Video iPod Part of the On-Demand Tsunami

David Kiley

Word from Apple last week that it will offer episodes of ABC's Desperate Housewives and Lost for download and viewing rightly has network executives sweating.

Not everyone, of course, will want to watch TV shows on such a small screen. But there is such a multitude of opportunities for busy people to catch up on shows they like when they aren't at home, that it's hard to imagine that shows won't proliferate for download. On trains, car trips (when you are the passenger, not the driver--please), planes, the doctor's office, etc. You get the idea. The most powerful currency for people I know who is time.

The idea that people will continue to plan their schedules around programmed TV is nonsense. Two weeks ago, for example, I could not manage to be home to watch the New York Giants game. I taped it on my DVR, and began watching the three-hour game at 10:30 PM Sunday night. I was able to watch the whole game in an hour by skipping half-time, the ads and fast forwarding the game sequence every time the ball was down, thus skipping the huddles and various other down-times. I have to admit, I enjoyed the experience and was glad to save the 2 hours.

As people have more and more experiences like that, they will look for more ways to consume the programming they want on their terms--On Demand. In fact, I would venture a guess that if good shows are offered only On Demand, they will develop an audience simply because they are convenient to watch.

Where the ad model fits into this transformation is yet to be seen. But I suspect that On-Demand downloads will largely be single sponsored, or, the ads will be On Demand as well. To avoid having to pay for the programming, allow a consumer to choose three companies in an hour from whom he or she would't mind receiving a commercial message. I might choose BMW, Marvin Windows and Levis. because those are brands I have bene shopping lately. Advertisiers say they are interested in opt-in advertising opportunities. That seems to me to be the obvious model.

Of course, such a model would throw Nielsen Marketing Researech and the networks into a tizzy. No matter. On Demand is where the money is, and the last time I checked those companies genertally followed the money. They'll figure out a new business model. If they don't, then they shouldn't be in the business.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.