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NBN, TV Advertising and The Long Tail

August 20th 2011
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This week the head of the AFL, Andrew Demetriou, mentioned that the AFL could use the National Broadband Network to sell directly to the consumer. This could have big ramifications for the TV networks. They run on an advertising model. They buy shows and then sell advertising space in these shows. Imagine if the shows producers didn't need or want to sell to them any more. 

The Internet seems to have a thing against "Middle Men". We have been discussing recently the retail downturn and how much more we are buying online, direct and cheaper. The Internet has enabled us to bypass main street retailers. Farmers in our region are discussing the benefits of selling direct to the public. Instead of distributors and supermarkets taking a hefty cut, the farmer can provide a savvy consumer with a paddock to plate story. The Internet has enabled this, for very little comparative outlay you and your products can be online, engaging directly with your consumers. 

But back to the AFL, when I first read this I imagined the AFL streaming games directly to my smart, Internet enabled TV. Viewing rights could be bundled with membership. I buy my yearly membership with my beloved Geelong and with that comes rights to stream all their games for the year. My money goes directly to the club. Or I might buy viewing rights for all games. No more TV networks, no more advertising. 

This is where The Long Tail comes into it too. TV programs are produced for advertising. Sitcoms are 20 min, dramas 40 min long, to fit in the advertising, and our apparent attention span. Shows were made for mass marketing, the more broad the appeal the greater the numbers and the better pitch the networks had with their advertisers, enter reality TV and music contests etc. If Geelong are coming bottom of the table and not being telecast by the TV networks on Friday night, because they expect better ratings from another game, then I miss out. The Internet and NBN would allow me to watch what I want. As the Internet has done with Music and Books we could see the emergence of niche broadcasts. 

Take V8 Supercars as another example. They have a strong website presence and understand their fan base well. On the website you can get back stories on the mechanics, team managers, technical details. Now for me the races are great, the drivers and their egos I don't really care about. What intrigues me is the machine behind the car. Everything that goes into getting a car prepared, the amazing technology, the people running things and making decisions. This is what V8 supercars is providing to a limited extent through their website. They can't sell a show to a network that is "Behind the scenes", there is not enough broad market appeal, people just want to see the race. But with the V8 supercars no longer selling to Networks and their advertisers, when they start to sell to their fans, I will buy a "Behind the scenes" membership along with my "Race" membership. In AFL this could take the form of a "Geelong pack", a "Coaches perspective", or a "Rookies Year". 

Exciting times for fans. Also a lot of opportunities for content producers. Bring it on.