Why We Still Love - And Watch - A Lot of TV

The 2016 Broadcast TV Upfront presentations – the annual advertising industry event at which broadcast networks, such as ABC, CBS, CW, FOX and NBC, present their fall season plans to media buyers and marketers – took place in May 2016. The presentations set the stage for the industry’s Upfront media buying, where a significant portion of the upcoming season’s broadcast inventory is purchased.

Despite growth in alternate viewing options, TV continues to be a mainstay for network success, especially as an immediate mass reach vehicle – positive testament for those who still believe in the merits of advertising on this medium. Every year, the industry and pundits forecast “the death of broadcast TV” and the anachronism of the Upfront, yet each year it continues as ever.

Each year, more alternatives are offered – the NewFronts, the marketplace for digital video and the Addressable TV Upfront. But despite modest growth, none have knocked down the reigning champ, broadcast TV. Crickets could be heard on last year’s “Addressable TV” Upfront, as platforms have found it more difficult to pull off than expected. Addressable TV would have allowed advertisers to selectively segment TV audiences and offer up different ads groups within a common program.

Downward Digital

Each year, over the past decade, there has seemed to be an elephant in the room regarding digital solutions, cross platform and mobile viewing, on demand and cord-cutting – but the networks continue to trot out their new shows with fanfare and talk about their massive viewership. This year was no different, as only NBCUniversal and CW served up digital solutions. Perhaps this “broadcast or bust” mindset is right, as the release of a new study from Accenture Strategy, analyzing marketing spend and ROI over three years, found that Digital can’t match the long-term ROI benefits of advertising on linear TV and its supported platforms. The study suggests that multiplatform TV advertising has had a halo effect on digital, with an average of 18 percent ROI incorrectly credited to short-form video (digital includes paid search, digital display and short-form video under 10 minutes) – insinuating that any success digital video has had is in fact due to TV (!).

Did We Say We Love TV?

All in all, TV networks are continuing to take a fairly safe, reliable approach to programming, with attention to the tried and true. To us, this seems short-sighted and analogous to music publishers’ continued refusal to address a digital solution – until they had to. This seems to present an opportunity for new, more cutting-edge programming that makes the digital experience more front-and-center, not just a value-add. We can imagine all kinds of exciting mobile, non-linear, interactive offerings, but alas, we have to continue to wait.

Stacking rights, or a network’s ability to stream a seasons’ worth of episodes on all of its platforms (think Netflix), as opposed to just the most recent five episodes, has also been a hot topic. Most networks agree that viewers love being able to catch up on a show in succession, informally known as “binge watching.” Stacking allows them to do this with ease, not to mention, increasing network and series loyalty.

Why is this important for consumers? Today’s TV viewers have more opportunities to enjoy TV content than they ever have before. Viewers can watch their favorite shows on multiple screens, in any location or while on the go, and interact with fellow fans in real-time on various social media networks.

Why is this important for brands? TV ensures that consumers become aware of new products, services, ideas and other noteworthy concepts. It reinforces the position of existing brands and reassures consumers about the choices they make every day.

That being said, TV still rules and successful series still wear the crown. TV’s long-lasting prominence in society has deep roots. TV is a medium that triggers imagination, improves the world, nurtures curiosity, encourages education and unites millions of viewers with mutual interests. It also demonstrates that one need look no further for proof of the ROI benefits of TV advertising, because people continue to watch TV. A lot.

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