Warning: Shift Ahead
Prepare for Online Viewing, Burke Tells Providers
by Mike Farrell 10/25/2009 8:50:50 PM

DENVER Comcast chief operating officer Steve Burke issued a warning at a CTAM Summit '09 panel here Sunday: Content providers and cable operators that don't take heed to the shifting habits of video viewers to online and other alternative forms of viewing content might wake up soon without a business.

Steve Burke
Comcast COO Steve Burke on a CTAM Summit panel
Speaking at the opening general panel session moderated by Harvard Business School professor Tom Eisenmann, Burke said that initiatives like Canoe, interactive and addressable advertising and TV Everywhere aren't necessarily attempts to change the existing television ad model.

They're attempts to get out in front of what he called "one of the biggest movements or social phenomena that I have ever seen."

Burke pointed to his own children's preference to watch content on their laptop computers rather than a television set.

"An entire generation is growing up with that preference," Burke said.

"If we don't do something to change that behavior so they respect copyrights on the side of content providers, and cable subscriptions or satellite subscriptions or telco subscriptions on the side of the distributors, we are going to wake up with a lot of ingrained habits going the wrong way and we will see cord-cutting."

That is the impetus behind initiatives like Canoe and TV Everywhere, he said.

Burke didn't sound entirely confident that initiatives like interactive advertising would see daylight right away. Although Comcast is a major participant in Canoe and expects to roll out TV Everywhere through its entire footprint next year, he said interactive and addressable advertising would probably take at least five years.

"In one year it would be hard to tell," Burke said. "I'm very confident it is going to be better."

In the meantime, Burke said, the tools are all there - 60% to 70% of all cable subscribers have a set-top box, which means that not only could targeted advertising be sent to those customers, but that data about viewing habits and the like could be used to further target those consumers.

While Burke said that information has to be handled very carefully because of privacy issues, the other panelist, Starcom MediaVest Group CEO Laura Desmond said such data is exactly the type of information that advertisers want.

Desmond said that one beef that major advertisers have with mass-media advertising is that there is a huge amount of wasted money spent on reaching an audience outside their core demographic.
"Let's bring direct-marketing principles to the mass market," Desmond said. "When you do that, you will see the demographics and dollars increase."