Future of TV Ad Spend Adtech

TV & media leaders share 5 trends we can expect to see during the 2023 upfronts season

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By Kendra Clark | Senior Reporter

April 28, 2023 | 9 min read

From a focus on new cross-platform currencies to growing demand for hybridized linear-streaming solutions, these are the top trends that will define this year’s upfronts and NewFronts, according to leaders in the TV and media space.

5 retro TV sets with thumbs ups

The 2023 upfronts and NewFronts season will see a major focus on data solutions and cross-screen currencies / Adobe Stock

The 2023 TV upfronts and the increasingly popular IAB NewFronts are nearly upon us.

And the worlds of linear TV and connected television (CTV) are undergoing massive sea changes. US ad spend on CTV spiked 23% from 2021 to 2022. Netflix has introduced new ad-supported tiers and HBO Max and Discovery+ have merged into the new Max platform. Growing demand for real-time media buying is putting pressure on linear TV players; meanwhile, sports are increasingly shifting to streaming. Plus, media measurement debates are reaching a fever pitch, with Nielsen announcing last week that it will delay the rollout of a new big data-informed currency it had planned to promote at the NewFronts.

These and other changes are already disrupting media selling and buying strategies across the board. And they’re sure to inform the direction of the upfronts and NewFronts events this year.

Here are some of the top trends we can expect to see play out over the forthcoming upfronts season, according to media and television industry leaders.

1. All eyes on CTV

Tony Marlow, chief marketing officer at LG Ads: “In a rapidly changing media landscape, this year’s upfronts and NewFronts promise to be a game-changer, with ad-supported CTV emerging as the change agent we need right now. As cord-cutting accelerates and viewers increasingly flock to streaming platforms, ad-supported CTV provides advertisers with an enticing opportunity to engage audiences through targeted, data-driven advertising that simply isn't possible with traditional television. As ad dollars continue to flow from linear TV to digital platforms, it's evident that CTV's winning combination of reach, engagement and flexibility will solidify its position as the go-to choice for advertisers.”

Jason Fairchild, co-founder and chief executive officer at tvScientific: “This year will be one of the last years where we can see large direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands will not participate in the upfronts. We are currently seeing that CTV is evolving into a performance-based medium that has more appeal to direct-to-consumer companies. Traditional DTC brands are fundamentally very sophisticated since their customer acquisition channels are KPI-driven against the customer acquisition cost versus lifetime value framework, which attracted them to Facebook and Instagram initially. Since Apple’s [rollout of its privacy-centric framework] AppTrackingTransparency, we have seen DTC move towards CTV due to its high performance. It’s only a matter of time before they participate in the upfronts.”

2. The media measurement wars heat up

David Cohen, chief exec at the Interactive Advertising Bureau: “The most meaningful trend this year is the rapidly changing face of currency and measurement. While this is not a new topic, it is one that has gotten more attention and focus over the last year since the standard C3 and C7 video currency is being retired at the end of next year.”

Blair Robertson, chief technology officer of InnovidXP at Innovid: “With the creation of the [new requirements for premium video cross-platform currencies laid out by the US Joint Industry Committee (JIC)] among other industry changes, measurement – specifically currency – is sure to be a primary focus for the upfronts and NewFronts this year. Media players, publishers and network providers want to talk about currency because it enables them to keep the spotlight on their unique platform and audience. Currency allows them to call the shots, defining how their audience should be evaluated. But what about brands? Marketers want to evaluate the value of their media campaigns by the metrics that are valuable to them. In conversations at NewFronts and beyond, we should expect advertisers to demand more than the basis of currency, asking for additional metrics and capabilities that enable optimizations tied to unique business goals. With advertising dollars becoming increasingly scrutinized, returns on ad spend must be visible and proven, which makes the shift to measuring not only for reach but also for outcomes, all the more important.”

Tara Franceschini, industry strategist for media and entertainment at LiveRamp: “Agencies and brands will be looking to test new currencies at scale, so the TV publishers must be prepared with measurement partners to meet the market’s demands. We are going to see many TV publishers provide a menu of measurement partners so that they can meet these demands. Additionally, with the work happening through the JIC, there is going to be a set of new standards and practices to adhere to. It's going to be a time of change and discovery of what works and what doesn’t. Plus, data collaboration will be a hot topic and something that wasn’t discussed as much last year. With the advancements in data collaboration, we are really going to see so much more with cross-screen measurement and analytics. Data collaboration will be essential for cross-screen measurement and has so much potential to unlock new opportunities, new partnerships and new audience insights. It's really the new frontier.”

3. Demand for flexible solutions grows

Sean Cunningham, chief exec of the Video Advertising Bureau: “It’s all about the mix of all the different types of multiscreen premium video. It’s different versus [how the upfronts and NewFronts have been, historically] – you’re not looking at something that is a linear television-dominated upfront with a few moving pieces that accompany that. [Industry players are going to] look at taking all of the best components and customize them for each client. It is the art of mastering the moving parts of the ways that you can engage on premium TV … With CTV, mobile, digital video – it really is about finding the best combination of a minimum of [perhaps] five major pieces, as opposed to a linear-dominated negotiation that has four other moving parts.”

Mark Marshall, president of advertising and partnerships at NBCUniversal: “At NBCU, we are hyper-focused on deep diving with our client and agency partners to build effective multi-platform strategies and educate on the importance of this selling period. We see the critical importance for advertisers to lean in to both linear and digital, not just one or the other – the importance of communal viewing and mass-scale consumption is essential with three in four US adults watching linear TV every week. The combination of safe and engaging content, paired with scale and precision is what NBCU delivers to thousands of advertisers of all sizes every day.”

Stephani Estes, chief media officer at Goodway Group: “It can’t be overstated how critical flexibility will be at this year’s upfronts. Marketers continue to watch every dollar closely, which means that greater flexibility could be the key differentiator for buyers struggling to adapt to a shaky economy and ever-evolving consumer preferences. As the video market increases in fragmentation, flexibility will hold even more weight in successfully locking in negotiations.”

4. Attention metrics get attention

Curt Larson, chief product officer at Sharethrough: “Attention and new ad formats are directly related to each other. Commercial breaks have a growing consumer attention problem, particularly as more and more people scroll through their phones while ads play. Content and service providers have been testing improved ad experiences that enhance the attention and measurability of their ad offerings, which often result in more actionable TV experiences that connect the phone and TV into a seamless consumer experience. Expect to hear many solutions throughout the NewFronts that attempt to improve attention while proving better outcomes.”

Mark Marshall, president of advertising and partnerships at NBCUniversal: “Now is the time for marketers to guarantee future success for their brands and viewers’ attention – because every impression counts.”

5. New data solutions on tap

David Cohen, chief exec at the Interactive Advertising Bureau: “This year there will undoubtedly be a greater spotlight on emerging data and technology solutions to meet the marketplace needs.”

Tara Franceschini, industry strategist for media and entertainment at LiveRamp: “The use of data will increase exponentially in this year’s upfronts. Data is everything when you are evaluating streaming platforms and in turn how you can holistically evaluate your total upfront spend. There is no question that any and all data will improve the process of buying and selling and can enable both sides to be as strategic as possible. With the size of addressable inventory growing, the space where data can be used is also growing – which enables more opportunity to successfully target and optimize to a target audience.”

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