Of course, if I ask the question like that “How much will you pay to watch ads?” most people would immediately respond with “nothing” or something close to it. However most people already pay to watch ads on cable television. You pay the cable company a fee but the majority of channels you can get without paying another, additional fee, all have advertising.
In some of my presentations on the subject of the future of Television, I like to point out that the advent of cable is when Americans started paying twice for Television: once with your attention to the advertising (which was supposed to be enough) and again with cash to your cable company for the privilege of a clean signal and no outdoor antenna.
At least with the cable company you know what you’re going to be charged ahead of the game and you’re not charged specifically for each commercial you watch. You will if those same companies move to capped or tiered bandwidth on your Internet connection. With caps along the lines so far proposed by Time Warner (50 GB a month) a couple of movies downloaded every week (or the equivalent TV watched on Hulu, or YouTube et al.) will soon put you up to that limit. Then, every single advertisement you’re forced to watch will be adding to your bandwidth bill directly.
Capped bandwidth is not necessary and will cause a crippling effect on the growth of video on the Internet (of all kinds). It’s not for nothing that Australia – with very low bandwidth caps – is a broadband backwater in international terms, even compared with the USA. To meet the demand, the cable companies need to invest in their infrastructure just like any other business. If they don’t, let’s find an alternative because the only thing stopping a truly competitive business is the lack of competition.
In most places there is, at best, a duopoly of Internet suppliers: a cable company and (if you’re close enough) a telecommunication (a.k.a. phone) company. Duopolies get comfortable and start to think they’re running the business for themselves and “customers” are a rather unavoidable nuisance. Throw WiMax, 4G cellular or other technologies into the mix and we’ll have real competition. With real competition, all need for a discussion about “Network Neutrality” will evaporate: none of the competitive organizations can afford to be the only one throttling their network.
Without real competition, start to think about paying for watching ads – not only at SuperBowl time but all year round. Ads you don’t care about for products you’ll never be interested in buying, but that you’ll pay for anyway.