Google Fiber is about to change the way TV ads look for subscribers in Kansas City. And it has the potential to upend the entire TV industry in the very near future.
In the next few weeks Google will roll out a small but revolutionary TV ad-tracking program, tipped early today at Adweek. The program will utilise Google Fiber, the high-speed internet and TV service now available in Kansas City, Provo and Austin, and rolling out in other markets soon. The long and short of it? Google is about to make the sale of TV ads much more like ads on the web — for better and for worse. Ads will arguably be much more relevant to consumers, but those consumers will also be sacrificing a certain amount of privacy.
Google's new program will deliver ads to Google Fiber subscribers that will be automatically selected based on the viewer's geography, the kind of show airing, and that house's viewing history. The new ad program will also directly measure how many people see a given TV ad, bringing the TV industry much closer to the way that ads are now sold on the web.
"If you're a local business in Kansas City, just as with digital ads, you'll only pay for ads that have been shown, and can limit the number of times an ad is shown to a given TV," Google says in a blog post that went up this afternoon.
Traditionally TV advertising has been very profitable for the TV networks, partly because when someone buys an ad, it's being viewed by a huge audience with many people who may not care about that product or service. Google clearly wants to turn the shotgun approach of broadcast advertising into a sniper's bullet. Which is good for advertisers, but less great for the networks selling airtime.
As inevitable as this shift toward hyper-targeted advertising may have been, TV networks can't be too happy about it. Google's new program will no doubt drive the cost of ads way down. Again, great news for advertisers, and terrible news for people selling those ads.
Even with modern viewership measuring programs from research companies like Nielsen, there has never been a perfect way for a brand to know how many people saw their ad. As Adweek points out, very few Americans have a Nielsen box — the way that the company directly measures who's watching a given show. Everybody with Google Fiber TV has a Google Fiber box.
With the implementation of Google Fiber's tracking and delivery the TV industry could be about to about to have its deadtree newspapers moment. There will, of course, be concerns raised over privacy and letting Google track what you're watching. But those concerns almost seem quaint in a world where things like Facebook have been doing the same thing for years already. Buying into the Google ecosystem means giving up any semblance of privacy from their robots' prying eyes. If consumers already trust the company with their most intimate emails and search history, it's hard to see why they'd mind if Google started tracking their TV habits.