Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

ABC iPad App’s Newest Feature: Twice as Many Ads

That free ABC iPad app everyone loves? Good news! It’s still free. But it will cost you a bit more of your time: ABC has doubled the number of nonskippable ads it runs with each episode.

Next up: The Disney (DIS) unit will be doing the same thing with the shows it runs on its site, VideoNuze reports.

If this sounds like a rerun, there’s a good reason. Disney has been talking about bumping up its online ad load for two years. The fact that the company is just getting around to it now tells you quite a bit about the state of Web video advertising and the caution media buyers have about deviating from any norm, no matter how recently established.

In this case, the conventional wisdom is that Web viewers won’t tolerate more than a light dusting of video ads. Right now, most shows feature about 2.5 minutes of ads, compared with the 20 minutes the network stuffs into a typical one-hour broadcast show.

To get a sense of how much money ABC has left on the table, consider: The network says iPad owners have downloaded the app from Apple’s (AAPL) iTunes store 800,000 times since the April 3 launch and have watched 4.2 million episodes.

If you’re tech-savvy enough to be watching shows online, though, you’re probably also familiar with a DVR, which means you instinctively reach for the fast-forward button every time you see a spot. And you can’t do that online.

But if ABC pulls this off, you’ll likely see its peers follow suit. Note, by the way, that Google’s (GOOG) YouTube has been steadily bumping the ad load on its clips.

That’s a bummer if you like to pretend you live in an ad-free Web nirvana. But if you live in the real world, this isn’t terrible news: More online ads make free Web programming that much more valuable to the networks, which makes them that much more likely to keep putting it out there–and keep it in front of pay walls.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work