Media Giants Dazzle TV Advertisers in 2022 Upfronts with Big Plans for CTV, Streaming
Broadcast media was all but forgotten at this year’s upfronts as media companies focused more on streaming platforms and the expanding global reach of connected TV (CTV) offerings. A majority of content previews and trailers showcased the shows and movies to premiere exclusively on streaming platforms like Peacock and Disney+ in the coming months, versus the usual approach of highlighting primetime lineups across networks. Similarly, free ad-supported TV (FAST) streaming platforms like Pluto and Tubi were prominently featured during their respective parent companies’ presentations, signifying the outsized role CTV and streaming now play in the industry.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau reported last month that CTV viewing will account for 36 percent of total time spent with TV this year. The Leichtman Research Group outlined similar trends in its 2022 Connected TVs report, which found that 46 percent of U.S. adults watch video via a CTV device every day—compared to 40 percent in 2020, 25 percent in 2017, and four percent in 2012. Time spent watching digital video is expected to surpass traditional TV (broadcast and cable) watch time as soon as 2024, according to Insider Intelligence, as daily time spent watching TV continues its rapid decline.
Only 18 percent of total video ad dollars are currently committed to CTV but that may be changing as The New York Timesreports that media buyers are “earmarking nearly 50 percent of their 2022 video budgets to streaming, up from about ten percent before the pandemic.” Insider Intelligence said it expects nearly $10 billion to be spent on upfront digital video this year, as the vast majority of upfront digital video dollars pour into streaming services. According to iSpot.tv, about half of TV marketers are expected to allocate upfront dollars toward Hulu, Peacock, Roku, and YouTube this year as advertisers allocate more spend to digital platforms.
Newly-minted media giant Warner Bros. Discovery made its upfront debut as a combined company, focusing on unscripted programming and positioning itself as a top destination for viewers of all ages and content interests. “We are confident because of the enviable breadth and depth of our programming slate, spanning premium entertainment, animation, kids, and family,” said Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav. “We are the global leader in entertainment, lifestyle, news, and sports. Simply stated, we have the content that viewers want.” Warner Bros. Discovery’s presentation mostly focused on its expansive library of DIY, reality, natural world, and other unscripted-adjacent content, with no mention of the much-anticipated new season of “Westworld” or the debut of “Game of Thrones” spinoff “House of the Dragon.”
Similarly, NBCUniversal showcased its expansive portfolio of unscripted content with a star-studded presentation, and Bravo host Andy Cohen teased BravoCon, a live fandom event scheduled for this fall and set to feature dozens of personalities from hit reality TV shows like “Real Housewives,” and “Vanderpump Rules.” According to Ad Age, “The on-stage fanfare for the experiential event showed how NBCUniversal is looking way beyond programming to connect brands with consumers, with the segment an indication of its efforts to build out ecommerce and shoppable opportunities for advertisers.”
With Disney+ and Netflix set to introduce ad breaks to their streaming services by the end of 2022, rival media giants took the opportunity to reinforce their expertise and rich history of supporting advertisers across media properties during their upfront presentations. “We’ve been committed to the ad-supported video business since literally the first moments of our company’s history,” said Jeff Shell, Chief Executive of NBCUniversal. “[Advertising] is not an extension of our core business, or a pivot. It is our core business.”
Ahead of the upfront event, NBCUniversal was one of the only media brands to debut a suite of new ad tools and formats, which included:
Retro ads that lean into genre-driven marketing,
Shoppable QR codes within picture-in-picture ads,
Sequential storytelling, enabling brands to target viewers with multi-tiered storytelling,
Mobile AR opportunities,
Similarly, Disney shared more details about the imminent arrival of ads on Disney+, confirming to Ad Age that it plans to “limit its ad breaks to just four minutes per hour—nearly half that of Disney-owned platform Hulu.” Disney also announced that ads would be limited to an initial slate of advertisers, and exclude alcohol and political marketing. Ads would be withheld from preschool-age audiences, and for all Disney+ profiles that are marked for younger viewers, ads wouldn't be run, no matter the content being played.
“The industry-wide shift from a focus on broadcast networks to CTV and streaming is a unique opportunity for brands to rethink the traditional media buying model and adopt a more agile, digital-first approach,” said Natalee Geldert, head of brand media at PMG. “These new ad types, like shoppable QR codes and improvements to sequential storytelling, are worth getting excited about, and provide brands with ample runway for testing unique ad opportunities and sharing brand stories with viewers in new and interesting ways."
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With YouTube’s VidCon slated for later this month, and Disney+ expected to release its ad-supported subscription tier soon, we can expect even more TV and media industry shakeups and programming announcements in the weeks to come.
Posted by Abby Long