The reinvention of audience behavior accelerated by COVID-19 means the TV industry must not simply restart, but reset.
By Randall Rothenberg and David Cohen
What’s wrong with TV? Nothing.
It has become our perfect pandemic partner.
We’ve gorged on The Mandalorian in two Disney+ sittings, surfed old horror films on Pluto TV, binged on The Outsider on HBO+, talked about Netflix’s Tiger King on every Zoom call, and have Amazon Prime queues and Roku channel lists that’ll keep us glued to our Samsung Smart TVs at least through November.
TV couldn’t be better. It’s our television industry that needs to adapt.
The future of video has already begun
The television industry’s new generation of leaders universally admits it’s not working anymore. Advertising doesn’t work. Profits, especially in pay-TV, are harder to sustain.
The Covid-19 crisis has only accelerated those trends. Even as consumers spend more time in front of screens, it’s harder than ever for advertisers, studios, stations and networks to make money. Even as we start to emerge from the crisis, big national TV buys don’t make sense. America will go back to work state by state and region by region, with sudden stops and starts.
To succeed, we need to not just restart but re-imagine the industry, to fix things about buying video that have been broken for a long time. Buyers want to buy. They love everything video has to offer. The power of sight, sound, and motion. The ability to reach huge audiences and narrow ones. The ability to drive real outcomes. But buyers are sick of the maddening tangle of complex technologies, contradictory measurement structures, and dense legal documents that come with it.
Since the industry already has thrilled customers with the new plethora of programming, the obvious next step is to make buyers every bit as happy.
We need to do different, and do it together
Has the industry done all this before? Yes. Too many times. But whether we’ve gathered as television competitors or as cross-industry colleagues, the industry has always followed the same naive, doomed pattern: big, hairy audacious goals that instantly crash into roadblocks at entrenched positions.
As it turns out, transforming a hugely successful $70 billion industry overnight is harder than it looks.
It’s clear nothing will happen unless we first agree on basic principles, and bite off less than we can chew. Here are the principles we suggest:
- Advertisers and publishers need flexibility. Bringing digital-style adaptability to cross-platform media buys is now a must-have.
- The consumer experience must be factored into how major industry participants do business with each other. Publishers, platforms, agencies and brands must agree on standards for a positive consumer experience–including things like advertising load, ad-to-edit ratio, dynamic ad insertion, personalization and versioning.
- The selling season must be replaced with year-round transaction optimization. The new normal should be continuous Upfronts in the Cloud that benefit all participants.
- Tech and terminology must be standardized–together. Without standards, sensible automation is impossible. A cross-industry reset of video buyer-seller relationships is needed, especially for marketers who need to be ready as 5G penetration grows.
- The industry must agree on a universal, standard definition of an advertising impression. Let’s agree on the definition, settle on the technical standards and applications that will allow for counterparts to transact business with stability and predictability.
- Metrics must be harmonized. There has never been a perfect sampling methodology, and there never will be. Let’s find agreement, and move on.
- All these agreements should become one set of easy-to-follow cross-industry terms and conditions. We are long past due for a happy medium between a handshake and a 30-page Ts&Cs.
Change isn’t easy in any industry this large. But there’s a proven way to do it, in a way that minimizes disruption, builds confidence and sets the stage for long-term success. OpenAP, GARM, and DAA are all examples of the industry getting the change process right.
We’re calling on the entire industry to join us, to help set the next stage of the video industry’s success.
TV has been fantastic for viewers during the pandemic. Let’s make it every bit as good for buyers and sellers as we emerge from it.
Who Should Join?
- Chief Revenue Officers and sales leaders at leading cross-platform video companies
- CMO’s and Heads of Marketing & Media at Brands
- Senior Video Buyers at Agencies