"If you ask me who has the most exciting digital strategy right now, it's News Corp. Who has the best content? It's Viacom, and Disney's right up there, too," Mr. Greenfield said.
Viacom: best positioned
He sees Viacom, which owns MTV Networks, as the best positioned to capitalize on technological advances. "The No. 1 company that sticks out because it is in control of all its content is really Viacom," Mr. Greenfield said. "They have a tremendous grip and a perfect relationship with the demographic using broadband for hours a day. I'm not sure they are the most successful, but they are the best positioned."
He spoke at meeting in New York yesterday of the IDIA Group, which was formed by a group of mainly cable video-on-demand executives to promote innovations in digital advertising.
"Walt Disney Co. and News Corp. are also being aggressive and are also well positioned," said Mr. Greenfield, who is managing director and media analyst at Pali Research.
If you're in the cable business, Mr. Greenfield told attendees, you better own your content. "I'm not a big fan of cable specifically. ... I used to think cable business was the best, but I wouldn't want to be a cable network that didn't own its own content."
Digital businesses that are ad-supported are more likely to take off than subscription businesses. "I'm skeptical of the pay-per-download model. ITunes fills a void, [but] it's competing against free content on the Internet."
Whether there is much revenue in digital media for big businesses is hard to determine, said Mr. Greenfield, who suggested conglomerates look instead at assets such as News Corp.'s MySpace as drivers of their core businesses. He cited promotions on MySpace for two 20th Century Fox movies, "The Omen" and "Ice Age 2: the Meltdown."
Talking about how digital advertising could evolve, Mr. Greenfield pointed to what he called "syndicated advertising," and said new Internet video firm Brightcove was worth getting to know. The concept of syndicated advertising involves turning the consumer into a marketing agent via platforms such as MySpace.
"I'm not going to pay $2 for the content, but I might allow you to see advertising that's contextually relevant on my site. And who knows? Maybe advertisers will compensate the users for page views. Cut the user in, it's no different than an advertiser cutting the cable company in," he suggested.
Spearheaded by consultant Pat Dunbar, the IDIA Group, which stands for Innovation in Digital Advertising, aims to improve the ad environment surrounding cable VOD and is putting together a new-media awards event. IDIA Group seeks to get young creatives motivated to produce ad formats that work in a VOD environment. The awards are being organized by Jen Soch, VP-associate director of advanced TV at Mediavest, who is soliciting submissions from creative ad agencies.