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Television Week 2017: Linear TV Finds Its Footing in the New Media World

October 25th, 2017   ||    by Charlene Weisler

At this year’s Television Week 2017, Chris Pizzurro, head of sales and marketing at Canoe Ventures, likened linear TV to the Six Million Dollar Man. You know the story: after being in a terrible accident, an astronaut is rebuilt with the latest technology to be bigger and stronger than ever.

This laudable comparison may apply to linear TV but for a couple of challenges—measurement and legacy infrastructure.

Both issues were given a lot of thought at the recent Advanced Advertising conference, which was part of Television Week 2017. Here are our takeaways.

What Exactly Is Programmatic?

Are we really still asking this question? Well, yes. Depending on which side of the business you’re on, programmatic can mean automatic buying, real-time bidding, or dynamic ad insertion.

One might think that with a group of television executives as panelists, there’d be agreement. But as Brad Smith, senior vice president of revenue and operations at Videa, pointed out, “All programmatic is not real-time bidding. There are all different definitions of programmatic. The term needs clarification.” For instance, Videa’s platform offers automated, end-to-end buying and selling of forward reserve, local spot TV inventory for sellers and buyers.

There’s a certain level of precariousness in the TV ecosystem today as FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google) moves quickly and efficiently into the TV space with more video choices and streamlined ad-tech purchasing tools.

“It doesn’t take a lot of scale to disrupt or destabilize the market today,” said Randy Cooke, vice president of programmatic TV at SpotX.

Programmatic . . . Is Amoebic

So, what should linear television companies do in a more programmatic world that can easily be destabilized by relatively new disrupters infringing on their turf? Well, let’s start with data and measurement.

There’s a crying need for an open standard in both content identification and metrics to seamlessly track and collect consumer behavior across platforms and devices. Delivery of impressions may no longer be the optimum metric—that optimum metric may vary according to an advertiser’s KPIs. TV companies need to understand what their advertisers are trying to achieve, such as brand lift or sales, and be able to measure against that.

And since the business model of linear TV is 60 years old, it’s difficult to transform its structure overnight. Old-timey networks that have been successfully selling inventory for decades are suddenly awakened to a new selling paradigm that requires cooperation between media companies, rather than competition.

It’s now imperative to find collective solutions to the new digital competition, especially given the ad markets “will become increasingly dynamic and amoebic,” Cooke noted.

Problems to Solve

Open standards to facilitate metric and measurement standardization would be a great step forward in solving a business problem. Smith is a big believer: “We are pushing for open standards. Television was always an oligopoly. We need open standards to allow the ecosystem to thrive and grow.” This could be further facilitated by measuring around a common ID and recognizing that advertisers are focused on audiences and not on a particular platform or device.

An agreed definition of certain terms beyond delivery is also necessary, possibly through accreditation organizations like the Media Rating Council (MRC). Ad exposure, for example, can be “rapt attention to the TV, or sometimes the phone gets your attention,” said Howard Shimmel, chief research officer at Turner Broadcasting System.

One must be able to discern whether the viewer is even in the room and (if so) if their eyes are on the screen.

Ultimately, the best barometer of success will result from a collective effort that’s no longer a zero-sum game between media companies. We need to “create a competitive viewing environment to Netflix and Amazon and create new revenue models,” said David Levy, executive vice president of non-linear revenue at Fox Networks Group.

According to the panelists at Television Week, we may already be on that path.

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