The Broken Contract: Why FOX8’s Snag a Simpson paints a worrying picture for TV as we know it

FOX8_Snag_a_SimpsonFOX8's Snag a Simpson initiative … creating viewer engagement or bribe to increase viewer minutage?

so I returned home last night to find one of Pelican's number playing the above game on FOX8.  the channel invites you to try and 'Snag a Simpson' … this involves you pressing select to play, and when you see a Simpsons character on the screen you snag them by pressing Red on your FOXTEL remote.

I know for a fact that you can do this because I watched said person do it.

only you need to 'Snag' 10 Simpsons in 15 minutes for your reward.  the guide explains that it's free and you can play as many times as you want.  I bet you can.

the generous interpretation is that FOX8 is genuinely looking to create viewer engagement and reward consistent viewing.  the less generous interpretation is that the channel is blatantly attempting to bribe you from switching channels during the ads breaks (or shows for that matter) and at the same time increase their minutage amongst the measurement panel.

I fear that it may be the latter.

but I also fear that its another worrying sign that the implicit contract between channels and viewers (and advertisers) is broken.  the contract states that you get the programmes for free (or for less if you're on subscription) and all you have to do is watch the ads…

only people don't buy that any more.  in fact the contract seems a great deal less attractive than it once did…  why?  (1) a lot of people pay for their TV now, so they're not getting their content for free (2) the amount of choice available makes switching all too attractive (3) we're increasingly trained to consume micro-content – small packages of TV or otherwise that can be consumed in a couple or minutes (or seconds if you're browsing your Tweetdeck) – this makes catching even only a scene on an another channel preferable to sticking to an ad break (and even if you miss the rest of the show you caught the first half so what the hell) and (4) the ads in most ad breaks are pretty crap … I've taken time to watch a few ad breaks of late and I really really have been stunned by the general drivel that advertisers and agencies seem to think passes for an ad…

we made the contract together and I guess that we'll break it together; everyone involved will have been complicit in it's cancellation:

the viewers got impatient and became happy to flick around ubiquitous content.

the advertisers only cared that a small but big enough fraction of people who saw an ad responded, ignoring the fact that the vast vast majority of people who saw it were either ambivalent (neutral brand equity effect) or disliked it (negative brand equity effect) or hated it (super-negative brand equity effect and potentially damaging WOM.

channels continued to print money and fight for petty share wins, ignoring the fact that overall viewing was in decline and that viewers were distracted, multitasking and ambivalent to the efforts of the advertisers from whom they were taking money.

and what of agencies?  perhaps agencies will become the most culpable of all.  we failed to ask the networks the questions we should be asking, going along with their playground share battles, whilst all the time taking micro-payments in the form of a commission from every ad that we placed.  agencies sat like market stall traders at the base of a dam that was about to burst; not investing in an ark but instead telling their customers that everything was fine … that the dam would hold … that the flood would never come.

we may come to see a great deal more endeavours to encourage viewers to 'Snag a Simpson", or a Robinson, or heaven forbid a Grimshaw.  it's cheating.  we can do better.  whether or not we choose to accept our fate of SImpson-Snagging is up to us.

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