Climate change is serious. We need to acknowledge it, work out what to do about it and take action. It’s an obvious and existential threat to the planet and therefore life itself.
Now I’m not suggesting that what’s happening to the TV industry is in the same league - and it’s only a threat to mankind if doctors suddenly discover that viewing a 50-inch screen is a health-enhancing and life-sustaining activity - but in its own way, the TV industry is experiencing its own climate change.
TV’s climate change potentially impacts not only the viewer but also the two parties with the biggest financial interest in TV’s future; industry shareholders and advertisers who rely on TV’s winning combo of reach and effectiveness.
The latest BBC and ITV proposals to introduce the BritBox streaming service to the UK, coming hard on the heels of ITV CEO Carolyn McCall’s comments that the industry needs to adapt fast to remain relevant, speak to the former. This is big business and investors want big businesses to grow.
And the debate sparked by Ebiquity’s recent publication ‘TV at the Tipping Point’ speaks to the latter; advertisers want to know, “if not TV, what then?”.
The increasing penetration of subscription streaming services is a global phenomenon that is only just beginning to reshape the market for TV advertising in the UK. And if TV increasingly becomes an ad-free subscription model, do we risk leaving only the investors happy, while advertisers scratch their heads in search of a home for their advertising budgets?
Like climate change, we need to not only face reality but also start working towards solutions with a greater sense of urgency. It seems that there are three big asks:
Clarity for advertisers. Exactly what role will advertising play on the new platform? Can advertisers plan for a future where they are still able to access the best content on both linear and non-linear TV platforms?
Protection of consumer choice. Consumers should be able to consume content in the manner they prefer, be it subscription or ad-funded, or some hybrid. Further clarity on the options that will be available would be welcome for all parties.
Regulatory review. The competitive pressures created by the likes of Amazon and Netflix have clearly changed the game. In light of this, it is appropriate that regulatory bodies, working alongside the industry, reconsider the best framework for UK consumers and advertisers; from ensuring affordable (free?)TV is still available to demanding much more transparent and accessible audience measurement data.
For marketers, the Ebiquity view is clear. TV is still the best way to achieve reach and drive brand and business performance at scale. But the industry can and must do more to address the changes that are happening..
Andrew Challier is the chief client officer for Ebiquity.