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Commercial-free TV

Editor:

Imagine turning on the television to watch your favorite half-hour sitcom, and it actually lasts 30 minutes. There are no commercials, and you access it from a server provided by your local TV station. It works much like how cell phones work now — through broadcast RF.

Once this new technology is available for televisions, TV stations will be scrambling to figure out how to use it for advertising.

The technology is called Program Integrated Advertising (PIA). PIA recognizes that viewers will not sit through 30-second commercials and promos, let alone two-to-three minute breaks. So, instead of those long breaks, advertising appears within the programs.

For example, suppose a health club sponsors a TV program. The lead character may be seen working out at the gym with a visible exterior shot. Then the camera will zoom in on an attractive physical trainer.

The technology is just around the corner. It's time that the major players and local stations start introducing their viewers to PIA.
Evertt Sayler
TV commercial production

Craig Birkmaier responds:

Product placement has been increasing for several years, and there has been a lot of coverage about it. Google the phrase, and you'll find about 24 million hits. There are two main drivers of this phenomenon: the TV remote and the PVR, which has been called the Death Star for commercials.

It's interesting that many of the new streaming services providing access to network programming via the Internet are configured so that you cannot skip the commercials. The same is true for the on-demand offerings of many network shows.

More than 85 percent of U.S. homes have a multichannel TV service that costs about $50 a month. And many homes spend this much or more to buy and rent content. Considering this, I believe there will be a time when viewers will spend that money on commerical-free content.

I see a wide range of options in terms of how content will be paid for in the future. If broadcasters are to survive, they need to start thinking about individual viewers as opposed to generic audiences. The tools are coming together to provide that kind of one-on-one relationship with viewers — even in a broadcast medium.

A good example of this technology was discussed in my November 2006 column about set-top boxes. While this idea represents an opportunity to reinvent broadcast television, broadcasters have shown little interest in developing the STB into a platform for new services and revenue streams. Broadcasters are content to let cable and DBS be the pioneers as long as they can negotiate lucrative retransmission consent agreements.

LPTV digital deadline

Editor:

As manager of an LPTV station that operates four UHF channels, I, along with my board of directors, am anxiously awaiting word from the FCC as to when LPTV stations will be given a federal mandate to go digital.

We know full-power commercial stations are required to go digital in February 2009. So to keep competitive, we're planning to go that route. However, because we're a viewer-supported station, there's always the possibility that fundraising may take longer. If I could tell my board that we have more time to raise the money, it might calm some fears that the station won't make it by the 2009 deadline.
Dan Thesman
Station manager
Blue Mountain Television
College Place, WA

Harry Martin responds:

There is no DTV transition deadline for LPTV and Class A stations. They can continue to operate in the analog mode as long as they want.

LPTV and Class A stations were afforded an opportunity to apply for companion DTV channels earlier this year, and the FCC is now processing those applications. Stations that receive companion channels will have three years to build them, but they are not required to build a second facility if they decide not to do so. They, along with LPTVs with no companion channels, can flash cut to digital at any time, but don't have a deadline to do so.

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