ABC announced this week they would offer select television shows like Lost and Desperate Housewives for free through cable television on-demand services with the caveat that viewers will not be able to skip through commercials.
I understand television is struggling to retain advertising dollars that are quickly slipping through their fingers to more effective media, but this isn’t the way to do it.
People are increasingly becoming accustomed to either on-demand advertising and marketing or product placement. The more you interrupt them with advertising that is probably not relevant to their needs, the more you annoy them by wasting their time.
People will probably watch ABC’s on-demand offerings, but they will no doubt do what they’ve always done, ignore the commercials by getting up and doing other stuff while they run. A significant percentage of cable viewers will simply DVR their favorite shows rather than use on-demand service for the very reason that they then can skip over the commercials.
The solution to hemorrhaging ad dollars is not more interruptions, but smarter ads through product placement and eventually, if the technology permits, some form of interactive TV, where, if you’re interested, you can click on a product within a show for more information.
I don’t know that I have the right answer but I do know that traditional television advertising is broken and the networks and cable channels need to figure it out or more and more entertainment will be produced by the advertisers themselves.
And perhaps that’s inevitable.