Television isn’t what it used to be.
As we entered 2020, there were dozens of ways to consume the same content across devices, platforms and services. While alternative viewing methods have been gaining steam at a predictable clip, the situation defined by COVID-19 has accelerated adaptation on the consumer side and grown viewing audiences exponentially.
In short, media companies are far from prepared for the speed at which this change has accelerated. Buyers still have to undertake complex processes to reach their target audiences across platforms and distribution methods, and sellers find themselves cobbling together packages hobbled by legacy systems…which are even more difficult to access in a distributed work environment.
Massive innovation has been afoot for some time now. Data collection, management, forecasting as well as other technological advancements in devices that have been made over the past year, we have all of the data at our fingertips. Now it is just a matter of putting it all together to improve both the ROI for advertisers and the viewing experience for consumers.
The first step is to bring all your cards into a single deck. Consumption method aside, you must quantify a viewer as a viewer, and not utilize separate systems for linear, OTT and streaming. While within a unified product catalog, buyers should have access to their target audience regardless of how they consume content, and easily be able to select which portions of the audience they wish to engage…if not all of them. Buyers should be able to deliver their advertising through products that represent audiences, undifferentiated by platform, device, or viewing preference.
Normalize and Standardize
Right now, the value standards for different types of viewers are all over the place, despite findings that suggest engagement is even across consumption methods. Normalizing the fact that not all viewers are linear customers and bringing a standard metric to define their value will be crucial moving forward. NBCU has been working to this end through its CFlight initiative, and while that has its fans and critics alike, it is the industry’s first attempt at offering a more holistic assessment of cross-platform consumption. As more media companies follow suit, the industry will begin to build trust with advertisers that an ad seen by a person watching Hulu on their iPad is just as impactful as an ad seen by someone watching a Primetime broadcast on their living room TV.
This is where you really need to bring the smart home ethos to your media operation.
Due to the nature of modern viewing, you now have the ability to share Nielsen Box level data about a much larger share of your audience with buyers. This, in turn, makes them look smarter and makes interaction with the content on your platforms that much more attractive. Personally, I recommend working with a group of buyers to determine what flow of data they find most valuable, then take that feedback and build out automation for that level of reporting. Ideally, in addition to letting buyers customize, you’re going to want to offer simple plug and play packages that they can utilize. This is especially important as COVID continues to shorten the buying timeline, as client budgets are squeezed, and consumer behavior remains unpredictable. Packaging enables quick decisions, which can payoff for both the buyer and seller…avoiding unused inventory. For those with the luxury of time, their systems should afford a level of white-glove customization that really wasn’t fully possible until now.
This is where it really gets fun. Once you’ve overhauled the entire process you can really flip the script and start doing superhuman things, leveraging of course Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning. The amount of data that modern systems bring in would take decades for an analyst to effectively organize and synthesize. With a few simple inputs and directions, buyers can work with an overhauled system to learn more about their audience’s habits, likes, wants and needs.
Additionally, when you get really creative, and start to leverage things such as weather data, movement habits in correlation to time of year and other historical metrics, you can begin to predict eyeballs for content that doesn’t even exist yet. Predicting demand enables publishers to better schedule and value their content, leading to a more predictable end to the quarter. This is where the modern viewing environment truly merges with the potential of modern buying and selling.
At the end of the day, we all need to work to remove friction from the process. Consumers are feeling the squeeze from the recession, and are ditching their linear packages at record rates, but that doesn’t mean they won’t consume the same content…the how just changes. And that how presents myriad opportunities that didn’t exist before. Advertisers are feeling pressure for true ROI based buying, which in turn forces Media companies to get focused on how they are going to have their inventory be more measurable. Content mobility means that summer programming no longer goes unwatched, and modern devices relay data that makes it easiest for buyers to drill down on the exact consumer they want to hit. But if we can’t reduce that friction, the data will go unused. The next generation of consumption is here. How do you plan to monetize it?