Guest Blog: Driving Live Tune-In in an On-Demand, Digital Age

NBC recently scored the highest-rated Democratic debate since October, pulling in more than 10 million viewers. CBS scored with more than 43 million viewers for the Jan. 17 Broncos-Steelers matchup, the highest-rated AFC divisional playoff game in the last 21 years. Nearly 10 million people tuned into the final season premiere of PBS drama Downton Abbey. Bottom line? The audiences are there. Using the right mix of strategies, networks and content owners can create the excitement and engagement that will spur audiences to show up big around series and season premieres, live events and more.

Traditional TV offers a unique experience that gives viewers an opportunity to have a shared experience in the moment. It is an invite to a live conversation that only happens once. Still, according to Nielsen’s Q3 2015 Total Audience Report, live/time-shifted TV viewership is down overall versus the same time period last year.

Related: Nielsen--Live TV Viewing Drops, More Homes Get SVOD

TV ads and fine-tuned multiplatform marketing campaigns will remain an important live tune-in driver. But as viewing habits and the way people learn about shows that interest them evolves, so must marketing strategies. There are emerging strategies programmers can use to maximize viewership on live TV to capture lucrative ad revenue.

With the right approaches in place, social, data and mobile can actually help increase live TV tune-in, make more effective use of cross-channel inventory and achieve more efficient tune-in spend across paid media platforms. Here’s a look at some of the data-driven strategies and examples of these strategies in action.

The Right Data Can Help Build Audiences

Beyond social, there are now more opportunities than ever to leverage third-party platforms and big data for targeted marketing. These platforms are especially important for obtaining information related to click-throughs and tune-ins, and measuring the tune-ins themselves.

Over this past summer, Pandora promoted its recent work with a major national broadcast network that turned to Pandora to drive tune-in for primetime fall and midseason premieres. The network was able to use a mix of attention-based, cross-platform solutions like audio, video and display, with particular focus on mobile via Pandora’s Sponsored Listening product, to engage and convert the 18-49 demographic. Nielsen was able to evaluate the campaign’s success in driving viewership, and also identify who within a specific household is viewing. Its Nielsen Watch Effect study anonymously matched Pandora’s logged-in user base to Nielsen’s National People Meter and Cross Platform Home Panels. Among the network’s target audience, those exposed to advertising on Pandora delivered 35% higher tune-in reach and 71% higher ratings overall for the promoted TV shows. These results correspond directly to the current currency measures and are representative of the total population.

Rentrak, which recently merged with comScore, offers tools that let programmers use data to target high-propensity viewing segments, and measure and optimize campaigns. PlaceIQ and MediaStorm partnered with Rentrak late last year, using PIQ PrimeTime Measurement to drive Major League Baseball viewership. They analyzed Rentrak television ratings currency of U.S. households that frequently watch Major League Baseball across FOX Sports 1, FOX, MLB Network, ESPN and TBS, and identified mobile devices connected to each household using its location intelligence platform. From about one month, those selected mobile users received targeted advertisements prompting users to tune into the target network to watch a game. The campaign was determined to have driven a nearly 25% increase in viewership within target demographics as measured versus the control. Furthermore, MLB viewers who were exposed to an ad spent an incremental nine minutes watching on the sports network.

These success stories are indicative of the increasing value of rich viewing data that is becoming ever more granular, helping to target audiences that are most likely to watch a program. This same data can be used to monitor the progress of campaign execution and measure the lift in tune-in achieved by exposure to a campaign. The cycle continues as deeper understanding of the audience that was reached through campaigns feeds into a new optimization cycle and planning of future campaigns.

Harnessing The Power of Social

To drive live TV tune-in, it’s often necessary to first find viewers on the other platforms they’re using or leverage those platforms to hook viewers back in.

In a Mixpo report produced in conjunction with PromaxBDA, 75% of broadcasters highlighted social ads as critical or very important to driving ratings. Last year, in partnership with FOX, the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) and db5, Twitter conducted research revealing that 85% of active users during primetime TV hours tweet about TV, and that 90% of those who saw TV-related Tweets took action to further engage with the show — whether to watch, search for, or share content about it.

Jimmy Fallon has used Twitter’s Periscope ahead of Tonight Show broadcasts to build excitement for that night’s broadcast. To enhance election coverage, CNN used Periscope in between live reporting to provide additional insight and answer questions. Reporters at NBC4 in Los Angeles used Periscope and Meerkat to give a firsthand account of a dramatic police car chase that was being featured on the network.

Leveraging stars or athletes to tweet when one of their projects airs has become a popular tactic. Content owners should consider strategies for influencing or working with Twitter power users to help drive awareness of content. As an example, Anna Kendrick, William Shatner and Zach Braff have all been hailed for their ability to drive interest in live TV programming. Figure out which influencers your potential fans listen to most and also which drive the most tune-in intent behavior to drive excitement around your content.

Giving viewers an opportunity to participate in the content they’re watching opens the door to a whole new level of engagement. Comedy Central’s @midnight encourages users to tweet jokes alongside their favorite comedians in real-time, creating true “must see live” TV that is more rewarding to watch when it airs versus days later when the conversation is over.

Content owners can also generate buzz around live TV events by providing a “living room” dimension to live events, especially when a show has a devoted fan base. USA’s Psych held  a “slumber party” in support of a marathon airing, giving viewers an opportunity to chat with the cast, win prizes, view original content and more. Disney is known for providing all of the promotional info fans need to send out viewing party invites, which gets people talking online and off. “Tune-in toolkits” for super fans, especially those that incorporate easily shareable social elements, can create great virality that ultimately gets the virtual live TV party started.

According to IBB Consulting’s 2015 Consumer Streaming Trends Report, 32% of online consumers now use Facebook to stream video. In fact, close to one-quarter of online consumers discover shows to watch via social media. This growing trend, combined with emerging targeting capabilities are creating strong opportunities to optimize organic and paid marketing via Facebook to drive live TV tune in. Viewers of digital promotional videos can be developed into an audience to target “intenders” for other shows or live events on the same network. Intenders are prospective viewers that look like fans of a particular show but have not actually engaged with it yet. This strategy brings together the mass audience reach of TV and online video ads, with emerging data-driven targeting capabilities, helping to optimize the mix of marketing channels used in a tune-in campaign.

Optimizing Tune-In Campaigns Based on Cross-Platform Usage

Consumers are viewing content across platforms and tune-in strategies should leverage this trend. While linear TV is still the dominant TV medium for promoting cable tune-in, VOD reach continues to soar with about 57 million households having access, according to Rentrak. Also consider that though TV Everywhere viewers are fewer in number, they are heavily engaged.

Targeting tune-in messaging based on cross-platform usage is important to maximize the effectiveness of tune-in marketing investments. For instance, a network might target viewers using mobiles and tablets watching one show to reach intenders for the season premiere of another.

Set-top box data can be used to drive cross-platform ad campaigns that result in viewership lifts among exposed audiences. Ad efficiencies can also be realized with ads on multiple platforms shown to have the potential for better impact than three times as many on linear TV alone.

Leveraging The Best Aspects of Every Viewing Platform

Traditional TV will continue to be a major driver of overall engagement and ad revenue. How large depends on how agile and swift programmers and content owners will be in deploying innovative new strategies. What’s clear is that one of the best ways to drive live TV in an age of multiplatform is to leverage the best aspects of different platforms to deliver tune-in messaging.

Jonathan Weitz is a partner with IBB Consulting, helping develop multiplatform strategies that drive live tune-in for programmers.