New York: Something I have noticed very clearly during my stay in the United States is that there is a place for the traditional 30-second TV commercial. I believe they’ve been on their deathbed for years but due to the profits they generate for the people who make them, the format survives.
My 30-year old son, who lives in New York, does not subscribe to traditional network TV. Instead, he pays a modest amount of money a month for Netflix. Then, because he subscribed to the on-demand music channel, Spotify, he received a free subscription to an online TV service called Hulu.
While his paid-for Netflix is ad-free, the price he pays for receiving Hulu free of charge is to put up with at least two or three commercial breaks per half hour of programming – all of which seem to be about 30-secs. He says the ads are not in the least bit irritating in the knowledge that everything else is free.
This concept is reminiscent of the Scandinavian mobile phone network that offered free calls to non-paying subscribers on condition they accepted a five or 10-second commercial interrupting their conversations every now and then.
So, while there seems to be a place for traditional TV advertising in the US and other countries that offer free online programming, would this work in South Africa?
Frankly, I don’t think so.
My reason for being negative is because in the United States, the consumer market is so big that individual online TV channels can afford to produce their own material. I find it hard to believe that a South African equivalent would be able to create a market substantial enough to be able to purchase content locally or internationally.
Another thing is that the big US cities can sustain both TV content and community newspaper content. Mainly because TV content in the US is a lot cheaper to produce than in South Africa, if only because retail advertising particularly, is far less sophisticated.
It seems to me that given the production costs of TV commercials in South Africa these days, it would be very difficult for any free online TV channel to match the audience targeting capabilities and return on investment currently delivered by community newspapers.
Having said that, there is no doubt that when it comes to the online environment, video is the future. In fact, video is now. In every aspect of online. But, whether or not this fast-growing video content business will include traditional 30-sec TV commercials, is doubtful.
Marketing has moved from push to pull, and younger consumers in particular like to pull what they want and frankly, have long given up on pushy TV commercials.
Chris Moerdyk (@chrismoerdyk ) is a marketing analyst and advisor and owner of Moerdyk Marketing with many years of experience in marketing and the media as well as serving as non-executive director and chairman of companies.