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Is it really that old? Actually, it is. That oft-used phrase referring to necessity as the mother of invention has its derivation in Book 2 of “Plato's Republic,” which incredibly dates back to the fourth century B.C. The actual original phrase was: “ … and yet the true creator is necessity, who is the mother of our invention.” Fast-forward two dozen centuries, and there's a unique application of that long-guiding tenet developed by a little-known startup called Mozaik Multimedia.

The DVR effect

In this era of TiVo devices and cable set-top boxes with built-in DVRs, does anyone really watch commercials anymore? Clearly, the broadcast community can ill afford to stick a fork in that advertising golden goose known as the commercial spot. The reality, though, is that DVR technology in its various forms is increasingly penetrating viewer homes, and with that time-shifting technology also comes the ability to fast-forward through commercials. Many viewers take pride in the fact that they no longer watch their favorite shows in real time; DVR viewing now allows them to watch a one-hour TV program in just 40 minutes by zipping through the ads. The DVR impact to commercial viewing is a verboten topic that is seldom discussed above whispers in the broadcast community, but its crescendoing impact is only getting louder. In April, Nielsen reported that 34 percent of TV households now have DVRs, up from just 24 percent a year earlier.

One answer to the DVR phenomenon is product placement, i.e. having identifiable products in use as part of the content storyline. This has become a widespread advertising practice but opens an interesting can of worms with regard to claims of false advertising. For example, in the recent movie “Date Night,” Steve Carell's character needs to check some photos. His accommodating cab driver produces an Amazon-placed Kindle, which allows him to view the pictures. There's one minor problem. The real-life Kindle can't read flash drives, the media that's holding Carell's photos. So, does a viewer who was influenced by this scene to purchase a Kindle on which to view his flash drive photos have a false advertising claim against Amazon? We'll have to leave that one for the legal minds, but you get the idea.

Another anti-DVR scheme has been to do live commercials within the program prior to a normal commercial break. “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” has been a pioneer with that approach.

But, let's get back to Mozaik. Its approach is to author a layer of interactivity on program content that embeds hot buttons associated with a specific product and/or talent. Thus, by clicking the appropriate hot button, the viewer can obtain further information, for example, about a particular location, item, person, service or soundtrack in the content he or she is currently watching.

What is exciting is the transaction opportunity presented when that viewer clicks on a product hot button. Mozaik's !Content technology takes this process to monetization nirvana. It creates an actionable environment between viewer and product, thus elevating product placement to a level of interactivity that is both measurable and transactionable. With just a few clicks, the viewer can place an order and make an actual purchase. Uniquely, !Content provides an end-to-end, consumer through advertiser to retail e-commerce system that offers the potential of a new revenue stream to the broadcaster. Fundamental to the process is delivery of this interactive content to the consumer. Recognizing this factor, Mozaik's business model provides for a form of revenue sharing with whoever is delivering the content.

For the viewer, the system could not be any simpler. The entire interactive portion of the experience is enabled via a standard remote control using the left/right, up/down and enter buttons, or through smart mobile devices such as Apple's iPhone or iPad.

Mozaik is already in negotiations to begin initial delivery of this new e-commerce experience. For broadcasters who have seen affiliate revenue turn into affiliate fees and whose bottom line pressures have driven significant operational retrenchment, this is clearly a Silicon Valley company to keep an eye on.

Anthony R. Gargano is a consultant and former industry executive.

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