It can’t be any surprise that the services backed by ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC accounted for over 50% of the online advertising for television shows in the US, but that won’t stop a press release from being issued on a slow summer Monday.

But a new report from Screen Digest comes to that not-s0-eye-opening  conclusion and even headlined the report, “US Networks claim half of free online TV market.”  Equally unsurprising is that the report concludes that by increasing the amount of ads on the online shows (and selling them) per-viewer advertising revenue could be on par with current TV rates.  The report predicts that will happen by 2013, but notes that even then it will only represent 2.2% ($1.45 billion) of US TV ad revenue.

The report also predicts that it won’t be enough to offset declines in TV ad revenues by then. By 2013, it predicts revenues for TV advertising will be down by $2 billion annually from current levels.

Here’s the full release:

Major US broadcaster-backed online networks claim over half of free online TV in US
Online ad-supported TV to grow to value of $1.45bn in 2013 from $448m in 2008, but will fail to offset total decline in TV advertising

Los Angeles June 29, 2009: The online web-based TV services of the four major US TV networks – ABC Full Episode Player, CBS Audience Network, and – together with Hulu, the joint venture between NBC Universal, News Corporation and Disney, accounted for a combined 53% of an ad-supported US online TV market that generated $448m in revenues in 2008. The remaining share of revenues was made up of the online video services of major sports leagues, video services from traditional online portals, and direct services from other major channel groups and content owners.

The findings have just been published in ‘US Networks claim half of free online TV market’ a report Screen Digest (, which goes on to state that the combined dominance of the leading broadcaster-supported platforms will drive the total ad-supported model for the distribution of online entertainment programming, news, sports and events in the US to more than $1.45bn in revenues by 2013.

In contrast, third party platforms such as YouTube, Joost and other portals, which have no direct vertical affiliation with major rights holders, nor direct access to premium content rights, will struggle to aggregate ad-supported movies and TV shows. The Hollywood Studios and major rights holders will continue to limit such deals, instead preferring to build their own syndicated ad-supported online video services – such as Crackle, developed by Sony Pictures, and the CBS Audience Network. This is a trend that will gather momentum. As a result, third party ad-supported video platforms may have to either diversify into new forms of their own original programming, exit the content aggregation business and offer technology and advertising solutions to the content-owners’ and broadcasters’ own services, or settle on the low-margin business of becoming affiliates of the player-platforms distributed by the content rights holders themselves.

According to Arash Amel, author of the report, “With better targeting and increased ad inventory, online TV services could be generating per-viewer revenues comparable to an average TV broadcast viewing in as little as three years. However, based on the current online ad strategies implemented, it will account for 2.2 percent of all US TV advertising revenue by 2013, but definitely won’t be generating enough to offset the $2bn we expect total US TV advertising to have declined by during in that period.

The challenge right now is to maximize the ad-supported online video business model, see how new forms of short form and traditional long form content can drive growth, and explore more advanced methods of video advertising while there are still revenues from the traditional business to support the transition to multiplatform. In this regard, the next few years will be critical.”

Online TV is now about platforms, not just content
In a trend being replicated across the globe, the major US broadcasters are evolving into multi-platform TV distribution networks in a land-grab attempt to replicate their traditional channels business online – both linear and on-demand. There is now a proven ability to drive audiences to online TV replay services from primetime schedules, accounting for the market dominance of the networks’ online TV services. This multiplatform approach has been, and will remain, very important to the future relevance of broadcasters to younger demographics and retaining prime position in the online TV space. The key here will be to create an online platform model that retains control of the content while distributing it widely, and meets the audience’s changing demands for TV anytime, anywhere.

Amel concludes “A successful online entertainment distribution business model is about establishing and maintaining interest in trusted brands and syndicated services that go hand-in-hand with the content, often free at the point of audience consumption. The music business has been struggling to find that model, but the television business has been well positioned to meet the challenge. It is coming to understand that audiences are evolving, that the economics of supply and demand operate very differently on the open internet, and that the traditional TV networks must evolve with them. Producers and networks alike will only succeed in this space if they continue investing and building value in platforms that meet audience expectations with compelling services, rather than relying on content revenue alone.”

The report goes on to state that free online TV will challenge the paid model of TV download services such as Apple’s iTunes, and pay-per-view and subscription online sports video offerings, and will require innovation from these service providers to remain competitive. But that the paid market, driven by the respective hardware ecosystems of the leading service providers, and high value sports events, will remain robust – growing by 67% to $1.33bn by 2013.

Posted by:TV By The Numbers

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