As major media owners reassess their priorities in the face of digital, there’s an opportunity to invest in technologies that can improve monetization, streamline operations and help future-proof the industry. But before that can happen, we need to set some context and dispense with two myths.
First, the context. Consumer behavior has been driving media fragmentation for a long time. According to Nielsen, nearly half of consumers use their phones and televisions simultaneously. As we add more screens and platforms, fragmentation will only increase. But this trend is accelerating, due in large part to social distancing measures and a corresponding increase in media consumption across all screens. Tackling the unification of all channels is even more important on the face of accelerating fragmentation, but before media owners can address this challenge head-on, they need to get their facts straight.
The first myth media owners must reject is the idea TV is in decline. Prior to the pandemic, 75% of U.S. households viewed some form of traditional TV over the course of a year, while 55% of U.S. consumers have access to connected TV. Moreover, marketers also rated television content as the most effective means for creating an emotional connection between brands and consumers, according to a recent CMO.com survey.
As we watch more content, media owners are seeing growth in both linear and CTV audiences. It will take time to understand how increased viewership across all channels is changing consumer behavior. But the key point is that television—no matter how it’s distributed—was both incredibly valuable before the pandemic, and it’s even more valuable now. Indeed, a recent Kantar Media analysis found that three-quarters of consumers think brands should continue to advertise on television during the pandemic in order to talk about how the brand can be helpful in the new normal, keep them informed about the brand’s reaction to the changing situation, and offer a reassuring tone.
The second myth is that programmatic will drive down television CPMs. Some media companies point to this myth to justify the slow development and deployment of the more sophisticated advertising products that are now the norm for digital. According to Nielsen, 95% of TV in the U.S. is not data- or programmatically-enabled. But the reality is that unlike digital, television inventory is finite. Here, that scarcity works to the media company’s advantage. By embracing advertising technology in a space where supply is finite and the barrier to entry is high, media owners enjoy greater control to reduce waste, price packages more accurately, and increase yield. That's very different from the lack of control, pricing declines, and data leakage often seen in display and mobile driven programmatic efforts, where inventory is infinite and new content owners regularly enter the market.
Now that we’ve set the context and done away with some mythology, here are three things major media companies can do to prepare for the future.
Use linear as a foundation to grow targeting capabilities in a unified way
Linear remains the centerpiece of most media plans, but increasingly advertisers are supplementing with digital and CTV to reach missing and hard-to-find viewers. Knowing this, media companies should look to supplement legacy products with more progressive advertising offerings built on advanced technology.
In some cases, this means building easy-to-operate technology platforms that unify advertiser access to audiences across a media company’s various properties, whether linear or digital. But it also means thinking about innovation cooperatively. At the very least, media companies should build stacks that are interoperable with other media companies. This will enable data-sharing and even sales consortiums—both of which are critical for locating audience segments not found on linear.
Activate on first-party data
First-party data is powerful in its own right, but thanks to new privacy laws, it’s the lifeblood of advertising. Consequently, the goal for major media companies should be to bring first-party data capabilities to TV in order to increase yield and enable better reach and targeting for advertisers.
To do this, media companies must preserve ownership over the entirety of the value chain associated with their audience data. Essentially, you’re building an end-to-end pipeline where you control every step of monetization, and there’s zero data leakage. By safeguarding the value chain, media companies guarantee respect for the viewer as well as compliance with privacy laws. Just as important, these end-to-end pipelines give advertisers what they need most—safety and performance.
Simplify buyer access and workflow
Simplifying buyer access and streamlining workflow allows media companies to better meet the needs of their advertising customers. Not only will media companies shore up revenues, but they’ll also do a better job of competing with streaming rivals that aren’t burdened by legacy workflows.
But streamlining workflow is also about future-proofing. New workflows put media companies in a position to leverage future innovations around automation. If media companies take a proactive approach here, they’ll own the coming disruption of planning, delivery and reporting. Just as important, because there are relatively few major media companies compared to the number of digital publishers, the television industry can use new methodologies for planning, delivery, and reporting to align around standards for valuing data-enabled inventory.
To be sure, major media companies have a lot of work to do. But it’s not a matter of safeguarding against digital. In fact, major media companies will own the future, provided they take the opportunity to master digital right now.
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