As the digital landscape continues to evolve, its grasp has begun to take hold on TV buying as well. The increase in set top boxes being enabled through IP addresses is growing across all providers. As a result, we are seeing more and more data at our fingertips. This then puts us at an interesting cross roads: TV + Digital Data = Better TV Ads? I will start by saying, TV and TV buying has always been based on data. My TV buying friends would agree. But speaking purely from a digital media perspective, that data is becoming more meaningful, robust, and powerful as time progresses. This new data source is opening doors for digital media buyers, that have been all but closed for years.
Let’s quickly discuss the four main areas of TV Buying:
- Linear TV. This is TV as it has been for years. Traditional TV buyers have operated in this space for quite some time buying based off of TRPs / GRPs fueled by Nielsen rating points. You’re buying a show, on a specific network, hoping the audience is there to follow.
- Connected TV. A growing emergence across many of the younger generations, where traditional cable subscriptions are starting to wane, connected TV usage continues to grow in popularity. So much so, some are forecasting that this type of TV consumption will be the overwhelming majority in the not too distant future. The likes of Apple TV, PS4, Xbox One, and Roku tend to lead the pack. You could potentially lump Amazon TV, Hulu, and Netflix in this category as well, but that would more fall under the FEP (full episode player) umbrella.
- Programmatic TV. The use of STBs (set top boxes) and the data they capture to help automate audience indexing, increasing the targeting capabilities of TV ads. In the programmatic space a media buyer is starting to look at high level audience data, but in the end is still just buying a program. Example: your audience over indexes against Reality TV, therefore let’s buy as many Reality TV shows as we can. There’s still a level of wastage here, but the approach is definitely still narrow.
- Addressable TV. A form of programmatic TV, but more in depth. If programmatic TV is the automation of STB data to buy at the TV show level, Addressable TV is the automation of STB data to buy the audience itself.
It gets a little dense the further we go down the path, but the Programmatic and Addressable offerings are what are really starting to erode the once traditional walls of offline and online media. We’re not too far away from the TV just being considered another screen in the house. Pretty exciting stuff for us digital media geeks! There are always limitations to new technologies, as should be expected:
- Scale. To unlock Addressable TV, the user has to have a STB that’s internet ready + DVR capable. This right off the bat reduces scale from say the 60M users in the cable space, to around 8-10 depending on who you are going to work with.
- Options. There are still only a few providers out there who offer the level of detail to be considered Addressable. DirectTV and Dish bubble to the top as the leading providers.
- Cable Scatter Only. The likes of ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox, your standard network partners, are still only starting to explore this space. So for now, buying network TV isn’t really an option, and you’ll have to focus on cable scatter.
- Reporting Limitations. As always, from a digital perspective, we want reporting. After all, it’s what makes digital media that much cooler. Real time feedback and super granular reporting. But that reporting for Programmatic and Addressable TV is still somewhat limited. It’s getting better, but don’t expect to be overwhelmed by metrics and data points. Don’t get me wrong, the reporting is still better than Linear TV, but left me wanting for more.
To help mitigate some of these limitation, my advice for approaching this new medium has a few layers. First, know your audience profiles. You’re about to make a decent sized investment, within the TV space. Having a well defined audience is crucial to eliminate waste. Second, make sure you understand the reach and frequency of your buys. Both are key points to understand the overall impact of your buy, and need to be at the forefront of planning. Finally, have a clear expectation of KPI and reporting. This is a different space, so clearly understanding the impact of this media will be crucial.
In the end, the fact that us ‘digital only’ folks are starting to work their way into the TV conversation makes digital that much more impactful. These new media outlets are only going to get better, and over time I can definitely see this being the future of TV buying.