By Rudy Fernandez
Sixteen years after the first High Definition (HD) broadcast, only 20 to 30 percent of advertisers air their commercials in HD. Now that the final barrier to airing spots in HD, distribution, has been eliminated, could it mean a surge in HD spots?
First a brief review. With its incredible resolution on a 16:9 aspect ratio, HDTV promised a higher level of clarity, crispness and beauty along with a larger screen on which to fully appreciate the production quality and impact of the picture.
For advertisers who wanted to show their wares in the best possible light, HD would become the ultimate sales tool. Your car could now shine brighter and take up more of the screen, your furniture would look more enticing, your food more delicious than ever before.
But watch any local affiliate’s HD channel and you’ll see commercials that look cut off at the sides or shrunken down. Don’t adjust your set. That is a Standard Definition (SD) spot airing on an HD station.
Four barriers have stood in the way of advertisers who wanted to showcase their products in HD:
1) Audience: HD televisions once sold for $3,000-$4,000, which meant the average household could not afford one.
2) Production: Production and post-production for HD was much more costly, so it was out of reach for most advertisers.
3) Distribution: Few stations had HD channels on which to air the programming or commercials.
4) Distribution: The cost of transcoding and delivering an HD commercial to stations was more than 10 times the delivery of a SD spot.
Over time the barriers have fallen:
1) Starting in 2006, prices for HD sets began to drop. Now nearly 70 percent of U.S. households own one, and the number is growing rapidly.
2) You could have bought a Sony F900 to shoot in HD for a measly $110,000 ($35,000 lens not included). Today, high school kids can afford HD cameras, and many with better quality than the original ones. Also, computers are faster and more powerful, and the price of the editing software is cheaper, which makes post-production the same price as working with SD.
3) Stations were slow to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to convert to HD. Today, more than 80% of stations have HD channels.
Now, the final barrier has fallen.
4) The cost of delivering and distributing HD spots is comparable to SD spots.
Originally delivering and distributing spots digitally meant either via tapes and FedEx or expensive satellite transponders to transmit spots. People had to manually check every file and each station had to have a server. It was a clunky and time-consuming process.
Today, broadband is everywhere and inexpensive, so large files can be uploaded and received quickly for pennies.
Software has also become more robust. Companies like Atlanta-based SpotGenie, with whom we work closely, use proprietary technology that automates much of the transcoding and delivery process, which makes distribution a fraction of the cost and virtually eliminates human error. Automated transcoding and quality checks can do in seconds what quality control teams took more time to do and are far more accurate.
So, now that the door to HD is completely open to advertisers, will they enter into the HD world?
It’s hard to believe that any company that cares about its brand is happy seeing its spots cut off or shrunken down. That’s damaging to their image, especially when their competitor’s ad is using the full screen and beautiful HD resolution. The door to HD advertising is now open to everyone. Expect a long-awaited stampede.