AVoD: A Very Onerous Deal?
November 8, 2023
Streamers, both global and national, are using advertising to boost their SVoD or catch-up services. Global streamers recognise that in macro-economic hard times sign-offs can be rescued by a lower price tier supported by advertising. National catch-up services recognise that ads are so irritating to viewers that they can charge some of them to upgrade to a service without them.
So, no one is pretending having ads on your service is a good thing in itself. Let’s leave aside whether, ultimately, this trend will work out economically – there are big questions about the whole advertising cake, and how far round it will go?
But if advertising is to retake such a central role in our new TV landscape – some thought they had been relegated to a supporting role for ever – should we not expect that it should be done better? For how many years have we been told that targeting, personalisation, would transform ads – that viewers would only see ads relevant to them in subject and locale. That TV would mimic, and much improve on, the ‘follow me’ features of the internet. Anyone noticed that working at all?
And it isn’t just that the targeting doesn’t work much at all. Certainly, with the streamers and catch-ups I have, the QoE of just having an ad break falls well short of the normal terrestrial experience. We are surrounded by talk of AI and ML applications for every function in TV and its production, so what is going on with ad break insertion and inventory?
No streamer that I have comes close to the QoE of FTA, and I do understand this isn’t easy; on FTA the programme is likely to have been made with the ad breaks – their timing and duration – in mind editorially, so cliff edges, jump cuts and jeopardy and carefully calibrated. You can’t replicate this if you are shoving more ads and more ad breaks into the same show. Fair enough … but maybe you could try a bit harder?
There’s one catch-up service here of a national broadcaster that is owned by one of the world’s biggest media companies (oh no, that’s given it away), that on-air looks as slick as any other. But on catch-up ad breaks arrive like a police raid on a nightclub; no warning, loud and unwelcome. They arrive completely randomly – if it feels like a natural break, that is a coincidence. More often it will be mid-sentence in a key piece of dialogue.
Still, there was a time when the production values and wit of some ads would make a welcome interruption to the tedium of what you were watching. Two reasons this is no longer the case: first, more fool you if you’re not watching an at least good-enough show, there are plenty to choose from. Second, most ads are rubbish; if this is the golden age of TV, the golden age of TV advertising is long gone. Cost seems to be the presiding criteria, and this also plays into internationalisation; car brands, cleaning products, confection, booze, few of them can be bothered to make national TV ads anymore.
But at least you only see the badly made, badly timed ads you are interested in, right? Well, only if someone knows better me that I should definitely be in the wholesale mattress business, or that I should definitely a) take up gambling, and b) restrict my betting to just two sites. As it happens, I manage well with one mattress, and I don’t plan on getting into betting.
It is obvious that the provider puts no effort, editorial or technological, into its on-platform advertising provision and just uses it to flush through over-sold impression weights that can only be achieved by playing out the same handful of ads on repeat. And it is not untypical. The result is that both clients and viewers are being treated with contempt.