Content, tech and trading: How this year’s TV Upfronts switched it on

Sarah Keith
By Sarah Keith | 24 November 2021
Sarah Keith.

Sarah Keith, Group Managing Director, Active International Australia and Involved Media

This year’s TV Upfronts season has come and gone, and it didn’t disappoint. The power of television and broadcast quality content starts with fabulous programming, and that’s exactly what was on show across the Nine, Seven, 10 and Foxtel presentations.

Watching all the network presentations reminded me that the core reasons to buy TV advertising haven’t changed. It still delivers the biggest mass audience, it is still a trusted format, and it still (mainly) offers non-skippable ads that reach captive audiences. In fact, the reasons to buy TV have increased as media channels have proliferated and audiences have fragmented.

Having said that, of course the way that we plan, buy, target and measure TV has been slowly changing over the past decade. But compared to the slow steps we have been seeing, this year marked a big leap forward, driven by VOZ and total TV ratings. We now have a syndicated total audience proposition, with TV Map providing media analysis and reporting for agencies and broadcasters. Total TV data is finally a reality, with linear, streaming and catch-up all stitched together. 

As media agencies, we have always been entrusted by clients to continuously source the most efficient audiences at scale. This doesn’t come without its challenges. Consumer viewing habits are always fluctuating, and we’re often faced with different data strategies and data sources that make the situation even more complex. What makes VOZ and total TV data such an important step forward is that it paves the way to a new level playing field for all involved.

Now, when we turn our heads to trading, we should understand that this year the focus was not just on what we are buying but how we are buying it.

Nine’s Upfronts showcased its synergy across linear, streaming and catch-up TV. They showcased their Galaxy platform which uses CPM as a cost measure, moving television away from the outdated fixed spot rate and delivering much-needed automation.

Seven moved towards cross-platform trading and introduced a new product, 7Shop, which is an on-screen shopping service for 7plus that’s “first-of-its-kind” in Australia. It really brings together Seven’s data intelligence and 7Cap (contextual ad placement to identify and tag products). Another big step forward for Seven was the announcement of a $40 million investment in upgrading its Code 7  trading platform, improving automation and reducing the impact of fluctuating audience delivery.    

One of the most interesting things in the Network 10 show was its dynamic e-trade placement, which gives retailers the opportunity to adjust creative messaging with new pricing, images or offers. The dynamic nature of this product makes it more addressable and effective, generating significant performance uplift. Buy 10 continues to evolve, offering frictionless trading as well as a number of premium ad products on the way.

Foxtel’s presentation showed a lot of ambition. The Foxtel executives made it clear that their business is very different to the free-to-air networks, given its focus on digital and streaming. They clearly outlined Foxtel’s move from a subscription to a streaming model, and showcased a fairly strong content line-up in 2022, including its ongoing strength in sport.

What was most exciting was Foxtel’s upcoming innovations, particulary Foxtest, which will allow advertisers and agencies to run “test and learn” scenarios as a way of improving content and consumer enagagement and experience. Also Foxtel’s new ad capabilities, dynamic trading and cross-platform buying should lead to promising outcomes next year.

Upfronts season clearly demonstrated that the future of TV is looking promising: quality content is abundant, audience numbers remain sold, and there is new TV tech that we’ve so desperately needed and that we can use to our strengths. This year’s season represented a really strong step forward for the industry. It’s cliché for me to say that TV has come of age because, really, it’s TV trading which has so obviously come into its own.

Sarah Keith is Group Managing Director of Active International Australia and Involved Media, and one of Australia’s most experienced and respected media and advertising executives. Her resume includes senior roles at Publicis Groupe, Network 10, Fairfax Media, Fox Sports, SBS, Austereo and Channel 4 in the UK.

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