VOD Sermon: Ad Exec Lays It on the Line


San Francisco— Mediacom U.S. chairman Jon Mandel laid down the gauntlet last week to cable operators, saying that if MSOs truly want to build a significant video-on-demand advertising business, they’ll have to do a few things:

  • Deliver daily ratings with meaningful usage stats;
  • Provide a common, national platform;
  • And cut down on ad-insertion lead time.

Speaking at a National Show panel session, Mandel said that from an advertiser’s perspective: “VOD is just another way to touch the consumer. I don’t care if it’s online, cable, DSL. I want my message to go through.”


Mandel also said Madison Avenues wants broader placement across multiple MSOs: “I want my message in appropriate content to run across all cable systems. I want it to run everywhere.”

Mediacom has dabbled in the VOD space by using Scripps Networks on-demand content for Century 21, said Mandel. But it had to work with the programmer to gain broad VOD coverage.

Mediacom also placed ads in Comcast Corp.’s on-demand National Basketball Association highlights. That deal worked, he said, because the lead time to insert ads was three days, not six weeks.

“The long lead time of commercial insertion” has to be fixed, he said.

Mandel said he wasn’t overly concerned about consumers zapping through VOD ads. Ever since the remote was invented, he said, people have had the ability to “skip” commercials by changing channels.

He talked about how Comcast prevents consumers from fast-forwarding through commercials the first time on NFL On Demand, but allows subsequent skipping.

“That’s OK,” Mandel said. “If people care about programming, they tend to watch commercials more.”

Perhaps more than anything else, Mandel wants good data.

“Give me numbers only about the first viewing [for the NFL] and make that the same across all cable operators,” Mandel said. “I’m in a data swamp. I have sheets and sheets of data. We have to have some commonality of data.”

At one point, Mandel castigated the cable industry for what he views as its unwillingness to share data. “You didn’t share data until we beat the crap out of you,” he said.

That elicited a strong rebuke from Comcast Network Sales president Dave Cassaro, who said the industry was moving towards data delivery.

“Operators are willing to share data,” he said. Comcast has recently begun issuing programmers the monthly cable VOD stats gathered by Rentrak Corp.

The Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing has also issued guidelines, Cassaro said, and work on that front continues.

But Mandel retorted: “We need more than monthly data. We need daily data — the number of commercials watched, what do those homes do, who’s in those homes.”

Scripps Network senior vice president of new ventures Channing Dawson also expressed some frustration. Both MSOs and programmers are trying to sell VOD to Madison Avenue, “but certain data is being kept from us,” he said.

“CTAM has established a baseline set of data. In time, as we understand what the data means, we will come to some agreement on what the marketplace is. We’ve seen that walled gardens don’t work.”

Dawson even intimated that programmers would have options, such as broadband, to deliver VOD content to consumers. “We’ll go around it,” he said, and go “where we can get metrics.”


But the ad community also needs to come to grips with VOD, Mandel acknowledged.

Advertisers and agencies need to think about different commercial lengths, like 10-second spots, for VOD and broadband ads, said ESPN/ABC Sports customer marketing and sales president Ed Erhardt.

“We need to figure how to get creative people to use VOD,” Mandel conceded.