Comcast chief operating officer Steve Burke issued a warning
at a CTAM Summit '09 panel here Sunday: Content providers and cable operators
that don't take heed to the shifting habits of video viewers to online and
other alternative forms of viewing content might wake up soon without a
Speaking at the opening general panel session moderated by Harvard Business School
professor Tom Eisenmann, Burke said that initiatives like Canoe, interactive
and addressable advertising and TV Everywhere aren't necessarily attempts to
change the existing television ad model.
They're attempts to get out in front of what he called "one
of the biggest movements or social phenomena that I have ever seen."
Burke pointed to his own children's preference to watch
content on their laptop computers rather than a television set.
"An entire generation is growing up with that preference,"
"If we don't do something to change that behavior so they
respect copyrights on the side of content providers, and cable subscriptions or
satellite subscriptions or telco subscriptions on the side of the distributors,
we are going to wake up with a lot of ingrained habits going the wrong way and
we will see cord-cutting."
That is the impetus behind initiatives like Canoe and TV Everywhere,
Burke didn't sound entirely confident that initiatives like
interactive advertising would see daylight right away. Although Comcast is a major
participant in Canoe and expects to roll out TV Everywhere through its entire footprint
next year, he said interactive and addressable advertising would probably take at
least five years.
"In one year it would be hard to tell," Burke said. "I'm
very confident it is going to be better."
In the meantime, Burke said, the tools are all there - 60%
to 70% of all cable subscribers have a set-top box, which means that not only could
targeted advertising be sent to those customers, but that data about viewing
habits and the like could be used to further target those consumers.
While Burke said that information has to be handled very
carefully because of privacy issues, the other panelist, Starcom MediaVest
Group CEO Laura Desmond said such data is exactly the type of information that
Desmond said that one beef that major advertisers have with
mass-media advertising is that there is a huge amount of wasted money spent on reaching
an audience outside their core demographic.
"Let's bring direct-marketing principles to the mass
market," Desmond said. "When you do that, you will see the demographics and