Defining Interactive Television

Ah, my glorious days as a graduate student in the communication department at The Ohio State University. Defining terms was a subject that got an awful lot of attention, so I'm already sensitive to the demands involved.

I want to report there is another source that attempts to define interactive television, and that may be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interactive_television, or at least it was there today.


iTV Study Suggests TV Ads Overrated

You may use this content (better still, argue with me!, but please cite my ideas as (c) 2005, Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein.

I remember as a student learning about those hot CBS shows in the 1960s that got great ratings and were cancelled anyway. These shows included The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, and Green Acres among others. They attracted the wrong crowd for advertising. As the theory goes, the older we get, the less likely we are to try new brands and, therefore, the more advertiser-resistant we are.

Well, now, I find this new study that used "interactive television" technology to be surprisingly unsurprising, yet it may be treated as a major development in the television advertising industry. Wait! No it won't! I remember AGB ratings coming to America with an arguably superior service to Nielsen's! Change the status quo? Not on your life! We're still using Nielsen ratings today.

According to Wayne Friedman, author of Interactive TV Spots Prove Less Than Activating, Viewers Grow Fatigued" (Wednesday, Aug 24, 2005), "TV consumers tire easily of traditional five-week-long TV advertising campaigns." Really? I'm shocked! Actually, studies like this are far overdue. It doesn't take a genius to note that most commercial cable television networks do almost everything they can to annoy viewers from blasting the same program promos ad infinitum to devoting ridiculous amounts of minutes per hour to advertisements. Oh, and one of these days I'm going to live up to my threat of hooking up an audio meter to the television and publish just how much louder the commercials are than the program content. If you don't know what I'm talking about, take the flu test: the next time you are forced home in bed with the flu (it doesn't have to be the flu, but...), try watching TNT or the USA network and see if you don't become more ill.

This is a very useful article as long as it's kept online. Here's a nice summary of the study:

Of the 2500 Omaha homes in the test, 22% had digital video recorders. Although DVRs have been viewed as a major threat to advertisers because of their commercial-skipping technology, MediaCheck discovered that DVR homes are not zapping commercials any more than non-DVR homes. Weinblatt said the biggest zappers were those in the older 25-54 demographic, which could be explained by the fact that KMTV is a CBS affiliate. CBS is known for having older viewers.

(By the way, if DVR homes are not zapping commercials any more than non-DVR homes, it suggests to me that those TV remotes are on fire channel cruising during commercial breaks in non-DVR homes.)

I'm told the cable industry knows it has a problem with overcommercialization. (By the way, so does commercial radio, for which Sirius and XM Radio are forever grateful. Nice going, Clear Channel and friends). It's not even a matter of "The Emperor Has No Clothes." Is it my imagination or does the National Geographic Channel sport fewer and shorter non-program breaks during prime time. Hmmmm....that might attract more viewers. What a concept!

Viacom Misses the Boat?

You may use this content, but please cite my ideas as (c) 2005, Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein.

Well, call me "Dr. Academic" who is willing to share his brilliant ideas publicly, but here I go. Do you recognize "Yahoo" or "Google?" Of course you do. According to Reuters and others, Viacom signed a deal with Yahoo! to "provide Web search services and paid search to Viacom's range of online properties including CBSNews.com, BET.com and MTV.com." Hello? What about searching Viacom's database of programs, to be aired live in the future, or otherwise (can you say "video on demand")?

Remember, you heard it here first, and I want the world to know I made an overture to Google about this, these search engines which represent the most sophisticated large database search tools available, also have highly recognizable names. Can I copyright this idea right here? OK, (c) 2005, Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein, Dacula, Georgia: Take the brand name of Google and apply it to a search tool for your video database. What, you ask? Well, it's child's play. How many health shows are "in the can" right now? Who knows, right? Let's say your Auntie Faye is diagnosed with skin cancer or high blood pressure or heart disease or .... well, you get the picture. Today, you might go to Yahoo! or Google to look up "static" information about Auntie Faye's disease, its treatment, and what to expect. To quote Klopfenstein, "Video is the literature of our age." What if you could search the databases of video copyright holders and find documentaries or other non-fiction programs about whatever Auntie Faye has? Would you be interested?

Remember, you read it here first. It is inevitable, logical, evolutionary, and even predictable that video programs will be indexed the same way web pages and other more "traditional" forms of media (you know, the library stuff like books and articles). So why get excited about Viacom signing up with Yahoo! for an advertising/search agreement for Viacom's web sites? C'mon, make it exciting. Index those programs and let the audience find a way to access them. Oh, uh, that's completely predictable, too. How much will it cost? Why even think that way. Media in the U.S. has been historically subsidized by advertising. Want to see that documentary on pregnancy? Of course you do, and you will be more than willing to watch a two minute pitch for American Baby magazine first. Oh, yeah. With interactive television you'll order American Baby with one or two mouse or remote control clicks.

P.S. Following this posting, I noticed this from Wired: Why Yahoo! will be the center of the million-channel universe. Do you think I'm surprised? ;-)

TiVo Surprises, DirecTV Doesn't

You may use this content, but please cite my ideas as (c) 2005, Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein.

I'm a big fan of TiVo for many reasons. They have been wide open to working with academia on understanding the new role of the television audience with the PVR in the home, and they have pioneered a technology that I personally believe will come as close to "revolutionizing" our television experience as any technology that has come before it. Think of color TV, cable TV, subscription TV, public access cable, videocassette recorder, pay-per-view, satellite television, stereo TV and HDTV. Ask yourself the extent to which any of these milestone television developments fundamentally changed television. TiVo and its followers promise to actually change television viewing behavior, and that is not a statement I make lightly. I suppose being an American, I like to see the person who comes forth with a new idea be able to reap the rewards of that ingenuity.

With all that in mind, TiVo has announced that as of my birthday, July 31, they have reached the breakeven mark financially. Three cheers for TiVo! They are now in an almost wildly competitive atmosphere with the cable, satellite, and set-top box industries introducing their own versions of digital video recorders (I must confess I think "personal" video recorders was a better name). By the way, the "wildly competitive atmosphere" is great news for consumers. Just think: Beta versus VHS brought rapid technological improvements to these *two* competing video recording formats. Add computers and "home networking" devices to the mix, and it is quite reasonable to expect new features being added to all DVRs.

By the way, DirecTV has finally spilled the beans on the worst kept secret in the television distribution business. It's finally announced the obvious, that it will use its own DVR to compete with TiVo's. From the moment Rupert Murdoch bought DirecTV, this was a given. Now it is simply part of the public record. What does this have to do with an interactive television blog? Well,

The new DVR is designed to blend in with his company's new interactive features, including those that let users view local weather reports and maps, watch several channels simultaneously on one screen and call up a day's football highlights. It also will make it possible for DirecTV to offer pay-per-view movies on demand.

David Lieberman, USA TODAY, Posted 8/23/2005 9:33 PM
Well, I almost forgot that my main interest right now is interactive television, but DVRs are part of my iTV continuum, giving control of the viewing experience to the television viewer.