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Advertisers Told to Back 'Free' VOD

If advertisers want to keep TV an ad-supported mass medium, they should actively support free-video-on-demand services like the one rolled out by Comcast Corp. in Philadelphia.

That's according to media industry analyst Brian Wieser of Magna Global, the company that controls about $30 billion of media spending for the Interpublic Group of Companies--which includes ad agencies McCann-Erickson and Initiative.

The alternative to a robust FVOD service, says Wieser, will be on-demand homes dominated by personal recording devicdes--DVRs, PVRs and Tivo's. Those consumer-controlled devices give viewers more opportunity to skip commercials or bypass technologies designed to restrict ad skipping.

With FVOD, by contrast, more control remains with the cable operator. With FVOD, digital subscribers effectively get the ability to record, save and replay all their digital channels, rolled into the monthly fee for digital service.

Wieser doesn't suggest that personal recording devices won't become a major factor, just that FVOD could become a legitimate, and ad-friendlier--competitor. He says a "best of" cable" model, which would include both broadcast and cable networks, "will both constrain the growth of DVRs (because it will be a 'good-enough' product for most subscribers) and will provide an environment which affords national advertisers the ability to continue reaching mass audiences via television."

That analysis comes in a just-released report, "Still No Such Thing As a Free Lunch: Why Advertisers Should Support FVOD To Limit the Growth Of the DVR."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.