The End of the TV Upfront?
June 2020- No big parties, no celebrity photo ops, no late nights, no trip to New York, less hype about new shows, few(er) clients making commitments to linear TV a year out (with no media plan), no rushed buying with “revised rate cards” going up every week (with audiences going the other way).
Has the antiquated and overhyped TV Upfront, which saw 60-70% of annual TV dollars invested in a 4 week period, finally gasped it’s last breath?
If so, what is the new buying and selling process? How are “traditional” broadcasters evolving and what are the key takeaways from the Non-Upfront.
TV and Video Futures
We evolved the discussion from TV buying to Video buying 10 years ago to better reflect the reality of consumer behavior. While “linear” TV remains the cornerstone of driving reach quickly and coverage for any video buy, each year as linear TV audiences decline, audiences must be repatriated via an increased spend allocation to VOD, ad-supported streaming services that don’t require a cable subscription (eg CTV Throwback, Hayyu, GEM), YouTube, Facebook video and others.
TV is projected to see a 15.6% decline in advertising investment in 2020 (eMarketer).
Most of the spend decline has happened in the months April through July; no sports playoffs, no Olympics, and many categories /clients are cutting, reducing or shifting TV spend to the fall or to digital. However, with sports (NHL, NBA, MLS playoffs, Golf and tennis Majors) returning in August/September and the easing of COVID-19 related brakes on ad spending, the fall YOY investment levels with TV broadcasters will be similar to fall 2019 (-1 to -3%).
In fact, the same eMarketer forecast has TV rebounding 9% in 2021 vs 2020, a net loss of 6% vs 2019.
What Innovation did the Non–TV Upfront Bring?
First, it is important to note that 70% of Canadian households still have a Pay TV subscription (i.e. cable or satellite) and 30% of those services are now delivered via IPTV Next generation Platforms (like Rogers Ignite). Although penetration has been declining 2-3% annually, Pay TV HH’s are still dominant and provide the basis for any video buy (note: Gen –Z target or budget limitations may drive a non-linear TV strategy). Long-form video (i.e. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney +, Crave) has grown quickly to 20% of Video viewing, however, most aren’t ad-supported, so it has actually increased demand, and costs, for the audiences to Linear TV /AVOD.
Major English Broadcasters Agree on Audience Segments
In a truly Canadian collaboration, Bell, Rogers and Corus have all agreed to sell inventory based on the same 19 Environics audience segments, with the first collaboration anywhere in the world. This will allow media buyers to buy near-live inventory via a self-serve platform (Cynch for Corus and Rogers, SAM for Bell) against a much richer profile that incorporates behavioural data with traditional demographics for a more robust picture of the viewing audience.
Bell is also offering the ability to buy digital and outdoor against the same in-depth segments, as well as a first in market TV Attribution service which will report TV impact on website visitors.
VOD, in App and Streaming Options
All major broadcasters continue to provide options to buy their programming delivered via an app/online (you must authenticate that you have a Pay TV subscription). There are now more opportunities to reach cord-cutters via services like CTV Throwback, Corus shows on YouTube or STACKTV and connected TV (Samsung).
VOD viewing continues to rise and Bell, Corus, and Rogers have more hours, more shows and more geo coverage allowing them to extend unique reach by up to 17% over a Linear only buy in an on-demand, non-skippable, reduced commercial load environment.
CBC’s Gem offers Canadians various levels of programming. All Canadians can access, without any paid subscription, the same level of programs offered through conventional television. A free authenticated subscription (ad-supported) unlocks on-demand current and past seasons, live streams of CBC TV (including local channels). Further paid premium subscriptions allow for early access to exclusive content. During Covid-19, Gem’s average weekly video views soared by 84% (mostly on the strength of news content).
How Do We Envision a Better “Non-Upfront” Market?
Our True Media approach is more about partnerships and is driven by client needs and client focused buying.
Clients have an increased need for agility which means we will pursue more flexibility in buying commitments, cancellation clauses, shifts in timing and platforms.
Every discussion should start with sharing business KPI’s and then a collaboration on measurement strategies, and on innovation. Agencies should share the creative strategy (and ideally the concepts/execution) to better amplify the message in the right content.
Negotiations happen once a quarter, with a monthly optimization, across Linear and Digital, AVOD and OTT, seamlessly and simultaneously with, soon we hope, one standard measurement.
For more information on how True Media can help you reach your audience and meet your goals, contact us.
As president at True Media Canada, Bruce Neve is setting a new standard for how media is approached and purchased, and his commitment to advertising is changing the way the growth of Canadian-first companies is addressed. He brings with him more than thirty years of experience leading major media agencies; driving strategy, planning and buying across all platforms for both English and French Canada.