Bugged, But It Could Be Good

My entry last Friday about advertising on television shows streamed over the Web hit a few nerves over on HDTV Magazine where the Almanac is republished every day. It generated a long string of comments that covered a wide range of issues, from how much people pay for television service in their homes, to how much a movie DVD should cost. In the course of the discussion, I shared an observation that I made recently and I have decided to repeat an edited version of that comment here for those of you who don’t read the Almanac on HDTV Magazine.

I was watching the pilot of “V” on Hulu, and the usual Hulu bug was in the lower right quadrant; it’s annoying, but really no big deal. But in the left quadrant, there was a bug for “6 ABC”. Now, an ABC bug would be fine; it’s they’re show, and if they want to clutter it up with in-house advertising, that’s their choice. (A bad choice, but theirs to make.)

But it wasn’t that, it was for WPVI, the Philadelphia ABC station. Huh? This means that Hulu knows where I live (which I no doubt told it) and it was able to put the correct local station’s bug overlaid on the content. That’s pretty impressive. I don’t like it cluttering up the show, but it does show that the “targeted marketing” promises of streaming Internet video perhaps are finally being delivered.

While I share some concerns with others about the privacy issues that this raises, I sincerely hope that this means that soon I will have watched the last commercial that doesn’t interest me. I’m never going to own a BMW, but there are lots of products out there that I’d like to know more about, and if Hulu can deliver those to me in the commercial breaks, I can tell you that I’ll be a lot more likely to watch them than the ones I’ve seen (over and over and over) on that service so far.

One person’s “junk mail” is another’s interesting resource. The key is to have a good mailing list that doesn’t waste your marketing dollars on prospects who aren’t interested in your product. I hope that the Internet will let advertisers on streaming video use laser precision to deliver their message to just those people who want to receive it. Instead of having a few big advertisers support a given program, there could be a few thousand. We could call it “micro advertising“, and it could save the entertainment industry by revolutionizing how we fund our content.