Wednesdays without Will: Television without Commercials

Since before the original iPhone announcement, the Apple faithful have been waiting with bated breath for the tech innovation company to streamline the way we watch TV the way they did music and computing. Apple’s initial foray into the market with Apple TV didn’t captivate users the way their other products did, generating low sales for a company known for blockbuster products and the derisive title of “hobby” product from CEO Tim Cook.

Every so often Apple updates the product, and it currently serves as a Netflix/Hulu/etc. set-top box and home theater for a user’s iTunes music, movie and TV show purchases. It will even mirror the screens of other Apple products. However, this hasn’t created the desired paradigm shift in television viewing. With numerous competing products like the Roku and Google TV offering similar feature sets, consumers were quick to latch onto a stray quote from Steve Jobs’s biography citing that shortly before his death he had “finally cracked” how to make a simple television interface.

As the years have passed, the veracity of that quote has proven dubious, given the lack of visible changes in Apple’s product line, but news continues to proliferate that the company is quietly working to change the game with a new product. The latest word is that Apple has been negotiating with networks to incorporate live programming and on-demand viewing into a future iteration of the Apple TV. Sources are claiming that a “premium” feature set of the service would allow users to skip commercials, and Apple would reimburse companies for the lost ad revenue.

Netflix has proven there is a market for television without commercials, but, at the same time, similar functionality has been prevalent in DVRs for years. Regardless of whether these capabilities will finally tip the Apple TV over the breaking point into mainstream adoption, the movement to eliminate commercials from the televised experience seems to be gaining momentum. While TV commercials may never go away entirely, advertisers need to be open to new ways to reach audiences.

Some of the more successful commercials in recent months have come from viral successes like the Dollar Shave Club and K-Mart’s “Ship My Pants.” But these are popular mostly in the digital sphere that remains distinct from television (for the moment). Product placement is still a viable alternative for consumers who are willing to pay a premium to avoid commercials. For the rest, commercials still perform well, but a change may be brewing over the horizon.

Cover Photo Source: Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Kaz is a Junior Executive at SJG. He earned BAs in English Writing and Business Marketing at Illinois Wesleyan University and is currently pursuing an MA in Advertising at The University of Texas at Austin. Outside the office, Kaz consumes gobs of media including but not limited to books, magazines, music, movies and television.