Upfront Notebook: Lowe Makes Fox Viewability Pitch

As they battle online video for marketing dollars, the TV networks are trying to make viewability standards into an issue.

At its upfront programming presentation Monday afternoon, Fox focused attention on the "crappy" quality and efficacy of online video with a combination of star power and humor.

Toby Byrne, president of ad sales for Fox Networks Group, introduced a video featuring "one of my oldest and closest friends," DirecTV pitchman and the star of new Fox comedy The Grinder Rob Lowe.

Lowe's first take on viewability standards was understandable. "What the #%# is that," he said. Quickly, however, he warmed to the task, claiming the issue was very personal to him.

"I got into this business with the hope that someday I could make a difference in the online visibility standards," he said.

"You know, TV ads are full screen and 100% viewable. Tragically, current online video standards require only 50% of the screen be viewable for just 2 seconds," Lowe explained, running a brief clip from Fox's Last Man On Earth that was cut to half the screen.

"I don't know about you, but I have no idea what I just saw," he said. He then ran a longer, full-screen version of the same clip.

"Much better," he proclaimed. "So you can buy crappy online video where you don't know what you're getting, or you can buy Fox's premium programming across platforms and get the full picture."

Byrne continued the assault, saying that a lot "struggle to make that standard. We don't. TV is by definition 100% viewable and across all our platforms we excel."

The viewability salvo meant it was more than 11 minutes before Byrne got to d-word. "I'm sure you're surprised I got this far into the speech without uttering a certain word," he said. "Well, our data solutions will enable us to improve your buy and find your best prospects and demonstrate the value of Fox partnership."