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The $1.99 Lesson

ESPNEarlier this week ESPN posted their witty SportsCenter commercials on iTunes, for a $1.99.  Shortly thereafter the comments started coming in via iTunes built-in comment system, however, instead of praise for ESPN’s typically well-received spots the audience was appalled at the very idea of being charged to watch a commercial.  ESPN quickly retracted the spots and reposted them without fees.  Naturally, this was a good move on the network’s part and we’ll give credit where credit is do – they did right by their audience at the end of the day.

The situation brings to the forefront how the broadcast industry has initially handled the new on-line universe of video podcasting and on-demand video.  The industry has very quickly jumped to turn these tools into unique revenue streams, i.e. ABC selling its blockbuster hit Desperate Housewives through Apple’s iTunes Store.  However, while that is an appropriate strategy for some shows is not necessarily the best strategy for all content. 

Instead rather then viewing these tools as simply revenue stream opportunities, the broadcast industry should leverage these tools to grow audiences and build loyalties.  For example, let’s take the ever competitive late-night television space, for years David Letterman’s Late ShowTop Ten List has been available as a syndicated radio feature to help audiences become more familiar with the show and to in-turn draw larger audiences.  Now, with that idea in mind, the broadcast networks and cable channels have a unique opportunity to use video podcasts to make programs, or parts of programs available without a fee online, which will in turn help build audiences. 

The $1.99 lesson is that content providers need to use these new tools to their advantage, but not in a way that alienates the audience or looses focus on the big picture of building audience.  For starters, I call on the networks to podcast the stand-up monologues of new late night acts such as Jimmy Kimmel, and Craig Ferguson.

Link: NY Post ESPN Story

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