In an article running today in the NY Times, it was reported that Time Warner Cable is about to offer its customers a way to look back at programs they may have missed. This service will come at no charge.
The only catch is that viewers will not be able to zap through the commercials.
The argument put forward by Jeffery L. Bewkes, Time Warner President, is that "People are used to advertising. A good number of people like the advertising."
Mr. Bewkes is correct. A majority of people do like advertising. What Mr. Bewkes failed to mention is that what people don't like is the way that advertising is currently marketed to them. In other words, while they might like advertising, they don't like the way that it intrudes on their programs.
As mentioned previously on these pages, our belief is that people aren't actually skipping advertising. What people are skipping are interruptions. These interruptions just happen to be ads. If the industry would offer a way that advertising could still be presented with the program, but not interruptive to the program, it would prove to be a win/win for both advertiser and viewer.
Time Warner's confusion is not that dissimilar to others in the business who are selling their advertising space under the auspices that if can't be fast-forwarded through, than it must be being watched.
Just like I'm currently watching all the commercials on linear broadcast when they intrude on my programming.
The surprising thing, at least to me, is that advertisers are buying into this spiel. They must know that forbidding viewers from fast-forwarding doesn't have any correlation to engagement in the commercial.
In could, in fact, prove to be just the opposite. Nobody likes to do what they're forced to do.
The other troubling aspect of this article is that it indicates that the other cable companies - Comcast and Charter were mentioned - will probably be following suit and forbidding viewers from fast-forwarding through commercials.
So much for original thinking.
The future will offer two types of advertising. The first type will be as it is now - interrupting what the viewer is watching and mentally ignored by most. The second type will be more consumer-friendly advertising, where viewers will be allowed to opt-in to commercials that interest them.
As this second type will have a much smaller viewing audience, it will not be sold based on impressions, but rather on time spent with the message.
The sooner the industry starts experimenting with the latter, the faster the VOD platform will grow.
Progress comes from letting go of what was and reaching out for the new.
While Time Warner Cable calls their new service 'progress', it really is taking the cable industry two steps back.
If we're going to get out of this hole the TV industry has dug for itself, we first need to stop making it deeper.