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Video over the Internet didn’t happen overnight. It started slowly with thumbnail players and choppy streaming that often paused a few times during a 30-second segment. It’s amazing how far it has matured over the past few years. Faster processors, connections and more powerful computers have accelerated this technology to the point where some media experts are questioning the future of TV as we know it.

Health programming on TV never really achieved the big ratings of entertainment programming. The audiences are too fragmented and there aren’t enough people interested in  particular diseases to generate the big audiences that ad agencies are seeking. The Internet seems to have solved this problem with on-demand programming that advertisers now embrace. What doesn’t work all that well on TV works well online.

WebMD launched a new version of its site. On your initial visit, a video ad takes over the video screen, but the viewer isn’t overwhelmed by new commercials every time they select a video. This is a consumer-friendly approach that doesn’t frustrate visitors.

In an annual survey on trends released by the American Advertising Federation last November, leading ad execs say they “expect a large share of their ad budgets over the next few years, originally slated for broadcast and cable TV advertising, to shift to online video buys.”

Banner ads on many health-related sites generate CPMs in the $5 - $10 range. However, CPMs for disease-specific categories like GERD or insomnia can be $30 or more, depending on how competitive the category is.

For those interested in viewing a truly inspiring video about autism, check out my choice for 2006 video of the year at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=818944862742874918&q=autistic+teen.

Dan McKillen is president of the HealthDay news service

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