Declining television audiences are often blamed on the phenomenal growth of digital channels, such as social and streaming services. But while linear viewer numbers are falling, this doesn’t mean TV is dead — or that its value as an advertising platform is redundant.
Research shows consumers are still using their TV sets, but accessing content via different platforms, and this is creating new opportunities. Both Google and Facebook are embracing the premium format with their own take on TV services. Even Snapchat is expanding its offering by producing original docu-series content: think short-form, Netflix style.
So how is connected TV breathing new life into the viewing experience, and why is this good news for advertisers hungry for reach?
Alliance not annihilation: social embraces TV
Far from seeking to eradicate TV, dominant digital players want to harness its strength. With living room set engagement on the rise — making up 14% of YouTube viewing alone — it makes sense for social platforms to leverage this interest. Hence the arrival of YouTube TV; an app that bridges the online to offline divide by serving live-stream content across Apple, Android and Chromecast devices, as well as smart TVs, and boasts over one million subscribers.
Across the wider social scene, many leading players have also launched their own versions of TV for mobile viewers. For example, Instagram has launched mobile-first IGTV, which aims to satisfy audience demand for authentic digital video by giving users access to long-form content from the creators they love, in a convenient vertical format. Meanwhile, Facebook Watch is delivering a mix of exclusive shows and user-generated video to a growing global viewership, with 400 million people watching content on the platform monthly. And that’s not forgetting Snap Originals; Snapchat’s unique array of serialised mobile TV programmes.
What does the change mean for marketers?
Evolution has transformed TV into a fluid mass-entertainment system that allows audiences to watch whatever they like, whenever it suits, on their device of choice. For marketers, this offers one key advantage: scale. And the addition of social to the mix makes connected TV’s potential reach even greater, combining digital video allure — set to keep global consumers hooked for 84 minutes per day by 2020 — with the power of social media: which sees over 40% of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram users interact with their accounts daily, worldwide.
But it’s also worth noting the possibilities it opens up for creativity. With audiences viewing a kaleidoscope of content on multiple screens, marketers can deliver sequential stories that use varied formats and behavioural data to develop deep individual bonds. For instance, by tracking users as they move from the TV set to mobile, marketers can adjust video creative accordingly; serving longer, 30-second ads on the big screen and bite-sized reminders on the small. By tracking activity over time, they can also gain an understanding of viewing habits and preferences that allow them to constantly optimise ad experiences.
Future steps: addressing barriers to progress
As a rapidly developing and complex medium, it’s not surprising connected TV still has areas of uncertainty and challenge. For starters, there is the question mark over whether revenue should be driven by ads or not. So far, monetisation models have remained mixed; ranging from targeted ads on social platforms such as YouTube and subscriptions on Netflix, with only light product placement and promos for other related content. To ensure continued long-term growth it will be essential for this variation to endure; with curated ads helping to fuel the production of high-quality engaging content, as they do for the wider web.
When it comes to social TV, both platforms and marketers will have obstacles to overcome. Social players are, after all, new players in the digital TV game compared to the likes of Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon. So, gaining recognition as providers of long and short-form video will take some work – although fast-climbing user rates indicate they are already making progress. And marketers must be careful to avoid that age-old advertising issue: silos. Perhaps more than any other, connected TV is an interlinked landscape where messaging must be seamless and tailored to keep audiences interested — meaning there is no room for fragmented channel and data management, or departments.
The good news is that unified buying is beginning to reflect multi-faceted viewing; 52% of advertisers and agencies merged linear and digital buying last year. This increasing cohesion not only means we are heading towards a more efficient future for TV ads, but also one that enables conventional and digital media to thrive; no epic conflict between old and new. And the brands that succeed in this diverse media age will be those that cover the whole media spectrum, using online and social to keep living room viewing alive, without forgetting the value of linear.