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Next-Generation TV Expected to Usher in New Era of T-Commerce

Next-generation broadcasting boasts any number of interactive capabilities. Among its big advantages: It could make TV-based shopping — a.k.a. t-commerce — so simple that even logging onto Amazon would feel like a drag.

It may take some time to perfect this. ATSC 3.0, the internet protocol-based standard that would enable the platforms, is still at least several years from rollout, and it could be five to 10 years before the breadth of TV-based shopping opportunities are up and running.

Yet driven by the allure of audience engagement, as well as money-making opportunities, station groups, industry advocates and advertisers are already exploring ways to make buying stuff with a remote click the next big thing in home shopping.

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“I think there are activities you could see coming to be, when your advertising will be your call to action,” National Association of Broadcasters executive vice president and chief technology officer Sam Matheny said. “Now your television can be a point of purchase.”

Interactive direct-response ads are among the most immediate opportunities, as are spot ads that could allow consumers to do anything from purchase products to access geotargeted information and discounts, industry leaders said.

Pearl TV, an industry group advocating next-generation TV, has been bullish on the idea since testing in 2014. The group ran car ads in Phoenix, Philadelphia and Chicago that included an interactive banner letting viewers schedule a test drive or get a coupon for a particular car with a click. Consumers “responded favorably,” managing director Anne Schelle said.

ATSC 3.0 could transform shopping channels by enabling consumers to buy products using their televisions, as opposed to computers or phone calls being the points of purchase. Recently, the NAB partnered with HSN on a prototype that brought the idea to life. Given the greater delivery capacity broadcasters will have with next-gen TV, they could get into the home shopping business themselves, or lease their channels to others, industry leaders said.

Under next-gen TV, station groups could offer local advertisers, particularly those shut out from e-commerce due to costs and resources, the chance to get into virtual sales via t-commerce platforms. Broadcasters will also have increased opportunity to make their own sales, offering digital products, such as movies or TV episodes, directly to viewers.

From there, the options are endless. Buying that dress an actress is wearing, or that nifty gizmo shown on-screen, with a simple click would not be far off.

“There is no question that ATSC 3.0 was designed for that kind of interactivity,” Nexstar Media Group senior vice president and chief technology officer Brett Jenkins said.

But there’s no guarantee t-commerce is going to be an immediate hit either, particularly when it goes beyond basic applications such as direct-response advertising, Jenkins said.

Success, he added, depends on broadcasters implement the offerings using an industry-wide standard, as consistency is key to consumer adoption.

TV-based shopping also has to be simple — both from a transactional and psychological perspective. Just because technology may allow viewers to buy products showcased in TV shows doesn’t mean they will be in the mindset to do it, he said. Second-screen initiatives, which allowed consumers to buy products in a TV ad using a mobile app, for instance, had only marginal success, he said.

And home shopping is just one of the interactive activities that ATSC 3.0 will give rise to, therefore competing for viewers’ attention, industry experts said.

How much money broadcasters stand to make from t-commerce is the other wild card in the mix — and it may be years before anyone even starts to get a grasp on what kind of revenue TV-based shopping could bring in. “Right now people are focused on what the possibilities are other than how they are going to monetize it,” Matheny said.

Yet advocates say it’s all opportunity.

“While we don’t have a number in mind for what personalization and interactivity will add to the business, we do believe that advanced advertising and interactive programming is a capability that will provide future value to consumers and future revenue to broadcasters,” Pearl TV’s Schelle said. “It will certainly help to have computers and broadcasting speaking the same language.”

This article was originally published in the Aug. 14, 2017 issue of Multichannel News.