Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Paying people to watch ads

In an earlier post, I noted that the television-ad game is a funny one. In order to get viewers to watch ads they don't like, broadcasters intersperse them with television programs they do like.

Today, CBS have announced a new way to get people to watch ads. They are going to provide clues within ads that give viewers the chance to win prizes. This isn't such a new idea. Individual ads have often contained incentives to watch them. What is new is that it is being done at a broadcast level. Specifically, it is directly aimed at giving people an incentive not to skip ads using digital video recorders. [In this respect, it is similar to the Ayres-Nalebuff saving-lottery scheme].

Ultimately, the ideal would be to separate out the ad market from the television one and have people pay to watch television and to be paid to watch ads. Clearly, the latter is a market that is difficult to achieve as it is hard to monitor compliance. But, as a matter of principle, it is what one would want. Paid download television is a step in the right direction there giving people a paid opt-out option for ads.

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