Between addressability, ATSC 3.0, live programming such as news and sports, and OTT, this year's TV of Tomorrow NYC conference offered a great sense of anticipation regarding the future of media. The ecosystem has gone through a series of seismic changes since I first attended the conference in 2012, lurching forward in one area and contracting in another. Recall the first rumblings of addressable? Now, it is reaching critical mass. Remember 3D TV? Yeah, neither do I. This year, the prognosticators report the following:
Revenge of the Nerds
There is more data than ever, which leads to much more complexity in how it is used. "There is a greater need for examining multiple data sources, rather than simply relying on one or two," stated Helen Katz, senior vice president and director, global analytics and insights, at Publicis. "Given the increased complexity in consumers' media and purchase behavior over the past five years, buyers and sellers both need to look to more granular data to do their jobs effectively."
To that end, Julian Zilberbrand, executive vice president, audience science, at ViacomCBS, got it right when he said, "If you don't have your nerds, you're dead." Arming your company with the best talent in analytics, data science, and research is a must to compete in this ever-more complex media ecosystem. I have been in the industry's nerd sector for decades, so this evolution in attitude is very welcome.
We Are All Confused
As frenetic and confusing as the change is for those who work in media, the chaos also extends to consumers. "There is consumer confusion about how to access content," said Julie DeTraglia, head of research at Hulu.
"We went into homes and found that people don't understand their own TV sets," added Natasha Hritzuk, vice president, consumer insights, WarnerMedia. "It's a challenge for consumers; people feel overwhelmed. They have to grapple with device proliferation and choice of content."
Part of the confusion on the media side is the changing ways to do business. "The rules we grew up with are antiquated," said Peter Olsen, executive vice president, ad sales, at A+E Networks. "It was good when we started because TV didn't have to sell itself," but now there is more competition.
Even current business rules aren't as simple as we may think. Take, for example, calculating attribution. "When I view engaging content, I won't switch to buy something. I'll wait," explained Radha Subramanyam, president and chief research and analytics officer at Viacom/CBS. "Half of TV impressions are not counted because they are time-shifted. Tons of clients do attribution around live. But no one will stop in the middle of a great program to buy something, especially something expensive."
A Media Kumbaya
For the first time in our industry's history, there has been a partnering of not only frenemy companies that compete on the same side of the business, but also those who compete across the negotiation table. Content distributors, programmers, and networks are forming open working partnerships with advertisers, agencies, and brands. This cross-industry collaboration is a welcome advancement where agreed-upon solutions can be facilitated and moved into market more quickly.
David Ernst, vice president, advanced TV and digital insights, at A+E Networks, explained that "we offer insights as to how well campaigns on our networks are driving results, driving KPIs, [driving traffic] to the web or retail location.… The dynamic of media seller and buyer [is changing]. Once at odds, we are now all in [the] same boat. There is more collaboration with agencies."
Olsen is confident that TV works in the bigger picture and that the industry needs to get there fast. Though it could take a few more years, he is positive that, through collaboration, it is possible to find workable solutions.
Be Careful of Simple Solutions
To mitigate this confusion, there may be a temptation to enforce simple standardized solutions. But this lack of nuance could be a mistake. Collecting all content into an app, for example, aggregates content from many properties, which can be good — but, recalling her past experience in CPG research, Hritzuk warned that "we are on a point of inflection to become commoditized. I worry about commoditization of inventory."
Bringing different datasets together can solve for the deficiencies in each. "There is a level of granularity that we don't have with Nielsen, but a level of information on individual viewers from Nielsen that we don't have from big data," explained Tom Ziangas, senior vice president research of AMC Networks. However, bringing different datasets together is complicated. "We need to 'de-babelize' the dataset [into one common language]," noted Jonathan Steuer, chief research officer for Omnicom. "Or we can't have the same buying and selling combinations."
Andrew Ward, president, Ampersand, believes that the industry should "move away from panel survey–based to deterministic."
Remember, too, that we are not always seeking the same solutions. "PlutoTV is free, so we are not competing for money, but competing for time. People feel overwhelmed and confused over [which platforms] to watch [content]," explained Colleen Fahey Rush, executive vice president and chief research officer at Viacom. "For many, Pluto is easy, like turning the TV on. We are not trying to get dollars out of people's pockets. We are competing differently."
Publicis' Katz believes the industry will eventually come together to create a common data platform that incorporates data from multiple sources. How soon that will happen remains to be seen. Stay tuned for TVOT 2020.
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