George V. Reilly

Business Week Covers Atlas On Demand

The latest issue of Busi­ness­Week covers Atlas On Demand, the product that I’ve worked on for the last six months, in a piece called TV Eyeballs Close-Up

Ever since the advent of commercial television, ad­ver­tis­ers have wondered exactly what they get for the megabucks they spend on 30-second spots. After all, the networks and cable companies offer only a crude ap­prox­i­ma­tion of who is watching what. With such thin in­for­ma­tion, ad­ver­tis­ers can’t target specific neigh­bor­hoods or consumer tastes. As for converting ads directly to sales, well, that’s virtually impossible. Yet the Web, with its so­phis­ti­cat­ed per-click metrics, does all of that billions of times a day. "The problem," says Yankee Group analyst Aditya Kishore, "is that there’s not enough math in [the TV] business."

But aQuantive Inc. (AQNT ) aims to change that. … Despite the hoopla about ad­ver­tis­ers moving online, the $70 billion television ad market dwarfs the Web business 5 to 1. Says aQuantive CEO Brian P. McAndrews, once an ABC executive: "TV is the largest medium out there."


That’s why aQuantive is taking baby steps. Starting in June, the company’s Atlas on Demand unit will begin testing technology that measures video-on-demand (VOD) viewers for Charter Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Inc. (CHTR ) VOD’s Web-like in­ter­ac­tiv­i­ty is what sold aQuantive. Besides, the medium is taking off, with digital cable now in 25 million homes, far ahead of TiVo’s 4.4 million.

By gathering data from the same set-top boxes viewers use to order shows and movies, Atlas on Demand plans to figure out how many people watched a show and when, as well as how many watched the ads vs. skipped them. From there, company executives hope to help ad­ver­tis­ers determine precisely how much attention their money buys. "You know people watch Lost," says John Chandler, Atlas on Demand senior analyst. "[Now] you’ll know if they watch the ad."


Proponents of VOD hope the medium will become as in­ter­ac­tive as the Web itself, allowing viewers to get discount offers, enter contests, and even buy stuff. Burger King is con­sid­er­ing running ads offering drive-through deals to late-night VOD viewers. Such ads could be priced based on the number of leads or sales they generate rather than the number of viewers they attract. "The in­ter­sec­tion of video on demand and in­ter­ac­tive TV is the next frontier," says Time Warner Cable (TWX ) Executive Vice-President Peter C. Stern. "I look for it to emerge in 2007."


Despite myriad challenges, the cable guys have little choice but to become more Web-like. Every other day, it seems, marks the launch of yet another ad-supported online channel. Karl Siebrecht, Atlas’ general manager, bets Web video will become a major ad market sooner than VOD, but he says on-demand TV eventually will be bigger. He and the other Atlas folks don’t care whether the next great video market is TV or the Web. They plan to make money either way.

Read the full article here.

By the way, the Atlas On Demand team is hiring. We have current and future openings for a dev manager and for senior developers. There are other openings at Atlas in Seattle too: look at the Atlas Careers page.

If you want to send résumés through me, email me at George.Reilly-@-At­las­So­lu­

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