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An On-Demand World

  |  November 12, 2002   |  Comments

Contextual relevance, clutter, and consumer control... not problems exclusively reserved for online buyers.

Consumers want instant gratification. For years, we Net folk have claimed we have the solution for this mentality. After all, we represent real-time media. Content, creative, messaging, advertising, and the like can be updated almost instantaneously. Because of this, we work at warp speed to keep up with demand.

As a consumer, I don't have big expectations from the offline world. There are few television shows I watch. I have a hard time figuring out when a season begins or ends, or what time a show airs, for that matter. However, I'll admit I'm an avid fan of a couple shows out there. OK, OK... I'm an HBO junkie. My weekend winds down with "Six Feet Under," "Sex and the City," and good ole Tony Soprano's waste management.

I'm a diehard, but it drives me nuts. The season starts late and ends early. HBO does such a fabulous marketing job, I can rent DVDs containing an entire show season. It gives me the impression I'm wasting time. Why run around all weekend to try to make a show's airtime? Programs are repeated Monday nights, and there are always DVDs at the local video store or, better still, from Netflix. Does watching the first-run episode enhance the experience? Aren't water cooler days over?

I'm hardly surprised by the advancement of personal video recorders (PVRs). What surprises me is how slowly they are penetrating the market (see tables below). Wouldn't it be cool to set up your user preferences and record every "Sopranos" episode so you can watch whenever you want?

U.S. PVR Adoption, 2001 - 2006 (000)
PVR Type






Cable deployment






Satellite box






Standalone 0.1 0.5 1.8 4.2 7.1 9.3 10.2
Total 0.3 0.8 3.5 9.0 19.4 30.7 42.0
Source: Forrester Research

PVR Deployment and Market Share, December 2001

PVR Type
Total Deployed (000)
Market Share (%)
TiVo 280 42.75
EchoStar 200 31
UltimateTV 100 11
ReplayTV 75 15.25
Total 655 100
Source: iTV Marketer

It seems my counterparts in broadcast are happy growth has been slow. Perhaps it will afford them the necessary time to figure what consumers really want. Nielsen Media Research has tried to scratch below the surface to determine how consumers use PVRs. This past summer, the company's tracking software was installed in a small population of TiVo homes. Nielsen is still a good way away from having the ability to properly report TiVo usage.

The offline world's primary concern is such devices enable consumers to skip commercials.

"Time shifting," an ability to pause, save, and watch recorded TV programs, has been the focus from the get-go. "We're in the business of television audience measurement, and people watch television in different ways," said Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus.

"Time-shifting is one of them," he continued. "The phenomenon of time-shifting programs seems to be growing, and we've got to prepare for it. Our business is measuring television viewing behavior, and we will find out how time-shifting devices affect viewing behavior. It's very important for clients who see opportunities in the time-shifting environment and interactive television, and who are going to invest all that money in it that this activity can be measured."

According to a CNW Marketing Research survey of approximately 1,000 respondents, about 71 percent of PVR users fast-forward through ad spots during network primetime.

How do these stats compare to use of the almighty remote control, you might ask? Not very differently. CNW scrutinized over 8,000 TV viewers and found over 42 percent ignore the ads completely.

Media today are as cluttered as hell. New ad opportunities are on the rise. Look closely. You'll see the brighter stars have increased product placement in network and cable spots. Online advertisers aren't the only ones struggling with contextual relevance, clutter, and consumer control.


Seana Mulcahy

Seana Mulcahy is vice president, director of interactive media at Mullen (an IPG company). She's been creating online brands since before the first banner was sold. Her expertise includes online and traditional media planning and buying, e-mail marketing, viral marketing, click-stream analysis, customer tracking, promotions, search engine optimization and launching brands online. Prior to Mullen, Seana was vice president of media services at Carat Interactive. She's built online media services divisions for three companies and has worked with clients spanning financial, telecom, high-tech, healthcare and retail. Not surprisingly, she has taught, lectured and written about the industry for numerous trade associations and publications.

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