EBay Closes Down Media Marketplace Web Site

No Go for Online Ad Exchange Test to Buy TV Time

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- EBay's Media Marketplace web site, once touted as an online exchange that would provide a new, more transparent means for advertisers to purchase TV ad time, has shut down.

"We have ended our pilot program in this market. We have been refocusing our resources on our core marketplace business and have determined that this initiative did not warrant continued time and attention," eBay said in a prepared statement.

Potential unfulfilled
The Media Marketplace was meant to serve as an online destination where marketers could get a sense of TV prices and make purchases easily. Despite the new freedoms that digital technology has provided -- less physical paper, the ability to log in to a common digital space from wherever one likes -- the purchase of TV time is still very rooted in tangible detritus of an older age.

There's still lots of paperwork that gets passed back and forth, and most media agencies have their own unique electronic systems. Prices are often set based on what someone paid for a similar spot in years past, rather than what market demand is at the time of purchase.

The eBay effort, which was backed by marketers including Home Depot, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft, generated controversy from its earliest days (the idea was first broached publicly in the summer of 2006). TV-network executives were aghast at the notion that they would have to cede control over how time on their air was purchased, and at the idea that information about prices and desirability would be easily available. They also feared having too much information available to a wide range of buyers would ultimately drive prices down.

CAB loses interest
Despite the hullabaloo, the idea never really got off the ground. In April of 2007, the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau, the trade group representing most cable TV networks, said it would no longer take part in the exchange's tests, leaving the group without airtime to sell to marketers. At the time, the group said the eBay exchange didn't allow for multimedia purchases or take into account marketers' desire to integrate products into individual shows.

"We didn't feel it was the right system for the market, and we continue to feel as such," said Chris Jones, a CAB spokesman. "The fact that eBay decided to shut it down is entirely their decision."

In May of last year, then-independent cable channel Oxygen agreed to take part, and won some ad dollars from Intel and Home Depot as part of the test. Even so, Oxygen is a relatively tiny operation and its presence did little to help generate more activity. Oxygen was recently purchased by General Electric's NBC Universal.

'Learning experience' for Home Depot
Home Depot views the now-shuttered experiment as "a great learning experience" that "allowed us to experiment with an alternative negotiation and buying system for cable activity," a spokeswoman said via e-mail.

And the spokeswoman for the home-improvement retailer suggested that even though the exchange failed, the conditions for its formation remain in effect. The exchange "was instrumental in demonstrating how having a standardized and web-based process for sending out and receiving RFPs can be more efficient and time saving," the company said in a statement. "However, the fact that it launched during a time when cable prices were strong and inventory was scarce contributed to its limited use. We will continue seeking out new and evolved models for the negotiation and purchase of media inventory."
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