While it's unclear how many ads consumers will tolerate in TV Everywhere-style services, Comcast will leave decisions about commercial placement for its version in the hands of programmers, according to Matt Strauss, the operator's senior vice president of new media.
"I don't know what the right model ultimately is going to be," he said. "Our job is to provide the infrastructure to allow the programmer to decide" how to place ads.
Strauss spoke at the VideoSchmooze broadband video discussion forum here Tuesday night, on a panel moderated by industry consultant and VideoNuze publisher Will Richmond.
Strauss is helping chaperone Comcast's On Demand Online trial with 5,000 subscribers in partnership with 24 networks, including CBS, HBO, Starz and Discovery. The operator is aiming to roll out the service to all subscribers commercially before the end of the year. Like traditional VOD, On Demand Online would be included with the monthly subscription fee.
As part of the trial, Comcast has been working closely with Nielsen to be able to count On Demand Online views as part of C3 ratings, which credit time-shifted DVR viewing. "The natural extension would be to take that [C3] measurement online," Strauss said.
However, he added, "I think there's a lot of interest in that idea but we're not going to dictate that that's the right model, because ultimately I think it's the programmers to decide... I don't think it's going to be one-model-fits-all."
Initially Comcast will launch On Demand Online exclusively through its own Comcast.net and Fancast portals. But in a second phase, Strauss said, programmers will be able to serve authenticated video content from their sites to Comcast subscribers -- although, for now, how that will happen has not been fully fleshed out.
"They want to understand how it's going to be measured and metered on their sites," Strauss said. "This is not just a Comcast initiative, this needs to be an industry-wide initiative."
Also on the panel, Perkins Miller, senior vice president of digital media for NBC Universal Sports & Olympics, said the broadcaster is delivering every ad pod in the online simulcast of Sunday Night Football -- and hasn't seen any decrease in consumption of 15- or 30-second commercials.
"If you have the content you can push harder on the ad model," he said.
Miller said NBCU is working on "a robust authentication process" to provide multichannel-video subscribers access to online content for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver next February.
"I tell you, it's not easy," he said.
Strauss said Comcast has been focused on the authentication process in the On Demand Online trials. He said protecting the content itself is not the most complicated issue; rather, it's things like ensuring against credential theft or misuse.
"You want to make sure the person accessing it is the person paying for it. We've spent a lot of time trying to effectuate that," Strauss said.
At the same time, Comcast is also trying to balance that with user friendliness. "We've also thought about, if someone has a problem they're going to call [our support center]," Strauss said.
The VideoSchmooze event, held at the Hudson Theater in Times Square, was presented in association with the National Association of Television Program Executives.