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Culled from the headlines of the media and technology trade press by Katz’s Strategy, Analytics, and Research Team, Content Matters provides a periodic snapshot of news and issues that affect the business of creating, producing, and distributing content across TV, radio, and digital media. Here are this issue's 5 THINGS TO KNOW.

2019 Q4 Issue #1

 1   Local goes "all in" on impressions, eyes ATSC 3.0

It was a religious experience at the TVB Forward Conference this year as a gospel choir gathered to sing one song in unison: local needs to move to impressions.

Transacting based upon impressions was the overwhelming mantra of the Forward Conference, with speakers from all sides pitching for the idea whose time has come for the local metric of choice.

Granted, this isn’t a magic bullet. Some will elevate the idea that not all impressions are alike and resist the change as not going far enough. Targeted demographics will be the next hill to climb.

But what can’t be overlooked is that this will make sure that viewing is being counted across all screens.  

We all know that there are pockets of viewing that go undiscovered when evaluating by ratings alone. When employing the greater granularity of impressions, rounding will no longer eliminate lower-rated programs from reports. Programs that otherwise might not be considered can be included in a local buy, generating increased reach rather than the resignation of simply generating frequency.

While impressions will undoubtedly give measurement to in-market competitors that previously were hashmark options, it also elevates local media in the eyes of national brands and agencies that have struggled to Keep local stations on the media plan and to demonstrate its value.

And let's not forget, a rating is a relative number which requires knowledge of the total universe to translate what the ratings are really delivering. Impressions tell you how many, pure and simple, making it easier to grasp, compare and aggregate across a growing suite of capabilities that stations are offering today.  

NBC-owned stations have already changed over to impression-based buying.

When Major League Baseball started adopting advanced statistics to evaluate player success, moving from batting average to OPS, for example, insiders all around embraced the enhanced metrics to give a more accurate indicator of relative performance. And anybody who says those aren’t transactional stats clearly haven’t been paying attention to fantasy sports or Fan Duel.

Ironically, there was a time not so long ago that some digital media companies were trying to develop an equivalent to TV ratings, the better to compare apples-to-apples with the dominant consumer medium. That idea was fleeting. Clicks, completion rates and the like gave way to the metric that would satisfy both sides of the spectrum.

How many saw it? 

Boom.

Meanwhile, there’s a fair amount of talk about ATSC 3.0, recently rebranded “NextGenTV” for the consumer. It’s being billed as a pathway towards true “direct to consumer targeting”. The consumer gets customizable content, the advertiser gets customizable targeting. 

Ultimately, it’s a way for stations to reclaim some of the advertising and relationships with viewers that have been lost to social media. The customizable option will allow better targeted brand messaging and almost personalized ad content.

Look for the NextgenTV logos on new TVs coming in 2020. The industry is about to go through yet another tech overhaul. Look for it to have a better consumer response than 3D TV.

For a look at what was said about this and a bit more at the Forward Conference, see “Leaders Envision Local Broadcast’s Near Future” in Mediapost.

 

  2   Patience, little viewer

Leave it to Disney to make us all grow up a little.

The streaming networks tend to treat viewers as if they’re pets while the owners leave a bowl full of an entire season of a show then leave for vacation. It’s not in our id-dominated brains to pace ourselves.

Churn and burn does the streamer and the content two disservices: 

1) It cuts into the sustainability of subscriptions. When a new season of Mrs. Maisel drops and the new episodes have been binged in a weekend, it’ll be time to jump over to Hulu for the new season of The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s the streaming equivalent of channel surfing.

2) The conversation ends quickly – and often short-changes the series. Very often higher-profile (formerly known as appointment) series are densely packed with detail and nuance throughout the season. That big reveal in episode 4 that would have a lot of media legs is now an afterthought compared to the series-altering misdirection that came in episode 9. The news cycle and fan discussion can’t sustain that much debate about one series since another season of yet another show just dropped. And if you don’t binge THAT all at once as well, you miss out on the conversation and risk spoilers again.

Humans are hemorrhaging our attention spans to the point that our attention spans are shorter than a goldfish, according to a 2015 Microsoft study (spoiler alert – this has not improved over the past 4 years) Observable behavior: a teenager “watching” TicTok videos on their phone is akin to scanning for a radio station on a long car ride, but far less pleasurable.

Releasing entire seasons immediately satisfies our learned behavior of overindulging, but ultimately it will result in an entire generation unable to remember what they were doing between the time they pushed the elevator button and the doors opened (without their Alexa app to step in and remind them). It may be a slippery slope, but perhaps Disney (and their vast empire of content to slowly draw from) can teach us something about patience being a virtue again.

Look to TV Guide to give their say in “It's Time to Stop Releasing Full TV Seasons at Once”.

 

  3   The Fourth Horseman 

The book of Revelations illustrated what it claimed to be the Biblical downfall of mankind:  War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death. 

Once, cable was set to be the destruction of broadcast television. It rode in, tempting viewers with promises of premium movies, niche content, and hundreds of choices that had never been seen before. For a time, broadcast television quivered and appeared to be mortally wounded.

A generation hence saw time-shifting as broadcast’s downfall. Traditional dayparts would fail, timeslot battles would wither and commercial avoidance would be inevitable. Surely this new viewing reality would bury broadcast.

