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What’s next for connected TV post-Covid

To say people have taken to Roku and connected TV would be like saying fitness fans have taken to Peloton. It’s obvious that many consumers shifted more of their entertainment time to streaming during lockdown. But what’s next as the world opens up?

Seen any good TV lately? We probably all have and perhaps one of the biggest beneficiaries of the lockdown lifestyle are streaming platforms such as Roku. The streaming platform this week announced the industry’s first brand studio for streaming TV ads. It also announced a first-of-its-kind strategic alliance with Nielsen. And, it acquired all of the content from Quibi’s multimillion-dollar portfolio of original programming.

There’s quite a bit of momentum for Roku, but what’s next for streaming as a whole now that jabs are getting into arms and spring is nearly sprung? The Drum’s US editor, Kenneth Hein, sat down with Harry Harcus, managing director at Finecast; Mary Ann Halford, partner at Altman Salon; and Mike Shaw, director of international sales at Roku.

As we head into the traditional upfronts season, Harcus noted that TV viewing has transformed dramatically. While linear TV still dominates, he says what has changed the most is “that there are just so many more new ways of engaging with TV viewing.”

Still, there is a tolerance or “pain threshold” for how many subscriptions people want. But there may not be much choice the way things are progressing. Halford cited Amazon’s deal to stream Thursday Night American Football as proof of how we are going to see “some real interesting things happening” that will be “reflective of changing audience patterns.”

And, with all of the tailwinds from Roku’s recent moves, Shaw was bullish on streaming stating that “we believe that in the future all TV will be streamed, and with that all TV advertising.”

Aren’t agencies dead?

One aspect of the transition to streaming is that it invites new advertisers to the market. Halford noted that streaming opens up new possibilities for smaller brands. “If you think about the overall universe of advertisers that have typically advertised on television, for the major networks, it's been about 200 advertisers, whereas in the digital universe, you can have 9 million advertisers,” she says.

Of course, someone needs to help those advertisers transition. The solution: ad agencies. Harcus dismissed talk of the “death of ad agencies” as “more provocation than anything else.” But he noted that agencies are specialized for such a role. “They have the resources, they have the expertise, they've changed a lot over the years,” he said. “The worlds of digital and data and AI and machine learning are really coming into TV.”

Shaw concurs. “We cannot understate the importance of creative.” Shaw continued that agencies have the high ground in this respect because they understand the clients, their overall objectives and have the creativity necessary to get the best results from connected TV environments.”

So what’s next?

As the world begins to emerge from the pandemic, each of the participants offered their views about what the next few months and years would look like.

Harcus says it’s important to have the right people running the brand. “It’s the team that you've got,” he said. “Make sure that you are either with the right people or collaborating with the right partner who really understands the space and is able to guide you accordingly.”

Halford says transparency is going to be really important. “I think one of the big issues that happened around digital was the lack of transparency. You have got really big budgets in television; people are going to want true accountability as to how things are being charged and how the whole process works. So, I think transparency will be top of my list."

Shaw says this is the moment to combine the beauty of TV with the brains of digital. “There’s so much consumer data you now hold as an organisation, especially post Covid, so look at how you can apply that data to TV planning. The opportunity goes so much further than conventional reach and frequency goals towards TV as a full-funnel medium.”

Tuned in: How brands can reach large and engaged streaming TV audiences panel is available on demand via The Drum's Digital Transformation Festival website. Watch it here.

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