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What Can Broadcasters Learn From Pivot TV’s Demise?

November 2nd, 2016   ||    by Susan Kuchinskas   ||    No Comments

For some, it was a sorry day in August when Participant Media announced, via PR Newswire, it would wind down its Pivot TV cable network. The company said it would focus its efforts on content creation and “social impact” while completely exiting the cable TV business. Viceland TV, another millennial-focused cable channel, is also struggling to attract viewers over in the United Kingdom, according to the The Guardian—with some time slots garnering no audience at all.

Participant Media’s three-year-old network aimed to appeal to millennials, but its launch coincided with a shift in their viewing behaviors, primarily in the form of increasing consumption of digital and over-the-top (OTT) video. Flavorwire notes that Pivot series Please Like Me and Fortitude also air outside the States, and Sky Atlantic, a network based in the UK, has ordered a second season of Fortitude.

So it seems likely that these shows will continue to live—and perhaps find a home on U.S. over-the-top services, as so many other British and Australian shows have.

Paralyzed by Choice?

Millennials are spending more and more time consuming over-the-top video, and they, along with everyone else, are becoming paralyzed over too much choice. They may be cultural leaders, but they’re not alone.

According to eMarketer, by 2018, one in five households will not have a cable or satellite TV subscription. In its 2015 Total Audience Report, Nielsen pointed out that this demographic segment is not monolithic—something Pivot TV may have ignored in its programming choices.

According to Adweek, these consumers may be in one of three different life stages: dependent and living at home, living on their own, or starting a family. The viewing habits of each segment differ. But, Nielsen said, all three groups still consume between two hours and three hours and 15 minutes of live television each day.

How Can Broadcast Adapt?

Television broadcasters and station groups need to get smarter about programming and advertising if they don’t want to face the same challenges that niche cable channels like Pivot TV experience.

Although audiences are gravitating toward mobile, digital, and OTT viewing, live TV remains the most popular medium for consuming video. According to a recent forecast by BIA/Kelsey, more than $146 billion will be spent on local advertising this year. To stay relevant and increase ROI for advertisers, broadcasters must do a better job of helping advertisers leverage the power of local ads.

New technologies including can help national brands and their agencies invest more ad dollars in local television, including:

  • Programmatic TV (PTV), which lets advertisers reach a target audience while optimizing the media spend.
  • The Smart Broadcast concept enables local station groups to provide better measurement of content consumption to advertisers.
  • Algorithmic attribution empowers advertisers to assign attribution across media.

While cable stations like Pivot TV and Viceland TV may be the first to suffer from changes in viewing habits, this trend should serve as a wake-up call for the rest of the television industry.

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