Sizing up the upfronts

The Trade Desk AUNZ general manager Mitch Waters
By The Trade Desk AUNZ general manager Mitch Waters | 6 November 2018

With Ten closing out with the season’s final upfront last week, I’ve had sufficient time to recover lost sleep and put pen to paper on what I see as the key themes driving TV in Australia next year. 

Overall, I think 2019 will be a strong year for Aussie TV. 

At The Trade Desk we have seen huge growth in both supply of connected TV (CTV) inventory and also demand from forward-thinking brands to capture these new audiences, so I’m particularly interested in how Seven, Nine and Ten are positioning themselves to monetise this lucrative and rapidly growing slice of the advertising market.  

Herewith, my report card…

Content
Outstanding performer

I was blown away by the investment in local content from all three channels. The production values were phenomenal, the level of talent exceptional, the ideas (for the most part) inspired.

The heart of television is its content. While that might seem to be pointing out the glaringly obvious, it’s my opinion that in the last few years, instead of putting content first, the big three have been focused on showcasing their technology and various platforms, to the detriment of inspiring agencies and brands.

It may seem a bit counterintuitive for a tech provider to be celebrating the fact that tech had less of a run this year. For me, it’s a sign of maturity. Ultimately, tech is just the nuts and bolts which allow efficient content delivery. No one catches up on The Block because they’ve heard the backend engineering on Nine Now is amazing. However, for buyers, the most frictionless path to addressable, total TV buying is essential moving forward.
 
Measurement 
Showing improvement

The issue of connected TV audience measurement is still the elephant in the room. Without a CTV measurement service on par with what’s on offer in North America, spending on CTV is going to lag.

All broadcasters spoke of robust, logged-in data sets, with Channel Nine leading the way with an impressive seven million Australians who are logged-in users. Aside from the debate on the values of forced login vs. optional login, and what addressable advertising really means, having robust audience data sets is a great first step to a strong audience proposition that runs across an omnichannel strategy. I urge the broadcasters to work on common taxonomies for data mapping and not to use the data proposition to build walls.

Still on measurement, there are some encouraging signs of progress. The VOZ service from OzTam will be progressively rolled out from H1 next year. This will finally allow audience measurement of TV via all devices.

It’s interesting that in the Ten upfronts, they constantly referred to ‘cord cutters,’ ie: consumers who are cancelling their cable TV subscriptions (or never signing up in the first place). If Ten is serious about monetising the cord-cutting trend, they’ll need to be 100% behind the implementation of VOZ as a currency for trading total TV. 

I think once we see VOZ successfully implemented, brands and agencies are going to be more inclined to direct substantial dollars to CTV. 

Collaboration
Needs encouragement

In a variation of the theme “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” I think all three stations need to explore further ways to join forces to combat the real competition for eyeballs and ad dollars - Google, Facebook, Amazon and Netflix. No rival TV broadcaster poses such an existential threat as do these tech behemoths.

My takeaway from the upfronts is that TV has evolved from the device in your living room, to the type of content that is delivered across all screens throughout your daily life.

TV still remains the benchmark for creating premium content and drawing mass audience around marquee shows and events, but it’s the way users are consuming the content and how advertisers need to buy media that is rapidly changing.

Luckily, as always, Australia is at the forefront of thinking.

The Trade Desk AUNZ general manager Mitch Waters

Did you catch all the AdNews Upfronts coverage?

Ten:

No concerns of viewer cannibalisation as Ten launches All Access

Upfronts: Media bosses weigh in on 'sleeping giant' Ten, call for 'Pilot Month'

Ten reveals launch details for All Access streaming platform

Seven:

A solid content spine or missing a vital data backbone? Industry reacts to Seven Allfronts

Seven remains firm on sign-in strategy, refuses to 'chase numbers'

Seven unfazed by fatigue concerns for MKR in 2019

Nine:

Nine upfronts: Ninja moves to Melbourne, addressability and better buying

'Slick, confident and consistent': Industry reacts to Nine's upfronts

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