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And Now, This Word From Our Sponsor (And Another, And Another?)

One of the pleasures of watching a TV show on an online video site is that there tend to be fewer commercials. But as Nielsen prepares its single measurement for TV and online viewing to be rolled out this fall, broadband video viewers may have to get used to sitting through more commercials. An AdAge piece says that for Nielsen’s unified TV/online ratings to count to media buyers and TV networks, web videos will have to carry the same number of commercials that a show has when it runs over the air or on cable.

It’s not necessarily a given that online video versions of TV shows will have the same exact number of commercials as when a program originally runs. Nielsen tells AdAge that this is just one solution it is pursuing. But it’s almost certain that the days of little or no commercials during an online video program are nearing an end.

And it’s not solely because of Nielsen’s actions. Although online video advertising is likely to continue its strong and steady growth — in December, eMarketer forecast the category will grow 34- to 54 percent between 2009 and 2014 — network execs are tired of waiting for those dollars to materialize in a way that’s meaningful.

The “TV Everywhere” concept of cable operators providing full-length programming online to their verifiable subscribers is another reason behind the expected changes in the number of commercials coming to web video. Ultimately, users themselves will determine how closely online video viewing resembles TV’s commercial load. So far, the fear that users wouldn’t watch a video that has the same amount of ads as it does on TV has kept the number of pods low.

That concern has discouraged programmers from putting more shows online in their entirety. It all comes down to which force is greater: users’ desire to watch what they want, when they want, or their ability to tolerate ads in exchange for the convenience of online video.

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