Katherine Levy: Advertising proves to be the big issue for connected TVs
A view from Katherine Levy

Katherine Levy: Advertising proves to be the big issue for connected TVs

An Aesop fable depicts the moral that it is better to be wise by the misfortunes of others than of your own.

This is relevant regarding the current row between the US cable networks CBS, Fox and NBC and the largest US satellite broadcaster, DISH. The two parties have filed opposing lawsuits over a newly installed DVR feature that allows DISH subscribers to completely skip all advertising during most primetime shows. Welcome to the Pandora's box of connected TV.

The owner of the NBC network, NBCUniversal, described the feature as "unlawful" and said: "DISH simply does not have the authority to tamper with the ads from broadcast replays on a wholesale basis for its own economic and commercial advantage."

Considering the same quality content that makes DISH an attractive content aggregator was created off the back of commercial funding, it seems unbelievable that DISH is then retro-fitting this content to the commercial detriment of the networks that created it. As a long game, it is not even a sustainable model for DISH. In the worst-case scenario, advertisers that paid good bucks to appear in CBS, Fox and NBC shows may be put off from doing so altogether and then the networks would soon disappear. And so, then, would DISH.

The UK at least knows that TV broadcasting in this country is far less fragmented than that of our American cousins. The likes of Sky and Virgin are in control of their own destiny, and Channel 4, Channel 5 and ITV can take solace in the fact that they are founders of YouView (should it ever launch). Safe to say, among its technology, ad-skipping is unlikely to be included.

Yet this fable from across the Atlantic crystallises the connected TV challenges that our industry must finally accept and address. DISH promotes itself as the broadcaster that doesn't subject its consumers to ads because it knows the reality: many people prefer to watch uninterrupted TV. With digital TV, more consumers will expect to be able to at least fast-forward ads, if not skip them - the impulse for speed is woven into the DNA of digital technology.

The DISH saga is one of the first connected TV disputes, with more no doubt to come. But, in a way, it's irrelevant which way the judge rules, because the dispute represents a far greater issue, which is what commercial model best suits the broadcasters and the consumers in a connected TV world. It's time to start thinking about more creative ways for brands to get involved with connected TV, rather than retro-fitting the analogue commercial model of three-and-a-half-minute ad breaks on to the new connected one.

Let's not be the industry that only becomes wise after its own misfortunes.