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Even if marketers looking to replace the 11% drop in prime-time ratings decide to shift millions into the online-video marketplace, there's not nearly enough inventory. "We're seeing from some of our video partners that they're not delivering on guaranteed numbers as it is now, so if there's an influx of dollars, it's going to be a problem," said Adam Kasper, senior VP-director of digital media at Media Contacts. A big issue is the scale difference between the two channels: 1.5 million views online is considered a hit, while an audience of 1.5 million on broadcast is a failure.
Dina Kaplan, co-founder and president of Blip.tv, which hosts and sells advertising for independent online-video producers, said the floodgates have started to open, but how much money online-video sellers will be able to accept remains to be seen. "A month ago the sky parted, and we have more ad requests than we can handle," she said. "It'll be tough for just about any web-video site to absorb TV dollars." According to eMarketer, online-video ad spending is expected to be $1.4 billion in 2008; TV is a $70 billion business.
Another hindrance is that ad formats don't necessarily translate. Many video sites don't offer the 30-second units marketers are looking for. Ms. Kaplan recalled the pain of turning down a seven-figure deal because the marketer wouldn't budge on the 30-second format.
Places that do accept 30-second spots: the online arms of the TV networks. But inventory is very tight, Mr. Kasper said. "Their sites are somewhat 'comfort zones' for big TV advertisers and often packaged in with TV buys. They tend to be the first place many go, adding to the higher demand and CPMs."