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How would you really define TV? The future of TV debate

The Drum's Future of TV Breakfast 2019

Since John Logie Baird first invented the TV in the 1920s, we’ve come a long way. With TV advertising moving towards digital-style targeting, the future of TV now offers a new dimension. And not just that, this year has been a golden year for television - from Emmy Award nominations for Game of Thrones to Fleabag to Killing Eve to record viewing figures for Women's World Cup. The TV industry has been successfully playing to its strengths by using digital tools to beat the upstarts at their own game

Is TV linear, broadcast or digital?

The Drum, in partnership with TVTY, hosted a breakfast event with industry experts to look at how advertisers are considering the ultimate value of TV and what it means for its future. Hosted by The Drum senior reporter, Rebecca Stewart, the panel was asked how best to define TV - Is it linear? Is it broadcast? Is it digital? Is it a mix of both?

“TV is premium content in a premium environment. It's all forms of TV. It's not the TV set. It’s about the content. So if you're watching Love Island on your tablet then that's watching TV. Subscription VOD, Amazon, Netflix. That is TV. It’s about premium content, in premium environment,” said Matt Hill, the research and the planning director for Thinkbox.

For Martin O'Boyle, managing director partnerships PMX, Publicis Media, the definition is a bit more expansive than that. “So whether that is premium content as defined by Matt or something wider, TV’s becoming broader and it's really about how consumers consume content.”

VaynerMedia strategy director, DuBose Cole added that it might be worth looking at how a consumer perceives TV and compare that to how the industry views the medium. “If you're a consumer, it's just the stories you care about. For advertisers, we are still focused on the quality of the screens that we're using to reach consumers. Where those two things intersect is probably where we have the most value.”

But not all TV is equal

Hill added that if we were to codify all forms of content that can sit on a TV as being TV “then YouTube - which of course has TV content on it - but a lot of YouTube content I wouldn't classify as TV. It's UGC. As we've seen, there are challenges in terms of brand safety and the advertising environment within YouTube.

“Viewers might see it as because it now does live on a TV set, but from an advertising point of view, I think it's tricky for us to start assuming it's all the same. It's not all equal.”

But O’Boyle cautioned that the danger is that as an industry we sometimes forget that the consumer sees Netflix as a TV destination. “The moment we forget what the consumer's doing is the moment that we just go off into silos and we end up fighting amongst ourselves.”

Also, there’s different emotional resonance from consumers from watching UGC on a YouTube app on TV versus Game of Thrones, added Cole. “Attention isn't created equal, just like TV content isn't created equal. I think it's probably somewhere in between what both of you have posited. As advertisers, it's up to us not just to understand where we are now but try to hit where the target is moving. I think it’s getting there in ways that are going to create interesting opportunities that are going to bridge that gap.”

The panel also agreed that the golden era of TV means that popular shows like Game of Thrones and The Killing are building a cultural agenda and shared experiences for fans. “You just have to look at The Emmys nominations and know that TV is amazing in setting that kind of large-scale cultural agenda when used in the right way,” said Cole. He pointed to the example of Game of Thrones and how it drives relevance to the lives of people who watch it. “We watch the episode but some people will hop onto Reddit and read conspiracy theories about how it was going to end. Other people would follow the actors on Instagram.”

Programmatic TV

But what does that means is more challenges for advertisers in terms of targeting measurement? And then there is programmatic TV, which has different definitions in different markets.

When compared to the US, the UK has got the most advanced addressable solution in the world, according to Hill. Especially as all the UK broadcasters have been investing huge amounts of money into enhancing the addressable options that they've got through video on demand.

TVTY co-founder and CEO, Eliot Reilhac agreed. “We talk a lot about the U.S and how advanced they are but it's mostly regional TV feeds, so in the U.S you've been having ads for the local pizzeria for a while now. But it's not addressable TV as a standard. So I think that Sky is really advanced at spearheading addressable TV in that way.”

However, O’Boyle said that the reality remains that the connected TV advertising market in the U.K. is still relatively small compared to the breadth of broadcasters in the market. The likes of Amazon Prime, that are experimenting with different concept models is likely to drive it. “The one thing is the UK [traditional] broadcasters are really being challenged on is by the social network and big digital players. So, there is a need to offer capabilities that can compete with those.

“Just look at Sky AdSmart, such a powerful tool. The more that something like an AdSmart can go across the market will only be beneficial to not just advertising ultimately, but also the TV market, as I broadly define it in the UK.”

AdSmart from Sky offers brands the chance to target specific audiences during live TV ad breaks.

The panel also agreed that programmatic itself cannot be the goal, instead, it should be data-driven targeting for advertisers. “There's huge opportunity within the at-home industry because you've got all the screens, but the inventory could be smarter to help target the right consumers at the right time,” added O’Boyle.

Future of TV

What then is going to be the one biggest thing disrupting the future of TV or the TV industry?

“It will be that viewing TV content on digital screen will become more prevalent than viewing content on the TV set. I think we're almost there already, we have around 12 months to get there,” said Reilhac.

For Hill, who said that he did not fully agree with Reilhac, the future is around collaboration between the broadcasters. “They're doing more and more together. They're talking more about sharing technology, competing on content. I think we're going to see more collaboration and more shared use of their technology over the next 12 months.”

O’Boyle predicted that the biggest thing that is going to change in the next 12 months will be the explosion of streaming services and the choice that consumers are going to have and how that's going to change consumer behaviour, “which we will all have to navigate.”

Cole concluded that the explosion of streaming platforms will mean that advertisers will have different opportunities “to partner with those different platforms in respectful ways to kind of create new experiences.”

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