@ Promax/BDA: TV Promos Meet The Long Tail

Lee Hunt, interim managing director of Promax/BDA, held forth on how Chris Anderson’s Long Tail concept is changing viewing choices and what the makers of TV promos and movie trailers will have to do to meet the new challenges.

Cable Revolution Redux: Last year, there were 26 shows on iTunes. Now there’s 68. It parallels the history of cable TV. There were 90 million households in 1980 and a few channels. Today, there’s 97 million households, but the number of cable channels have gone through the roof. People feel overwhelmed by the amount of choices, but the kind of entertainment they seek out hasn’t changed. The internet has led to the advent of the Long Tail and that will change viewing habits. My argument does have a flaw – it assumes that people’s viewing habits don’t change. The CD didn’t change people’s listening habits – it just gave people a different platform on which to listen to the same music. But iTunes and Netflix have demonstrated that when you have infinite choices, you have the Long Tail – a few hits, but a lot of activity on niche oriented fare. There is no Long Tail in traditional TV. There are only so many channels that can be broadcast, plus only 24 hours in a day to program. It needs a large audience to sell time to advertisers and hits to attract advertisers. In the Long Tail, people make different entertainment choices. With the VCR, Blockbuster entered the rental field offering the choice of hundreds of titles. Netflix now offers thousands. In Blockbuster, 90 percent of the shelves are new releases. With Netflix, 70 percent of rentals are back catalog, 30 percent are new releases, reversing the dynamic of Blockbuster’s brick and mortar stores. With TV shows becoming more available as downloads and streaming media, the Long Tail is coming to TV.

The Recommendation Model: That presents a number of challenges to the traditional way TV has attracted audiences. The people who produce promos are going to have to work on guidance. On websites, we have the ability to store promos at no cost. It allows viewers to sample a show. What viewer will want to sit through hundreds of promos? We need to set up a pool system that allows them to select the kinds of entertainment they’re looking for. Look at Amazon and Netflix recommendation models. But this raises a fundamental question: will it actually work? A study by Dynamic Logic measured awareness found that successful promos that were able to deliver a compelling message even with the sound off attracted viewers. Plus, promos that offered links to additional online information and made use of display ads that fit with an offline marketing campaign were also successful.

Exploit The Tail: Promote shows that we don’t offer on air. We’ve always counted on messages that depended on the close timing of the promotion and the airing of the show. Would could be more proximate than a promo that allows viewers the chance to watch the program immediately?