TV network research and ad sales executives are confronting a challenging reality: they are investing significantly in new research data to respond to client and agency needs, but ad execs are failing to reward them for these investments except in a handful of specialized cases. The extensive investments made to date by many network TV companies have fallen mostly on an unimpressed ad community. Among six categories of network TV sales organization performance, "advanced research support and intelligence" ranks last in positive perceptions. Only eleven of seventy national TV sales organizations achieve positive research performance ratings from more than 50% of respondents to the new MyersBizNet Survey of Advertising Executives on National TV Value and Sales Organization Performance.
At the opposite end of the perception scale, the most positive performance ratings are for "Quality of Sales Team and Customer Support," for which half (35) of the sales organizations are positively rated. Ironically, one of the eleven national TV organizations that's positively rated for research is Hulu, which receives positive scores from 59% of those TV buyers and planners doing business with the streaming video service owned by Fox, NBCU and ABC. Hulu outperforms all of its legacy broadcast and cable network competitors except Univision (75%), NBCU Hispanic (68%) and Nickelodeon Kids & Family Group (60%). There were more than 1,000 responses to the MyersBizNet survey, conducted among advertiser and agency executives in October.
|MyersBizNet Survey of Advertising Executives on 70 National TV Sales Organizations|
|Performance Category||# of Organizations Rated Positively|
|by More than 50% of Respondents*|
|(among 70 total evaluated)|
|Quality of Sales Team & Customer Service||35|
|Delivers Value for the Investment||32|
|Provides Innovative and Creative Opportunities||28|
|Quality of Programming Justifies Premium Pricing||25|
|Offers Multi-Platform Digital Opportunities||20|
|Provides Advanced Research Support & Intelligence||11|
According to several of the ad execs surveyed, positive ratings for "advanced research support and intelligence" are generated primarily as a result of insights into specific market segments. This explains the leadership of Univision and NBCU Hispanic, both of which conduct major studies on consumer purchase behavior and media usage patterns of Hispanic audiences. This research enables media planners and buyers to justify the shift of budgets from Anglo to Hispanic TV. Similarly, the research offerings of Nickelodeon, ESPN, Viacom Music & Entertainment, Disney Media, NBC Live (News & Sports) are all positively rated by a majority of respondents. National TV sales organizations that also achieved positive ratings for research support by a majority of respondents are The Weather Channel, 20th Century TV and CBS Syndication.
In conversations with agency and advertiser executives responsible for TV planning and buying decisions, only automated/programmatic platforms and procurement realities generate greater interest than return-on-investment metrics and advanced research initiatives. The accelerating shift of budgets from network TV to digital video is prompting these discussions. Marketers are pressuring their agencies to shift more money into digital video and some agencies have announced aggressive plans to do just that. In response, network organizations such as Turner Broadcasting have partnered with marketing mix analytics firms like Marketshare that provide clients with insights on the effectiveness and ROI of their media investments. CBS-TV purchases Nielsen Catalina research to demonstrate the effectiveness of hundreds of broadcast and cable series for influencing product purchase. The data reflects insights such as the high impact of CBS' Blue Bloods for driving sales in several product categories. TiVo TRA, Simulmedia, Bill Harvey's RMT Solutions, Rentrak, Nielsen and other research providers are advancing a variety of solutions in response to growing demand for advanced market insights into advertising effectiveness, with a focus on network television.
However, these investments are not yet reversing the systematic flow of budgets to digital video. To date, most of the data that I've seen establishes the clear dominance of network television programming for delivering engaged audiences and positive ROI metrics. Although the data appears to be exactly what clients and their agencies are demanding, the reality is that it is unlikely to reverse procurement trends toward more cost efficient low-rated inventory and often low quality digital video. The greatest ally of network TV is the limited availability of network quality digital video inventory. As more inventory becomes available and programmatic platforms gain industry prominence, this advantage will recede.
The television industry finds itself in a Catch-22 of needing to invest in improved research resources to prove its effectiveness for driving sales compared to digital and social media, but confronting the reality that such investments are unlikely to drive scalable incremental growth or pricing increases, at least in the foreseeable future. In the meantime, networks still need to invest in more traditional competitively focused research studies that are designed to capture a larger slice of a shrinking pie, which does nothing to advance the long-term growth of the TV business. It seems if networks want to improve their MyersBizNet research ratings, short-term tactics are more important than long-term vision and strategy. That one reality probably describes the current state of the TV industry across all its business models.
*Respondents for each sales organization are pre-qualified as doing business/having a relationship with the organization; respondent counts vary for each organization.