Ch Ch Ch Changes. TV of Tomorrow

There is only one thing that is constant whenever I attend the TV of Tomorrow conference and that is the discussion of change. But it is the rate of change that is especially dizzying today. As advanced technology permeates all aspects of consumer life, the impact on media is more like a revolution instead of an evolution. And that is what makes our industry so exciting.... or do I mean worrying? It all depends on where your business and your leadership sit in the ecosystem. Traditional media companies (whether in content curation or sales or measurement) need to keep up with the advancements or risk eroding their business.

Tracy Swedlow, Founder of TVOT explained that “this is an exceptionally changing year…. because there is so much disruption... investment, new ideas, platforms. Companies have to aggressively change their strategies even faster than they had to before.”

Even companies in the highly traditional measurement space are now expanding and modifying their systems to better address today’s measurement needs. Whether acquiring a competitor (like Nielsen and Arbitron or Rentrak and Kantar) or expanding via partnerships (like Nielsen and Adobe), the consolidation of efforts can result in more efficient and insightful measurement capabilities.

See a short video of some of the highlights of TVOT here:

For those of us in the traditional TV sector, changes can be divided into “Positive” and unsettlingly “Disruptive.” Here is how they parse out for me:

Positive Changes
We Are Speaking the Same Language
Back in 2010 CIMM commissioned me to write a Lexicon, to facilitate the standardization of measurement terms and definitions and help create a common language. Now terms like Digital Programmatic, Big Data and First Party Data tend to have generally accepted definitions. When we talk about census level data, there is general agreement as to what that means. It was not always so. Speaking a common language will facilitate further positive change.

Measurement Getting More Focused and Transparent
With all of the big and small data sets available and the advanced technology to drive analytics, we are now able to get to the core of consumer tracking behavior instead of relying on age and gender proxies.  CIMM’s Jane Clarke believes that there are two big positive trends in measurement - profiling and access. "One big trend is to profile customers based on the data and linking datasets across platforms such as linking purchase data with media use data. The media data revolution started in digital and is now moving into TV. The second trend is the proliferation of ways to access data. Planning and buying are evaluating effectiveness across platforms. This is driven by the desire to move away from linear rating points, away from surrogates of age and gender, to target consumers."

Now We Can Measure Sales Funnel Instead of Demographics
Along those lines, we can now attribute actual sales results to specific media campaigns. This frees us to valuate audiences based on actual purchases. Dunnhumby’s Lung Huang explains, “It is all about big data. We are ultimately doing matching exposure to purchase based on a verified household or person. We are taking the guesswork out of it. When Ted Turner first started CNN and it wasn’t rated, he sold ginsu knives. He didn't care about ratings. He wanted to see how many knives he sold. It is freeing today not to be tied to legacy. There are many different audiences and we can show you that they saw the ad and bought it.”

Disruptive Changes
The Long View Is Much More Important
We tend to have a short attention span in the TV business. We tend to look at content development and upfront sales a season ahead. Occasionally we plan ahead but generally we are looking down the block rather than across town. Facebook’s Patrick Harris noted that “We tend to overestimate in short term and under estimate in the long term. Where is the content where you are living three years from now? The creative bar has changed. It is now adding value when it used to be getting attention.”

Is Programmatic Destined to Include TV?
Can we expect programmatic to expand to television any time soon? Beth Rockwood of Discovery believes that “The television business is different in that the inventory is generally tight and therefore enjoys very high CPMs, especially in broadcast” while Visible World’s Seth Haberman states that “It already is.” Dave Morgan of Simulmedia sees both sides. He says “If programmatic TV means that a large portion of TV advertising will soon be bought and sold on a data-driven, audience-denomiated basis on metrics other than sex/age demographics, the answer is yes. That day is coming fast. However, if programmatic TV means that TV ads are about to be bought and sold machine-to-machine on a dynamic, real-time auction basis like online display. No. That kind of programmatic TV is years and years away."

Everything Takes Longer Than Expected
Despite our need for speed, transitions in the industry often take time. Rentrak’s Cathy Hetzel explained, “We are undergoing MRC accreditation now. We are changing the way TV is bought and sold but it does not change overnight. It happens when you achieve success. Rentrak started with unmeasured networks and the local stations embraced us. But to be part of the ecosystem we need to move up the chain.”

Technology Brings Its Own Timing Challenges
Mike Willner of Penthera noted the technological challenge of streaming ad supported video content.  “When you add advertising to downloaded content it becomes more complicated because of the ad flights. Christmas ads can be streamed in December 24 but viewed on December 26. So we would need to download next flight of ads. We have technology that helps to do this, we can ID the user and what content they are viewing and we can coordinate with the advertiser. But we can only upload new ads in streaming environment - not when it is downloaded for future use.”

Despite the dizzying spiral of change it is possible to carve out a path to assured future success for television in the evolving media ecosystem. The secret is to stay on top of the trends and take calculated long term risks. Don’t kick the vacuum tube down the road.

An excerpted version of this article appeared on

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