Even though I only watch TV with a DVR, I still have "appointment TV." Wednesday and Thursday nights this summer were reserved for So You Think You Can Dance. Friday night I watch Monk, and Saturday night is for Psych (even though it records on Friday). I love these shows. I look forward to these shows. And I have to wait for them.
These same shows offer webisodes and other videos on their Web sites, available throughout the week, but I'm not in the mood to pick up the computer after relaxing and watching a show, and I never think to go to the Web sites for my favorite shows when I'm using my computer. As a result, I never see them. That form of entertainment isn't available to me in the place I go for entertainment – my television.
Bring Webisodes to the TV
I think there is a great opportunity for TV shows to extend their experience to more than just once a week. If webisodes were delivered directly to my Internet-connected DVR and available in my list of shows, right next to the full-length episodes I recorded, I would actually watch (and I expect, enjoy) them.
When I sit down at the end of the day to unwind and enjoy some TV, I browse my list of shows for the one I would enjoy the most. Certain shows always get watched (and then deleted) the same day they record. If webisodes, commentary, or behind-the-scenes videos appeared throughout the week I would experience ongoing delight from my favorite shows, and those shows would be top-of-mind more often.
An 8-second commercial is a fast-forward proof
Webisode advertising is still evolving. The most common form seems to be 20 to 30 seconds of pre-roll before a 2 to 4 minute video (with no fast-forwarding allowed). On a DVR platform, fast-forwarding is expected, but there are two ways to deal with this.
You can set a different expectation. If you are making something available on the DVR that wasn't possible before, you can change the rules. When the user requests a webisode, simply make it clear that there will be commercials that can't be fast-forwarded. The same concept applies to full-length episodes. If you make your back catalog of episodes available for free, then you can require users to view your commercials. If they don't like these terms then they can pay the $1.99 per episode fee from a video on demand service like Amazon to enable a commercial-free experience.
If instead you want to keep with the spirit of the DVR platform, and allow fast-forwarding, then you may want to re-invent the webisode commercial. Instead of leading with a commercial (and annoying users who are waiting for the content) start with the webisode itself. Insert a commercial or two in the middle, but keep the pods to less than 15 seconds each. If the user actually picks up the remote and fast-forwards through it they'll speed too far into the content, have to hit rewind, and probably end up seeing the commercial at least three times in their attempt to avoid it. They'll learn that your commercials aren't worth trying to skip.
With all the effort going into producing entertaining webisodes for online consumption, they should have a presence on the television as well. TV is the place people expect to watch their shows. Webisodes on the DVR will expand the experience of the show beyond just once per week, and will increase webisode viewership because they can be automatically delivered. Share the content wider, and you will increase your advertising opportunities and delight your viewers.
Margret Schmidt is Vice President of User Experience for TiVo Inc. Follow her at http://twitter.com/tivodesign
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