Suddenly, 1Mbps broadband is looking rather old-hat

Broadband connection speeds of ten times the standard 1 megabit per second (1Mbps) service will soon become the norm for many UK households. With this development comes a whole new range of opportunities for advertisers.

NTL is to upgrade the minimum broadband connection speed on all its standard packages to 10Mbps by the end of 2006 at no extra charge for subscribers. This means that its 1.4 million broadband subscribers will be able to download a music track in as little as three seconds, compared with 30 seconds if they are 1Mbps users.

Until now, the fastest product on the market for most consumers has been an 8Mbps link provided by the likes of Cable & Wireless-owned Bulldog and UK Online.

NTL director of internet Bill Goodland says: “With these speeds you can do a whole range of things that you couldn’t do before, such as watch broadcast video – which really only starts to make sense with 4Mbps and above – video-conferencing and messaging and downloading large files to watch films and programmes.”

With more homes now connected to the internet through broadband, rather than dial-up access, according to Ofcom, it is hardly surprising that a range of new services aimed at broadband users is due to launch.

Bulldog has announced that it will launch a video-on-demand service in October, allowing consumers to select films to watch over the internet. The BBC is due to start the next phase in the development of its integrated Media Player (iMP), which gives UK viewers the chance to legally download television and radio programmes they have missed up to seven days after they have been broadcast.

There has also been speculation that Channel 4 is planning to launch a service this autumn that would allow viewers to watch programmes on the internet at the same time as they are broadcast through linear TV. However, Channel 4 claims that no firm plans exist and that if a service is launched, it will now not be until next year.

For advertisers, all these services throw up new ways of targeting customers. “They can seriously start to think about audio and video potential,” says Goodland.

Advertisers will now be able to spice up their banner ads with video clips that those with suitable broadband services can access; and more internet users will also have the ability to play long trailers on corporate websites.

Advertisers might even be given the chance to place their ads in or around content supplied by broadcasters or film companies. The BBC is considering teaming up with a commercial partner to make archive content – around which ads could be placed – available for a fee, and Channel 4 could run ads in the proposed simulcast service as they appear on linear TV, subject to regional sales issues.

Wayne Arnold, co-founder of digital agency Profero, says: “The internet is an opt-in medium, so it enables advertisers to tailor advertising to what people are accessing.”

Simon Gunning, head of interactive media at Celador International, advocates a close fit between content and brands, with advertisers sponsoring relevant content or providing engaging content that encourages dialogue with the brand.

With about 9 million broadband connections expected by the end of the year and connection speeds of up to 20Mbps being tested by NTL, many more opportunities are set to come the way of advertisers.

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