Next TV: Fox’s Wertheimer: Trade Analog Pennies for Digital Dollars

Santa Clara, Calif.—David Wertheimer, president of digital for Fox Broadcasting, was bullish about the future of digital advertising during a keynote interview Thursday at B&C and Multichannel News’ Next TV Summit.

Asked by B&C contributing editor George Winslow about then-NBC Universal president and CEO Jeff Zucker’s famous 2008 quote about not trading “trading analog dollars for digital pennies,” Wertheimer said that the issue he is concerned most with isn’t how to bring digital advertising up to broadcast levels.

“I like to turn that question on its head,” Wertheimer said. “I like to say, ‘How can we create an environment where the digital advertising’s worth a lot more than the television  advertising?”

He cited as an example a test Fox conducted with interactive digital advertising, in which viewers were given the option of interacting with an ad and being rewarded with a shorter commercial break. “We don’t know all the results yet, but it’s very encouraging.”

Wertheimer also discussed his time working for Steve Jobs at NeXT early in his career.

“One of the things that I learned from Steve Jobs was impatience,” Wertheimer said, joking that it’s not a lesson his current staff is likely glad that he learned. He continued, “The thing that I learned later in my career was to be patient to see the fruit of my impatience take hold.”

He then recalled a conversation he had with former Blockbuster owner Wayne Huizenga in the early ‘90s, saying that he told Huizenga that Blockbuster would go out of business within five years, disrupted by streaming video. Blockbuster would go on to declare bankruptcy—in 2010.

Regarding digital strategy for Fox’s entertainment programming, Wertheimer said, “it’s important to reward people who are paying for content.” Fox therefore makes full seasons of shows available online to customers who can authenticate as a subscriber to a multichannel video programming distributor.

“We make that possible for you,” he said. “Virtually nowhere else can you do that.”

Discussing the future of television, Wertheimer turned to the evolution of the word itself.

“The term television has transcended the medium,” he said, drawing a comparison to the term “hang up,” which used to refer to the physical act placing a telephone receiver on a base to disconnect a call, and now for many people refers to nothing more physical than touching a screen. Television, he said, “means high-quality entertainment, it means longer viewing experience, it means premium content.”