Skip to content is missing a huge opportunity

March 19, 2008

Recently, I decided to watch the entire Lost franchise streaming in hi-def for free at Since my computer screen is hi-def, this is both free HDTV and DVR.

As I sat getting lost is Lost, this thought occurred to me: The people at ABC (or NBC, CBS or FOX because I’ve watched there too) don’t get it. If you’ve never watched a TV show online, they all work like this.

Pick the show, and a message informs that: the following episode is brought to you with limited commercial interruptions by _____ (brand).  Before the show comes on, a 30 second ad is shown. A basic one-hour show on Network TV happens in 5 acts, separated by 5 commercials (often the same one repeated 5 times). Skipping through the commercials isn’t permitted. On NBC, the commercial ends and the show begins. On ABC, when the commercial ends you have to click to continue, which I would ask to change if I was the brand. It’s annoying to have to click the button, and it’s just human nature to blame the ABC brand and the advertiser.

So that’s the basic premise. Starting from the top, here’s where I think they break down.

1. Stop giving it away for free.
I’m not suggesting that ABC should charge me for watching Lost. However, in the digital era, information has value. If ABC asked me for an e-mail and my age, I would part with it to watch Lost. This would be “for free” to me, and still be of value to ABC. Since they can track via IP addresses, they know my location, and from that they could surmise additional demographical information. Armed with this, they could deliver more targeted ads based on who is watching. Fact is, we’re getting used to getting relevant content in our online experience. And the technology exists to deliver a different ad to different people dependant on their age and location. It wouldn’t be hard to program, but ads would be more relevant, and thus, more expensive for brands to buy. That would mean more money for ABC.

Plus: as an added bonus, you could begin to craft communities around the shows people watch. Heroes, on NBC, does a good job of building around the shows brand. I’ll bet a lot of shows could as well. Signing in would be like signing into the world and sharing with other fans.

2. Stop thinking about interruption.
The current model on seems to think it’s TV. Currently, brands are offered the chance to buy the show — just like the model for TV. The big difference is that brands buy the entire episode. And even though we still get the interruptions, it’s different online. so why not throw out the 30 second model and let brands do what they want? What if a brand simply wanted to help you watch the show? If a brand’s positioning was “saving you time” then why not start off with a message that said: We at brand are all about saving you time. Thus, this episode of SHOW will not have any interruptions. It’s on us.”

3. Showing the same 30 second TV spot on the Internet is a waste of an opportunity.
The internet is clickable. Instead of showing an interruptive medium, why not preview a website? Why not talk up a promotion? Who was the marketing genius that thought people who have a favorable view of a brand when it bores us to death with the same thing over and over. Admittedly, some brands that buy Episodes have three ads that they shuffle around. But even that gets old. The internet, since it’s like DVR offers the chance to go on marathons. During season 1 (two weeks ago), I watched 5 episodes back to back. A marathon like that ensures that people will easily get sick of your ad fast. And annoyed isn’t what we want the viewer to be.

Marketers (especially the ones who buy the “you have to click to continue ABC”) should be thinking about ways to enhance the online experience. Brands have a captive audience, and they’re the only game in town. Falling back on TV spots designed to be interruptive and compete within the commercial break is short-sighted.

Watching a show on the internet should not be thought of as watching TV online. There are a number of different activities involved. First, I’ll bet it’s more active. It’s not couch potato, channel changer stuff. It’s active engagement. Second, the people who are doing it have broadband, are early adopters and possible influencers.

There’s an opportunity here that is being missed over and over. As a marketer, I would love for them to smarten up so we can think about using this medium.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 25, 2008 11:02 pm


  2. January 26, 2009 11:22 am

    guess what? i was annoyed with the click-to-continue thing too…and then i stumbled on “settings” – and there was an option where you can “auto-continue” between ad breaks. wow! abc aren’t morons after all!

  3. January 26, 2009 11:59 am

    Thanks for the tip. I saw that in the redesign. In my defense, this was written almost a year ago.

    And when they begin asking me who I am, I’ll agree with your last sentence.


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