OPINION: Days of strong traditional broadcasters coming to an end

Danny Bass
By Danny Bass | 23 August 2012
Group M chief digital officer, Danny Bass.

There’s been a lot of noise the past few weeks about the performance of the TV networks.

This culminated in Sunday's ratings for Howzat and Channel Ten’s Everybody Dance Now.

Channel Nine should be rightly proud of Howzat’s success. The Kerry Packer docu-drama is a well promoted show with high production values and a strong cast. Unfortunately, these winning attributes are all too often the exception rather than the rule.

Coverage on Monday focused heavily on Nine’s success and Ten’s pain but for how long are conversations like this going to be genuinely relevant? What is the fuss all about? Audiences of one million as the benchmark for success? Really?

Comments that we need a strong Ten to keep Nine and Seven honest are valid, but the days of looking at traditional broadcasters as the only show in town are quickly coming to an end.

TV continues to be the best medium to build a brand. Digital is not yet creating the impact that a genuinely brilliant TVC can deliver at the Superbowl for instance.
 
As a side, I’ve always wondered why this sports-mad country which has the AFL and NRL finals as guaranteed ratings leaders, doesn’t mirror a similar approach a la Superbowl to push creative excellence.

In 2012, the take up of video on demand continues at a blistering pace matched by the growth of video media billings.

For a while, anything outside the local publisher video inventory was something of the wild west for media buyers – fake pre-roll, dodgy sites and blind buys were the norm.

Those days are over.

Smart buying, stricter T&C’s, the appearance of the global video platforms in this market and agency trading desks have given brands the safety they require.

Earlier this year YouTube launched its first version of the TV up-fronts in the US. We can expect the introduction of this format from early September in Australia. If I were a TV executive this fact alone would scare me more than any other.

Why? Think about it – almost unlimited resources to drive quality programming, combined with the user behavior data they have in spades. Throw in TrueView and TV’s place on the media schedule starts to look a little more perilous.

How long before Google acquires the rights to English Premier League, Game of Thrones or Mad Men for global audiences? Sign up for Google+ and all this content is available for free.

But it’s not just Google.

Vevo’s (standalone) launch earlier this year threw close to 2 million highly-targeted, highly-engaged consumers of music videos into the mix. Ten should be keeping a very close eye on these guys if it wants to successfully attract a younger audience.

Regardless of where an agency buys video on demand, the simple fact is, for a CPM cheaper than prime time TV, you can reach your target market, know who they are, where they are and allow the user to interact with the ad.

So what’s the future for TV? All the channels are well aware of the impact video on demand is having and are fighting hard to keep the media dollars in the networks through catch up TV and the use of tablets and apps.  A CPM battle with the video DSPs is not financially viable so how do they compete?

Locally, Fango and ABC iView have probably been the best examples of a broadcaster getting this right. That was until Foxtel launched its Olympics app which is up there with anything globally and sets the benchmark for all creators of content in this market.

Integration is the key for the network players. They must effectively utilise the tablets position as the fourth screen and combine it with outstanding content and broad programming coverage.

The Foxtel Olympics app was a first great step in the right direction. It allowed users to explore and interact with another layer of deep content tied to their traditional TV viewing experience.
 
It remains to be seen whether the Olympics was a special case or if the networks have truly woken up to the competitive threat from online.

One thing is certain, the landscape is changing and the networks have a small window to work in to get the experience right for users and integrate brands in a way that works for all involved.

Danny Bass
Chief Digital Officer
GroupM

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