Coffee with Showtime's George Abi-Habib on TV tomorrow.
DC: So George working at Showtime could you tell us a little about DVRs and your prediction as to what role they will play in future audience life, on advertisers etc?
G:You hear a lot of products claim to revolutionize the industry it’s in, but DVR is one of the few cases where that really holds true. Everyone has had the experience missing a show they like or wishing they could see a goal replay instead of the fat painted football fan. With DVR, viewers control time; what is more revolutionary then that?
The effect is higher audience involvement in their own viewing habits and more efficient use of their TV. But what that really translates into is the need to increase quality of programming and advertisement production. Now to get the attention of the viewer you will have to be very bold on your communication and very specific about your messaging, otherwise you will get the fast forward button.
This is a scary prospect for all the agency hippies who are use to the industry of mass media. But hopefully these scrubby, dreadlock sporting creatives will take a bath and align with people on the sales side of the business a little more to find out what people really need; then build creative and engaging messaging around that.
DC: So could we say that our advertising dollar will be of much less value?
G: Well this is a double edge sword and the advertising community needs to find out how it works in their favor. Either you are cutting to the heart of viewers needs and building your brand faster then before or you’re cutting your brand out of the equation by waffling around issues speaking to o generally. The people who are going to have the hardest time with this are the P&G’s of the world. Everyone thinks they know what the products and the needs it serves so these ads are first on the chopping block. But what is going to happen when the next non-drip detergent innovation comes along? Will Jumeirah Jane’s be fast forwarding through Desperate House wives moments or stop and listen?
However, this is good news of anyone that specializes in product placement. Future technology will allow you to highlight products in your favorite movie or show and explore product details and where to get it. Or simply switch over their TV to web functions and just have it delivered. How is that for ‘on demand’ advertising? The shift in consumer habits is not that people don’t want information, quite the contrary they want a lot of information; just about the stuff they like.
DC: On demand this on demand that, so the net is going to replace TV?
G: Well it is definitely starting to. I would much rather explore content that I like then wait for my TV to deliver meaningful content at its own pace. I regularly surf sites like www.utube.com to see what people are doing around the world. With the fiber optic bandwidth capability doubling ever ~3 months the space to stream any movie in history any time you want is not far off. So it is not that internet will take over, but it will just complement your viewing habits more and your TV will gain more functions.
The major change is in the amount of content people want, now people want bite size info. Think about SMS news updates, it is a lot easier absorb then watching 30 min of CNN and its light years ahead of the newspaper. So the next step would be SMS updates with streaming video of the news in question and taking your TV with you on your phone. Not that far away either.
DC: So where are we with all this here in the UAE from your Showtime perspective?
G: It is hard to say how long it will take for DVR to be the standard, in the US 1 in 10 homes owns a DVR now. We still have a long way to go, but products like ShowBox are selling out fast and having a hard time keeping up with demand. But, unless people have other functions like EPG (Electronic Programming Guides) they will not take full control of viewing habits. Showtime is currently the only company offering this service with a sizeable lead time. As the industry itself matures, more companies will offer this feature, bringing the value to more people.
Once DVR is the standard, the effect should be better commercials with higher production value to grab attention and inspire product sales. Hopefully TVCs will be like mini movies. You could compare it to what the Michael Jackson’s music video Thriller did for the MTV generation.
DC: Many thanks George and good luck with Showtime.