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TV tapas: a collection of views and facts to chew over

13 Nov 2017  |  Dominic Mills 
TV tapas: a collection of views and facts to chew over

There’s plenty on the television menu to savour, writes Dominic Mills - although for some there may well be a bitter taste

It’s TV tapas time this week, what with the Christmas TV ad season underway, the follow-up from ITV’s Gala show, and the latest State of Video report out today from GroupM. (And that’s before we even get to Thinkbox’s Profit Ability conference this coming Thursday.)

I’ve magpied the bits that caught my eye, a combination of observations, facts and factoids to chew over and debate.

Here they are, served up in a somewhat random order.

- ITV’s Gala big-budget show at the London Palladium mixed the red carpet, the talent (Wossy, Cowell, Schofield, Love Island cast etc in the posh seats) with the people who fund it (in the less posh seats). It felt like a statement of confidence, only slightly undermined by the broadcaster’s obsession with the 16-34 audience.

- I lost count of the number of times we were told how well-served this elusive audience is by ITV. This is clearly the area in which ITV feels most vulnerable, yet by over-focusing on it it seemed like ITV doesn’t care too much about other audience cohorts, certainly those where it is strongest.

- The show also reminded me of the disconnect between the London media crowd and ITV’s heartland. While presenter Emma Willis interviewed live various members of the casts of Emmerdale and Corrie, the media audience fidgeted and talked. It was clear no-one in the audience had a clue who or what she was talking about. This despite the fact that the two shows make up the spine of ITV’s schedule and deliver the big numbers most advertisers want.

- ITV announced three specific advertising initiatives, covering addressable TV, measurement and a self-service scheme for SME advertisers.

The addressable tie-up using adtech from Sorenson Media (no, new to me too) suggests any attempt to licence Sky’s AdSmart platform is over. If this makes it harder for advertisers to use addressable over the wider TV household universe - i.e. impacts scale - then it is not necessarily a good thing. It feels like little, a little late. That may be too hard a view: at least it’s doing something.

- The big Christmas ads are out. If that matters to you...hooray. I’ve only seen the M&S one live so far - the best way to judge an ad, I feel - and it was interminable. I’ll review the ads in a few weeks, but if anyone needs an instant score card, I recommend the System1 (formerly known as Brainjuicer) table. It ranks ads by their emotional impact. To date (i.e. pre John Lewis), somewhat surprisingly, it gives Toys R Us top marks for its Geoffrey the Reindeer ad (and there was me thinking Toys R Us was toast) followed by Very and its signature pink box.

And on to weightier matters, from the excellent GroupM State of Video report, a global study, out this week.

- Let’s start with the good news for TV. First, loss of share in traditional broadcasting is being offset by gains in the new world. In addition, TV continues to take share from other media.

- And, GroupM argues, despite static or falling audiences, TV can open up new markets: one, via addressable TV, which allows it to sell the same slots many times over (at a premium too, which in some cases GroupM calculates, can be a factor of eight in some categories); and two, by opening up to long-tail advertisers. Could, GroupM asks, TV get more value from selling the same spot to 10,000 local restaurants as from a single FMCG advertiser? Interesting. I hadn’t thought of it that way.

- But there’s a catch in the form of the share deals so beloved both of broadcasters and agencies. Addressable TV currently sits outside share, so the ability to move addressable on significantly may be constrained, as also (see above) the impact of cost might have a bearing.

- That, however, is tempered by the argument that the FMCG, retail and auto categories (and others) that underpin TV in the developed world are those most at risk from disruption. There may come a point where they walk away from TV.

- The TV industry has always comforted itself with the idea that, although 16-34/GenY/Z/Millennial audiences are thin on the ground, they will return to mainstream TV as they age and have families. Wishful thinking, says GroupM, pointing to evidence that these cohorts, as they age, are actually watching less TV. By 2030 in the UK, the fall-off in viewing time could be as much as 0.8% a year.

- Amazon Prime, Netflix and other tech platforms encroaching on traditional broadcasters are an obvious threat. More seditious is their role as ‘frenemies’, where by they team up to co-produce big-budget series (ITV’s upcoming Vanity Fair, in team with Amazon, is case in point). What they gain in the ability to make bigger, better TV may be lost in the longer term as the facility to monetise back-end legacy markets shifts to the likes of Amazon.

- The big battleground for sports will be in 2021, when rights to top US football and baseball properties, UEFA World Cup, the Bundesliga and the Olympics are up for grabs. Enders has already pointed out how broadcasters are spending disproportionate amounts of budget compared to audiences on sports. This may get worse if Apple, Facebook and so on make a play. But, GroupM points out, traditional broadcasters are in a bind if they rely on live sports to deliver reach (in the US, 88 of the of the top-rated shows are live sports, up from 38 in 2012). So long as reach remains a critical part of their armoury, it’s difficult for them to walk away.

- Finally, GroupM delivered broadcasters and tech platforms a sharp slap across the wrist on measurement, urging them to co-operate. “They should compete on content, not computation,” it says. Absenting that, it is stepping up its efforts to do the job for them, in pursuit of its target of “a single impression measurement” methodology. On the one hand, you have to admire GroupM’s determination to solve what is an industry-wide issue; on the other, do broadcasters really want to let GroupM drive - and potentially own - this agenda?

So there you have a table of tasters. And there’s plenty of else on the TV menu to savour, although for some there may well be a bitter taste. Even so, it’s never been more interesting, with so much to play for.

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NickDrew, CEO, Fuse Insights on 14 Nov 2017
“You make astute points about the ITV gala: certainly on the 16-34 age group it sometimes feels like the big battleground for the pro-TV/ anti-TV factions, I guess because we're told via media headlines that "OMG 18-34s WILL NEVER WATCH TV!", so the TV organisations have to make big claims for the audience. Couple that with the London bubble effect (where such headlines perhaps gain more traction), and one ends up with a very London-centric pitch that seems to forget people over the age of 35 exist.

And a thoughtful observation on that London disconnect - we don't hear about it often, I guess partly because most media practitioners are inside it.

Final note: good analysis from Bob. One sees figures in the US of "2% per year drop off in cable subscriptions", but when you do the sums it still doesn't quite mark the apocalypse for TV that's predicted. Particularly because I guess you're looking at an inverse compounding (2% of a smaller figure next year, 2% of an even smaller figure the year after, etc). It's a notable shift, but not impending doom just yet!”
BobWootton, Principal, Deconstruction on 13 Nov 2017
“Great piece as ever, Dominic. Just a nitpick - compound interest can lead to big shifts over time, so I did some quick sums to project the impact of Group M's suggested 0.8% pa fall-off in TV viewing by 2030.

Turns out I wouldn't be at all worried. After ten years, it only accumulates to 7.7% and it takes 28 years to reach 20% decline. A significant figue for sure, but that would take us to 2058 by which time many more profound and as yet unimaginable influences will surely have come to play.

Indeed, if I were a broadcaster I'd be well happy with the notion that my audience - and thus my industry and business - was going to be so stable for so long. Though I probably also wouldn't kid myself about that for too long either.”