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Welcome to the Wild, Wild West

15 Jan, 2003 By: Holly J. Wagner

A few months ago Stephanie Prange wrote a column about how what's old is new again. She was right (but don't tell her I said so).

I suppose everything runs in cycles. I saw this when my second cousin opened his birthday presents recently at a family gathering: among other gifts he got a fortune-telling eightball and a box of Sea Monkeys. I thought I was having a bad flashback until he opened the robodog.

Now AOL Time Warner is getting ready to launch a six-week summer test of a new variety show that incorporates the ad pitches right into the content. That may be a new phenomenon for anyone who doesn't remember vinyl records, but folks whose memories stretch back to the dawn of television will recognize this as a throwback to the days of “Texaco Star Theater” and “Howdy Doody Time.”

What is new is that it's a response to the rapid uptake of Personal Video Recorders (PVRs) like TiVo and ReplayTV. The ad-skipping feature in these hard-drive recorders is so popular with users that broadcasters and advertisers are scrambling to find new ways to reach viewers.

I guess Pepsi and Nokia will find out if this approach still works, or works again. But I'd say it's safe to assume we will start seeing more prominent product placement – like the truckload of Go-Video (Sonicblue's brand) VCRs a petty crook admitted he stole from Circuit City on a recent episode of Fox Network's “The Shield.”

It's just one more area in which Hollywood is going to look like Dodge City this year. I think we are in for a year of the Wild West, complete with dueling formats, technology showdowns and new sheriffs in town.

What do you think?

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