A funny thing happened on the road to finding a business model for video on demand. Basic programmers have stumbled across an interesting way to view VOD, especially in an era where money isn't coming in from cable affiliates or ad sales: Use VOD as a promotional tool to sell new series.
Getting the attention of the viewing public these days for any new series is a monumental task. There are hundreds of channels, premiering thousands of hours of programming. There are thousands of VOD choices. And that's just TV.
Ten years ago, there was no broadband content on the Internet. Game consoles had yet to become home entertainment hubs. Cell phones carried phone calls, not video.
To promote a new TV show, programmers used cross-channel spots, billboards on buses, ads in newspapers and magazines and spots on radio.
All those vehicles still exist today. But as VOD usage grows, programmers are finding the platform is another way to showcase linear programming, especially new series, for which networks are desperate to get some sampling.
The great thing about VOD is it's always there. Maybe you've heard about some show premiering on A&E or VH-1. You meant to catch it, but missed the linear viewing. On demand provides a way to catch up, on your schedule, with the content. And maybe you'll become hooked, and make it a habit to catch the program the next time it airs on the linear channel. That's what programmers hope.
Or do the reverse, and use VOD as a tease before the program airs on the linear network. Build interest by launching new shows, or previews of new shows on VOD, to draw interest towards a linear debut, where you can capture ratings and translate that into advertising dollars.
When a programmer puts an ad on the side of a New York City bus, they know thousands of people will see it. But exactly how many see it and then watch the program can't ever be known. It's leap-of-faith marketing spending. But that's accepted business practice.
VOD is now joining that list, which is good for the cable operators and for the programmers. It may be the new category's first win-win for both sides. And that's a welcome sight for all working in today's VOD business.