What are you doing Thursday at 9 pm? Watching Seinfeld.
But this time - starting at 9 pm on July 19 - it’s not “appointment television” as was the 1990s hit in the same “time slot.” Tune in anytime to the new Jerry Seinfeld show, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” to see a show that really is “about nothing.” In each streamed web episode, Seinfeld and one of his cronies, including (of course) Larry David, Michael Richards, Bob Einstein, Alec Baldwin, Ricky Gervais and others, will sit around sipping and schmoozing.
Crackle.com, the Sony Pictures Television subsidiary that is distributing the new Seinfeld show, offered scant details about the web programs - not even how many episodes or whether the show will be ad-supported. Not coincidentally, Sony Pictures TV handled the original linear Seinfeld series.
Nowadays it is hardly surprising that big stars are opting for Web distribution rather than conventional linear shows on cable or broadcast channels. Seinfeld himself is no stranger to the webisodes world. In 2004, he created short branded entertainment web videos for American Express, appearing with Superman.
What is fascinating about the Crackle/Seinfeld venture is its timing. It debuts in mid-July - a favorite time for premieres of many linear cable TV series - rather than in the conventional autumn “new TV season.” It’s a reminder that the Web really has no seasons.
By coincidence, this week has also seen a new slew of reports about the growing attention to the value of web advertising - both the viewers and to ad agencies.
A report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau not only shows increasing appetites for short programs, often delivered by mobile devices. It also points to the growing appeal for such content across many demographic groups.
Separately, BrightRoll Inc., a digital ad network, published its annual “US Video Advertising Report,” a survey of agency executives. Among its findings is that while significant ad spending is moving toward online video, agencies are perplexed about how to measure the success of web video commercials. About equal portions (roughly one quarter) of respondents cited “views,” “brand lift” and “sales impact” - while others prefer measuring click-through rates, gross rating points or other factors.
Yet another analysis from Videoplaza contends that online video advertising is not keeping up with Internet video consumption. The study indicates a 53% growth rate from 2011 to 2012 in the revenues for online video ads, but warns that media owners “risk missing out on growth” if they don’t monetize services to “a full range of connected devices,” which includes mobile handsets, laptop and desktop computers and smart TVs as well as ‘net-connected Smart TVs.
This latest confluence of research - and yes, I know we can find such upbeat promises almost ubiquitously - underscores the drive behind Sony and Seinfeld’s “comedians in cars” direction. Will Seinfeld’s followers want to see old comics drinking coffee?
We’ll be watching to see if “something” actually happens.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Gary Arlen is president of Arlen Communications LLC in Bethesda, Md., and a long-time interactive TV enthusiast. Reach him at GArlen@ArlenCom.com