The next to draw its sword against broadcast was the iPhone. The second screen was an insidious invader, a new consumer’s best friend that was never out of hand, let alone out of mind. Broadcast television had clearly met its match compared to the unlimited potential of mobile.

Finally, streaming is here to decimate broadcast with its infinite choices, binge culture and content exclusives. “Everyone’s streaming” while broadcast is going the way of the VCR. Cord cutting will set broadcast adrift along with cable, fading into the horizon as the streaming era conquers the landscape.

Four revelatory horsemen that were to spell broadcast’s doom. However, broadcast television is a pretty resilient platform. Unassailable, you might say. 

Cable added to the television landscape, but mainly as a long-tail counterpart to the broadcasters. Large networks have settled in alongside broadcast, but they’ve created a fragmentation problem that they themselves can’t escape.

Time shifting simply allowed the consumers more control. All the hand-wringing on the advertising side didn’t change the fact that this helped people watch TV more.

Mobile added a layer to viewing. While the competition for attentive eyeballs has increased again, it often doesn’t come as a replacement to television viewing. The second screen is real.

Now as the streaming landscape begins to take shape we see the same “broadcast is dead” bluster that circulated so many times before. Consumers may already be irritated by the emerging platform, however.  As more companies jump into the streaming arena we’ll see a practical demonstration of how consumers handle those cord-cutting, cable-killing skinny bundles after all. 

But even when they settle upon their favorite streamers, the “paralysis of choice” is already driving viewers back to the comfort - and freedom - of broadcast television.

Horseman #5 had better get its act together before it jumps into the ring with broadcast television.

For a blunt look at the current state of the television landscape, see Medium.com’s “Streaming video: we hardly knew ye” and a look at Marci Ryvicker’s take in “TV analyst: Wall St. Not So Bullish About Streaming”, from Mediapost.

 

  4   Alexa calls "shotgun"!

General Motors has picked up a hitchhiker. Starting in 2020, Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles will come with a passenger that won’t need a seatbelt - Amazon Alexa.

Voice capability is the next evolution in place-based marketing.

While the addition of Alexa still won’t enable cars to fly in 2020, Amazon’s ubiquity will allow for some interesting geotargeting and enhanced purchase-on-the-go capabilities that will go beyond what a proprietary voice-enabled auto assistant might.

With Alexa on board, drivers can instantly react to digital billboards they pass along the highway without having to try to remember what they saw 40 miles earlier. They can ask for directions to the nearest Cracker Barrel without having to manually enter it into Waze. This is particularly good news for rental car customers exploring - or lost - in an unfamiliar market.

Amazon benefits by able to analyze user data to see where their customers are at point-of-purchase, even if it’s at 60 mph. 

Like everything else digital, there will be privacy concerns that will need to be addressed here. But they’re no more in play than the technology that’s available in connected cars already in the marketplace.

Most of the early car tech innovations have come to enhance driver, passenger, and pedestrian safety, diagnostics, and turn-by-turn directions. Alexa’s presence will up the digital game as voice commands are the handsfree option that our always-connected digital lifestyles demand. Just because we’re behind the wheel doesn’t mean that we’ve put our instant information desires on hold. 

In fact, the real-world screen of the windshield might be the only screen that’s not wifi-enabled, but likely the one that has the most to offer. Having Alexa riding shotgun might be the best thing that’s happened to local businesses since the Michelin Guide.  Radio stations who have enabled Alexa skills will likely benefit from the real-time connections made between streaming audio and location data.

For more on GM’s announcement, pull over to “General Motors Brings Amazon Alexa To Many Of Its Vehicles”, parked at Inside Radio.

 

  5   Is it 2020 already?

$148 million. That’s how much has been already spent for TV and radio ads for the 2020 election so far, according to Ad Age Datacenter. That includes presidential as well as gubernatorial spending. In fact, $57 million has been spent on state races alone. And none of that includes digital spending.

Is this the new normal?

Advertising alone isn’t the only political content that’s making an early push in this election cycle. The spectre of impeachment hearings is taking shape, creating a viewership boon for the network news programs and cable news networks. 

Despite the extremely polarized nature of politics today - or perhaps because of it - politics remains great theater. Fortunately there’s enough of a plot line to carry interest through Election Day 2020 without risking viewer fatigue and wearout.

So is this likely to be a typical election or has the current political climate created a harbinger of something more? A recent study by Telaria of 18-29 year-old “GenZennials” showed that 92% plan to vote in the upcoming presidential election, flying in the face of the myth of the disenfranchised youth. And while these younger viewers are mobilized, taking action after seeing a political ad, for example, they also have trust issues that keep them from being overly swayed by social media. In fact, 63% of them distrust social media political advertising. 64% of them trust what they see on TV more than social media.

It’s too early to tell if this election will eventually wind up being more than just an outlier in the political landscape for activating younger voters. While these younger viewers tend to watch less traditional television, they do gravitate to AVOD programming. And with ATSC 3.0 hitting living rooms in 2020, the potential for customized ads targeting these younger viewers may change the way they watch TV. Again.

Younger voters are looking for more guidance than older ones, and what they often do after seeing political spots is search for more information. Political ads are a catalyst.

With Kantar projecting $6 billion in political spending for this election cycle, we’re just getting started. 

For more about this early electioneering, go to “While Election Day is 13 Months Away, Campaigns Have Spent $148M On Ads” from Inside Radio, and Ad Age’s coverage of Telaria’s study.

 

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