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TV Transformed – The Ongoing Value of Linear TV and the Power of Digital

In the first of a series, we’re starting a big picture discussion about small screens. We’ll answer top advertiser questions about the ongoing value of Linear television (think network and cable), where digital factors in and what the TV evolution means for reaching the right audiences.

Getting it straight

First, let’s get the terminology down before answering the bigger questions about strategy and performance.

  • Linear TV. In simple terms, over-the-air, cable and satellite make up traditional television known as Linear TV. 
  • Over-the-top (OTT). OTT video comes to viewers by way of internet instead of over-the-air network, cable or satellite distribution. Sometimes it’s ad-supported; sometimes it’s paid for by subscription. The content streams onto devices like smartphones, tablets, laptops, oh, and televisions. But these Connected TVs require more technology like Roku or a gaming console – or they have to be Smart TVs using streaming apps.

Reaching the masses

With so many viewing options, does it still make sense to advertise on Linear television?

Like any media buy, the answer depends on your marketing objectives and whether any given medium, or combination, can support strategies to carry your message, create awareness or generate leads. While usage has dipped with competition from OTT and other digital media options, Linear TV is holding its own. The downward viewership trend is modest, and cable is forecasted to see a 1.5 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) by 2022.

In the U.S., adults spent about 3 hours and 45 minutes daily watching television last year. This year, eMarketer is forecasting a very modest decline of about nine minutes a day.

What about Linear TV’s limitations on attribution?

Previous concerns over Linear TV ad buys centered around forecasting, tracking and an assumed margin of waste. According to Adweek, “Broadcasters are using machine learning to improve forecast accuracy by up to 15 percent. This translates to better pricing, better inventory usage and reduced risk of displacement and spoilage. Class-leading forecasting can dramatically improve monetization of inventory.” Nielsen continues to track viewership, and its processes and technology for doing so have advanced significantly over the decades. Electronic measuring devices and millions of cable and satellite boxes collect local data across the country to better attribute ratings, reach and frequency.

What’s the best use of Linear ad buys?

Linear TV’s strengths are inefficient, mass reach and the ability to create an emotional audience connection. It continues to be an important brand play, especially for B2C, and it’s ideal for national product launches. Linear TV continues to be a powerful top-of-the funnel medium. Linear TV has the ability to target specific content and demographics.  Television has been a brand-building favorite for decades, and now through cross channel coordination (data-driven Connected TV), TV can play a role in full-funnel attribution with Linear driving mass reach and awareness.

How do second screens factor in?

Since phones have practically become human appendages, there is most certainly a relationship between TV as first screen and tablets, smartphones and laptops as second or third screens. The Video Advertising Bureau reports that about 30 percent of second screen viewing is “completely or mostly related to [Linear TV’s] program or commercials.” So, while many assume second screen means competition, it often means increased engagement, including lower funnel activities like researching products and finding store locations.

Until next time

Across delivery methods, TV continues to easily outpace other media for consumer mass reach. Advertisers understand this, too. A 2018 survey showed marketers still rank TV higher than the majority of digital options, like social media, search, display, native and out-of-home.

As with many transformations, time and technology improve, or ultimately solve, bumps along the way. Linear TV’s transformation is no exception.

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