Moving From Local To Niche

Recently in the lab, many of our clients and agency partners have been inquiring about the real effect that place shifting, the ability to remotely access home media over the Internet, will have on local advertising. Solutions like Orb Networks, Slingbox and Sony’s LocationFree TV stream your cable/satellite/PVR content to a PC wherever you are in the world. You no longer have to be sitting in your living room or bedroom to watch your cable or satellite television signals. The concern here is that the audience will no longer be local when viewing the local advertising that is supporting the broadcast content.

My immediate reaction in exploring these disruptive technologies in the lab is that there’s always something to learn when you evolve a content model. I naturally have assumed that the local spots would not lose their influence because even though the viewer may not physically be in their local city that local content still has the same relevance because your places-shifting hub is based in your home center.

But as I write this, sitting in a hotel in New York City, far away from my home TV, I’m struck by the same comfort and power I feel at home because I’m accessing my Los Angeles Direct Tivo content. The satisfaction does not come from viewing local information but rather from the ability to access this past Sunday’s episode of “The 4400”, which has been waiting for me since I hopped on my plane out here. I found myself bringing up USA Network’s website for the show, because a show bumper had beckoned me to mobile and other content available on the show’s website and it was so easy to launch a browser. So while watching my Slingbox wirelessly on the hotel bed, I consumed additional content besides the video stream. Science fiction geek yes, but also engaged, dedicated audience member.

We often talk about lean back and learn forward TV viewing, the passive vs. the active experience, but I was struck with how I was experiencing both. I was passively viewing my show, like I sometimes due in the living room or bedroom, while actively “tasking” with additional content. I can’t help thinking that there are explosive marketing opportunities here… or at least opportunities for consumers to contextually dig into a brand’s content when they’re prompted by a 30 second spot or a sponsored window environment. The ability to watch your chosen hour-long shows, sporting events or newscasts anywhere in the world while enjoying additional content, commerce and connection (all at your browser happy fingertips) is a very real and powerful solution.

Whether the current Internet will be able to support transmitting all broadcast media is debatable, but the pipe that the content travels by isn’t really going to matter. What’s more interesting is how powerful the content engagement will be if it’s targeted to me based on my interests, lifestyle, behavior, rather then just specifically the region I live in. I’m a sci-fi junkie, so I’ll respond to sci-fi commercials, offers and opportunities wherever I am. Yes, it’s true. I have a few Star Trek action figures…

There will always be value in local advertising, especially as we’ve seen the web take on an even more powerful role in providing information on local hotspots, deals and opportunities triggered by search inquiries. But we haven’t even begun to experience the benefits that these direct connection solutions will provide. We need to close that loop.