Is TV really dead? How the implosion of traditional television will affect advertisers

The last ten years have been a challenging time for the once untouchable media empire that was broadcast (or linear) TV.

With the rise and rise of subscription streaming services – as well as video-on-demand platforms run by the broadcasters themselves – the media landscape has never been so fragmented.

In a rather damning indictment of the situation, Ofcom’s recent ‘Media Nations’ report revealed that broadcast TV had experienced its sharpest ever annual drop in viewership figures, which fell by 12% over the past year.

Alarmingly, this decline also included a 6% drop on pre-pandemic levels of over-65 viewers – traditionally broadcast TV’s bread and butter, who are now also branching out and increasingly diversifying their viewing experiences.

However, all is not lost, as linear TV remains the only media format able to truly command so-called ‘mass audience events’, such as live sports, coronations and other highly significant cultural moments.

The Trade Desk’s senior director of partnerships, Patrick Morrell – who was previously agency investment lead at Channel 4 – says it is this unique ability to draw mass audience events that will ultimately secure the survival of linear TV. But what else does this rapidly changing landscape hold for viewers and advertisers alike?

Is linear TV really dying?

Morrell points to key moments in the British cultural calendar such as the Queen’s funeral, King Charles’ coronation, the women’s Euro’s and the men’s FIFA world cup as events that have found TV’s ability to reach such large-scale audiences to be pivotal to their impact.

In such an environment, Morrell believes that “Iinear TV is never going to lose any relevance regardless of the audience”, adding that it will never lose relevance precisely because of these “live events and live news”, meaning that TV will continue to be “probably the strongest media on offer for advertisers”.

Although the decline in linear TV’s dominance of the media landscape is self-evident, Morrell considers it more of an “evolution” of the technology as opposed to a “revolution” against traditional broadcast TV. He also points out that it has been happening for “quite some time”.

“The decline in linear viewing is clear, but that is because we have an ageing population and younger viewers are potentially not interested in becoming heavy viewers,” he says.

“The main issue that we’re seeing is that the major broadcasters have for a long time refused to acknowledge it and pivot their commercial structures in a certain way.”

Morrell believes linear TV will always hold a significant part of the media market, as streaming and video-on-demand platforms, with their significantly lower audience numbers, will always remain less attractive to advertisers and rights sellers.

The programmatic solution

Although the immense pulling power of linear TV will always be crucial to the advertising industry, the increasing fragmentation of the media landscape cannot be ignored. And nor can the significant challenges that it poses to advertisers, who are increasingly faced with an almost endless choice of digital and online advertising options.

It is here that programmatic advertising comes into its own, as it allows advertisers to use algorithmic software to purchase advertising space across a wide range of different platforms in one straightforward, fully automated transaction.

“From [The Trade Desk’s] point of view, we have lots of different publishers (or websites) in one place and we’re able to place campaigns across them all, making sense of all the different USPs and benefits and what they can offer to our buyers,” says Morrell.

Not only does programmatic advertising make buying advertising space a much more simple process for advertisers, it can help them future-proof their strategies for the digital age – making campaigns increasingly more targeted and efficient down to the most minute of details.

Essentially, by offering a cross-platform, integrated purchasing solution that gives brands a complete overview of the landscape, programmatic advertising is able to “simplify what is perceived to be a very complicated, fragmented market”.

“More and more clients are focused on omnichannel strategies, and at the same time with the likes of TV and audio bringing in those campaigns, and making them programmatically enabled, means that they can have that holistic vision,” Morrell adds.

“This means that they can have a marketing strategy that hits all those destinations in one fell swoop and still be able to monitor and measure their effectiveness across and optimise in real time.”

Streaming wars

Following the introduction of an ad-supported tier by Netflix in November last year and the recent announcement of Disney+’s intention to roll-out its own ad-supported offering across various non-US markets, streaming platforms are set to become an increasingly attractive proposition for advertisers.

While we are yet to see a large-scale land grab from major brands, the streaming platforms’ shift away from their traditional ad-free, subscription-only models signals a recognition of the need to diversify their offerings in order to compete in the fiercely fragmented media market.

Interestingly, Morrell believes that the introduction of these new forms of advertising structures could be crucial for the future of linear viewing, cementing linear advertising’s role within the 16-34 category.

“If you look at the formula that’s been introduced – this tiering structure; having subscriptions with no ads, having some ads, more ads – all you’re doing is offering consumers the opportunity to get value for money on what they’re willing to accept.” he says.

“Doing that will massively grow the choice for advertisers and also create a massive shift in the 16 – 24 and 16 – 34 categories, which have seen the most significant decline in linear viewing.”

Morrell singles out these age groups as pivotal for advertisers who want to remain relevant in an increasingly non-linear landscape; “Getting the 16 to 24s is crucial for any marketer looking to manage campaigns.

“Bringing them back into the TV scape, which is what a lot of these fast channels and AVOD offerings are doing, is paramount for the survival of the TV industry.”

The new normal

So what for the future? Morrell predicts a significant shift towards streaming platforms, amid an increasingly fragmented, diverse array of publishers.

“The new normal will be streaming, programmatic offerings and programmatic buying, because – with many different publishers out there – people will still need to be able to achieve their marketing plans without having to go to 12 different destinations.”

In a nutshell – are we witnessing the death of broadcast TV? Not remotely. Are we witnessing the implosion of the traditional TV media landscape? Yes, undoubtedly.

It appears that the only way that advertisers and marketers will be able to navigate such a complex and rapidly evolving sector will be to use a range of holistic solutions – like programmatic – in order to gain any kind of a grasp on the industry’s wide range of constantly moving parts.

AgenciesFace to FaceFeaturesNewsResearch and Data

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