Broadcasters Hope To Counter Ad Skipping By Replacing Ads With Short 'Inspirational Videos'

from the that'll-work dept

The cable & broadcast industry has gone to some pretty absurd lengths to avoid having to adapt to the cord cutting era. As ad-skipping DVRs started to become popular, the industry's response wasn't to embrace natural evolution, it was to file a bunch of lawsuits and creatively harass companies that were trying to give consumers what they wanted. Similarly, as cord cutting has grown thanks to sky-high prices and ad break fatigue, the industry's overall response was to first raise prices like it was going out of fashion, then try to speed up or edit down programs in the hopes of shoving more ads into each viewing hour.

None of these "solutions," you'll be shocked to learn, actually slowed down the sector's evolution or the exodus of cable TV consumers to more flexible, less costly streaming alternatives. Alternatives that are, you'll note, actually listening to users and giving them what they're asking for (usually).

More recently, we've seen broadcast and cable executives begrudgingly admit that they can't just keep doubling down on the same dumb ideas and expect a better outcome. As a result, we've seen some broadcasters experiment with lower advertising loads during prime time. And we're also seeing to see the industry get a little more creative as to what modern advertising actually means, even if many of these offerings aren't likely to solve the problem either.

For example, NBC has pondered bringing back the bygone era of product placement, something that can easily go wrong if handled poorly. Similarly, Fox outlets like Fox Broadcasting, FX, at the National Geographic channel announced this week that they'll soon start experimenting with replacing ads with short "inspirational videos" funded by the pharmaceutical and insurance sectors:

"Starting this fall, Fox outlets like Fox Broadcasting, FX, Nat Geo and their digital counterparts will begin running inspirational videos that tell stories about people who have overcome adversity. These tales won’t take part over the course of 22 episodes, but will instead show up during advertising time, and Fox hopes to get marketers to sponsor them. Pharmaceutical companies, sports advertisers, insurance marketers and wellness firms are viewed as potential candidates that might consider attaching their names to vignettes of various lengths about people triumphing over cancer, the loss of a limb, or even blindness."

Executives at Fox are calling these "inspirational vignettes" or "unbreakables," in that they're supposed to keep the viewer's attention fixed to the screen:

"Fox is expected to unveil the idea for the inspirational vignettes, known as “Unbreakables,” Monday at the Cannes Lions advertising festival in France. “As part of our relentless pursuit of providing the best viewing experience and the highest performance for marketers, we are turning ad time into brand storytelling time,” says Michael Shields, senior vice president of sales strategy for Fox Networks Group, in a statement."

Short stories funded by major corporations seeded between programming sound a lot like... advertisements. And while you have to credit the industry for actually trying something new, this will do nothing to thwart cord cutting if the content in question isn't actually compelling. We've talked in the past about how good content is advertising and how good advertisements should be good content -- but do you really think that what comes out of this will be good content?

A better option for the cable and broadcast sector is to finally acknowledge that the cash-cow cable TV days of yesteryear are gone, they're not coming back, and that cable operators and broadcasters are going to have to actually try and compete now. That's going to require competing on price, service flexibility and customer service (gasp) instead of just doubling down on bad behavior. Many cable and broadcaster execs have grown so pampered from years of cozy deals and muted, "wink wink" style non-price competition that they're under the false impression that they have any real say in the matter.

But that's how competition works. You don't much have a choice in the matter, and you can either adapt your business model to the new paradigm, or you can slowly but surely become an outdated relic surpassed by more nimble, flexible companies that actually provide what the customers want. Better ads are certainly part of that equation, but they're only a small portion of what's wrong with the traditional cable TV model.

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Filed Under: ad skipping, advertisements, advertising is content, broadcasters, content is advertising, cord cutting, inspirational videos
Companies: fox, nbc


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  1. icon
    sehlat (profile), 21 Jun 2018 @ 1:50pm

    "shoving more ads into viewing hour"

    That's rather like putting arsenic in the milk because it tastes bad.

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