MBPT Spotlight: Comcast Sees Gold Putting C3 Spots in Older VOD Shows

Test with Nielsen proves technology works and ratings rise

Why This Matters

Monetizing non-linear viewership is a top priority for TV networks.

RELATED: Full-Season On-Demand Builds Audience

Media companies are looking to monetize the increasing amount of delayed viewing of television shows, and Comcast says it has developed a new way to make video-on-demand pay.

Nielsen already counts the commercials seen by people watching shows on-demand within three days of air in its C3 ratings, so most programmers keep the same ad load in their on-demand stream until the fourth day.

Unlike DVRs, seen as a commercial killer, VOD increases commercial viewing, particularly with fast-forward disabled. Since disabling fastforward during playback, commercial ratings are up 15% to 20% in the Comcast footprint.

But imagine this: It’s a Tuesday night and you’re watching the episode of NBC’s The Blacklist that originally aired the night before. Across town, your best friend is also watching The Blacklist on-demand, but it’s an episode from last month. And yet the same current-week ads appear on both screens, creating additional C3 impressions. With 42% of catch-up viewing happening during that C3 window, if you’re in ad sales, that could be a big deal.

Over the summer, Comcast Cable and corporate sibling NBCUniversal ran a test and proved they could not only insert the new ads when subscribers view an older episode of a series on-demand within the newest episode’s C3 window but, working with Nielsen, confirmed that the ads registered in terms of ratings.

Comcast calls the system ODCR, for On Demand Credit, and says it plans more tests with CBS and ABC in the next few weeks. Matt Strauss, the cable operator’s senior VP, general manager for video services, says that if programmers continue to react positively, implementing ODCR could be a priority for next year.

“When we look at the opportunity and how much on-demand consumption is happening during the C3 window, but of prior episodes, we think this could represent up to a 20% lift in C3 viewing,” Strauss says. Not bad for an idea hatched about three years ago in a meeting between Strauss and CBS research guru David Poltrack.

ODCR would also reduce the amount of ad inventory networks have to sell in shows viewed four days or more after they originally aired. The networks are only starting to monetize those, running mostly promos. “This could have a pretty profound implication in the sense that you’re no longer selling a show. You’re selling a series, or you’re selling a block of time,” Strauss says.

With trials showing that this technology is ready for primetime, it’s up to programmers to make deals to enable it, and advertisers to decide how valuable these new viewers are. And of course, it’s the business deals that often hold up the deployment of new ideas.