TV is not under threat, but it needs to get better with data, say panelists at The Drum’s breakfast event

Future of TV event

The audiences may be engaging with TV in new ways, but great content, editorial curation and even scheduling and continuity will continue to drive viewing behaviour according to panel of experts at The Drum’s Future of TV breakfast event.

Panelists from Dataxu, Telaria, Thinkbox, Endemol Shine Group and Ogilvy UK gathered (Wednesday, February 14] to discuss the future of TV advertising. With new threats emerging and threatening to topple the traditional TV advertising model – are we moving towards the best of times or the worst of times?

These are the best of times for Dataxu’s VP EMEA, Mike Shaw. For him, advertising levels have never been higher than they are now. And now that broadcasters have access to data, things can only get better. “Broadcasters can use data as a way of leveraging more value. When you talk about the power of Amazon - it’s because of the data they have on people.”

He added: “The big challenge is using data, and this is what TV needs to get good at. On the content front, TV companies are good at understanding user needs. The question is how well broadcasters will use data.”

Ogilvy UK’s planning director Marie Maurer agreed and added that as an industry we tend to “worry too much”. “People have always made a cup of tea during ad breaks. The job is the same no matter what platform you are on. The bar has been raised from a content and creative point of view – there is more competition and that’s a good thing.”

According to Matt Hill, research and planning director at Thinkbox, content on various platforms fill different needs, and we should not assume that one is at variance with other forms of content.

“What we've seen is that the amount of time spent watching long-form content on TV, DVDs, Netflix is pretty much the same,” he added. “The types of content that gets watched on the likes of YouTube usually come under certain themes: music videos and people watching other people play video games. And then you've got content like 'teach yourself how to play the guitar' which isn’t the same as watching entertaining TV content.”

The future of BBC remains unthreatened

The conversation then turned to the subject of the “crown-jewel” of British TV – the BBC. With traditional broadcasting under threat, where does the BBC fit into the debate?

Telaria’s managing director EMEA, Andy Morley, a “passionate advocate of the BBC” wasted no time in sharing his thoughts: “It’s something to cherish and the benchmark of quality.”

Hill agreed and went one step further. “If you watch TV in the US it’s an absolute nightmare. You get 20 minutes’ worth of ads in comparison to the UK’s six minutes. Part of that is because of the BBC. It means that the ad time is scarcer and therefore more valuable and impactful for advertising.”

Hill referred to a survey of linear TV viewing habits (by EndersAnalysis) which revealed that in 2016, only three foreign-produced shows made it in the top 2,000 most-watched shows, concluding that UK TV is a very localised medium so international subscription-based video on demand cannot have it all covered.

“In London we have very different viewing habits and behaviours to the rest of the country. We need good data to understand what the rest of the country is viewing,” he said.

As the only American on the panel, Crofoot agreed with the rest of the panel, saying the BBC is “clearly something to be treasured. It is beautiful but untainted by commercial terms and has built up brand awareness around the world especially through its wildlife nature hit, Blue Planet.”

Addressable targeting will make TV powerful…but not quite yet

As consumers continue to watch TV content on multiple devices and platforms, for advertisers this presents an opportunity to target viewers with the right message, at the right time. Done right – addressable TV has the potential to be a game-changer allowing them to personalise ads using the right data. But how far away are we from this vision?

For Morley, the industry is just at the start of the journey as Europe has tight regulations, making it more of a challenge for broadcasters. At the same time, he is excited by its future: “It’s by far the fastest growth area for our business.”

Shaw agrees that we still have a long way to go but is seeing the market shift to accommodate this new need for addressable TV. “There’s a proven need for it through technologies like Sky AdSmart in this country. It will open possibilities for brands and agencies moving forward. The biggest constraint will be from the supply-side and broadcasters realising the value and potential of this technology.”

Hill said conversations in the industry suggest everything is moving in this direction. “Broadcasters are looking to roll out Sky AdSmart across different channels. This will increase its scale, especially as Virgin has signed a deal with Sky to use the same technology. So, we are moving towards this space where the majority of TV is going to be open to addressability.”

However Hill cautioned it won’t completely change the way TV works because brands still need mass reach. “It could make TV more powerful in terms of being specific in targeting and when consumers are targeted. TV offers a rich environment and value exchange for viewers in terms of advertising.

“If you merge that with the online world where you have addressability and deliver ads in real-time, you end up with an incredibly powerful product. That’s why I think the future is incredibly bright for TV,” he concluded.

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