TV fights for turf

Summit pushes for unity against new media

“Stay tuned for a message from our sponsors” is quickly becoming a kitschy catchphrase of days gone by.

That, at least, was one of the conclusions reached by panelists during the annual National Television Summit on Tuesday at the Beverly Hills hotel.

The L.A. Advertising Club event, sponsored by Variety and Broadcasting & Cable, featured keynote speaker Jack Myers of the Myers Group and two panel discussions with industry professionals.

Myers spoke about the challenge of balancing traditional business practices with the new necessary focus on innovation in an era of new technological media. Myers dubbed this new era the Relationship Age, in which agencies and programmers must focus their research to target individual viewers and develop an emotional connection with them.

Myers discussed several of the factors fueling these individualized relationships, including the increasing presence of digital and broadband technology, wireless transmissions, on-demand control of programming with DVRs and the development of high-def.

Myers also said that video over the Internet will be the next big thing in new media, allowing viewers to stream DVD-quality broadcasts right to their computers.

At the first panel, moderated by J. Max Robins, editor in chief of Broadcasting & Cable, Steve Siskind, exec VP of worldwide marking/advertising for Paramount Pictures, said it is time cable and networks put their epic rivalry aside and unite to “protect their turf against Internet, streaming and broadband.”

Neil Baker, exec VP for Comcast network sales, agreed that advertisers cannot ignore this shift in media technology: “Dollars follow the audience. You have to follow your customers wherever they go.”

“Right now the average home is watching seven hours of television a day, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon,” noted Mike Shaw, president of sales and marketing for ABC . “The percentage of homes with TiVo is just over 4%.”

The second panel of the morning, moderated by Variety co-TV editor Michael Schneider, also addressed the presence and growing importance of TiVo.

Panelist Stacy Lynn Koerner, exec VP and director of global research for Initiative Media, spoke to the appeal of devices like TiVo that allow viewers to avoid advertising.

“When people sit down to be entertained or informed, they do not want to be interrupted,” she said — thus the increase in product integration and product placement within TV programming. “It’s just advertising without the disruption.”

Peter Tortorici, prexy of MindShare Entertainment, pointed out that digital video recorders are not the first tools that allow viewers to avoid ads. “The remote control has been around for years, allowing us to avoid commercials with the flick of a thumb.”

Koerner also said that there is one aspect of television that advertisers may be underestimating — the power of the rerun.

“Almost half of the audience watching a repeat has consciously chosen to watch it for a second time. They are a small but engaged audience who are far more likely to remember the advertising associated with the program,” she said.

Other panelists included Comedy Central and Spike TV prexy Doug Herzog and Telepictures prexy Jim Paratore.

Closing remarks were delivered by Charlie Koones, president and publisher of the Variety Group.