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A New Era in Broadcast TV: 2020 Media Trends to Set the Stage for ATSC 3.0

Despite having long delivered the largest viewing audience, broadcast TV has been playing second fiddle in the minds of marketers overly enamored with the lofty promise of digital. Television, being the not-as-shiny object, has had near flat advertising growth. 

In 2020 we’ll see local broadcasters continuing to make the shifts necessary to create a more level playing field, from moving towards impressions as the common currency for buying and selling advertising, to streamlining invoicing and payment processing, all while embracing automation in buying and selling processes. 

All of this, and more, will set the stage for the dawn of a new era in broadcast television technology: Next Gen TV (ATSC 3.0) and its promise to disrupt the marketplace by delivering IP-based, device targeted TV via linear broadcast. 

Below are just a few trends we anticipate for 2020 as the industry prepares for that disruption.

1. Local TV, always geo-targeted, is moving to impression-based measurement.

Over the next year, we’ll see a huge uptick in local TV, moving to impression-based measurement. Impressions are already the common currency for omni-channel campaigns that include national broadcast, cable, and digital advertising. Local TV has been slow to catch up but that has started to change. With impressions the accepted standard, adoption will accelerate this year as the industry moves closer to linear/digital media convergence. Combining proposals and orders in the same currency and extending that through the entire workflow to include scheduling, invoicing, and receipt of payment, will be a game-changer for local TV stations looking to realize the revenue potential of the coming digital convergence.

2. The industry will move toward holistic delivery measurement.

Just as impressions are becoming the common currency for buying and selling advertising across platforms and media types, the industry will continue the move towards a common delivery metric that NBCUniversal began with their launch of CFlight in April 2018. NBCU touted CFlight as, “The industry’s first cross-platform, unified advertising currency metric.” In a nutshell, broadcasters will sell an impression regardless of how it is consumed. This may mean that an ordered spot in broadcast will have some fulfillment in connected TV, time shifted consumption, or IP based delivery of content. NBC may have been the first to announce such an initiative, but others are sure to follow. (It’s worth noting that CFlight’s metric is impression-based.). And no one can argue the enormous value of a universal measurement methodology, one that provides a holistic view of ad delivery across all digital and linear platforms, including live, time-shifted, on-demand, and OTT.

3. Local TV intensifies efforts to identify & target audiences.

Local broadcasters have trailed their competitors in providing granular targeting data to enable better advertiser segmentation. Improving their ability to identify and segment viewers will enable local TV to offer advertisers more customized audiences, helping linear media to better compete with digital, while also laying the groundwork for IP-addressable advertising coming with Next Gen TV. Mostly this means that local TV, which has always been geotargeted, will provide better data on consumption characteristics of individual programs. To keep up with these demands, local broadcasters will also need to make sure they have a strong inventory management system to manage customized audience segments. Otherwise, they risk stratifying their inventory and yield could end up suffering.

4. A push to integrate FinTech into the media tech stack.

Great strides have been made in streamlining ad buying and selling processes over the last two decades, from proposals to orders, right through to scheduling, ad insertion, and delivery measurement. The piece that’s still largely missing for broadcast media is extending that workflow efficiency into the post-sale stage – and that’s where FinTech comes into play. Adding the ability to include invoicing and Cash-in-Advance, ACH, and credit card payment processing within the existing workflow, either integrated with or built into the existing tech stack, will close the loop and create an end-to-end solution.

5. ATSC 3.0 will attract more buzz but little consumer adoption in 2020.

2020 will continue the trend of "getting ready" for ATSC 3.0 (Next Gen TV), as broadcasters invest in the infrastructure they’ll need to produce and deliver Next Gen content, and as the technology launches in as many as 61 markets in the coming months. But even with Samsung, LG, and Sony recently announcing that they’re releasing 20 TV models (combined) that will include ATSC 3.0 tuners, the first sets aren’t anticipated to reach store shelves until late in the year. And when they do, prices are expected to be high, so consumer adoption will start out slow. As a result, there will be no real impact to revenue until the hardware starts reaching consumers and those highly sought-after, IP-addressable ads can reach their targets.

6. Local TV will follow suit as major media organizations embrace automation.

The coming year will see increased adoption of automated buying and selling for local TV. Broadcast television has been slow to embrace programmatic selling but with Sinclair, Tegna, Nexstar, and Gray all focused on improving sales automation for their hundreds of stations, in addition to network O&O stations also working on sales automation solutions, a sea-change is on the horizon. With the proven success of programmatic advertising in the digital space, and with major media companies jumping into the fray, it only makes sense that local TV will want to follow suit and leverage the revenue potential of automation for their linear offerings.