ugly Betty” and other popular prime-time programming using its really exceptional player. And I don’t even mind its ads embedded in the program, though I do surf the Web as I listen to them, because it was part of the deal I understood when I clicked in, as opposed to on-demand viewers who usually get to fast-forward through programming.
Iger has energized the digital fortunes of Disney since he took over, and he should be commended for this kind of innovative stuff. But he also should be pilloried for moves such as Disney made with Cox. The very idea of this is offensive, given the inexorable movement away from heavy-handed control of consumers’ ability to have what they want, when they want, how they want.
What’s that you say from your Burbank aerie? Programming needs to be paid for? “Advertising is critical to the financial health of our business, and this agreement marks the first time one of our cable-operator partners is acknowledging that,” said Anne Sweeney, president of the Disney-ABC Television Group, to The Wall Street Journal in a story about the Cox deal.
So the plan is to hobble consumers and force-feed them ads they probably don’t want to see? Figuring out new ad solutions in the new paradigm is Disney’s problem and that of the advertising industry. How about coming up with ads that are truly relevant or helpful? Or even entertaining and involving?