TV will never be as it was. Let's accept it & look ahead

Carolyn Northcote
By Carolyn Northcote | 20 March 2024
Carolyn Northcote.

I was one of the agency attendees at the recent Future of TV event in Sydney.  It was an intense day, filled with presentations, expert panels and various announcements. It was a day with a lot of promise, featuring a number of industry heavy weights on the stage. But it seemed that not many of the speakers dared to ruffle any feathers, and perhaps that’s a genuine risk for these events when the guests represent large agency or media businesses and therefore err on the side of political caution.   

The metaphoric theme “TV isn’t dead, it’s just having babies” was cute, but in my mind the Australian ‘babies’ were had 10yrs ago & they are now all teenagers – testing out their boundaries and independence, struggling with communication skills and certain that no one else can see things from their perspective.  The mum in me just wants these growing kids to realise that teamwork makes the dream work.  I think it fair to say that I left the conference as frustrated as when I went in & I honestly don’t think I stand alone with this sentiment.

Why am I frustrated?  Because I feel that as an industry, we are afraid to accept that things have & are continuing to change.  Yes, we can look back at the past because things worked predictably back then.  The Simpson’s was the hottest property on TV, delivering 23 TARPs per spot and TV as a whole commanded the highest share of ad spend.  The linear pioneers remained relevant and efficient thanks to industry-led developments that made life easier for TV buyers, delivering us holdings, enabling avails requests & booking files, etc.  But as technology quickly advanced, new content networks thrived. It was simpler to be cohesive as an industry back when there were only a handful of stakeholders, but where is that cohesion now? Ignoring the existence and impact of YouTube, the SVODs and social media channels won’t make them all go away. 

Aussies are widely recognised as fast adopters of tech, and that is evident in our rising CTV penetration. Combine our NBN improvements, with rising CTV penetration rates AND with the networks’ increasing investment in their BVOD products, and it doesn’t feel a leap to say that we are only a matter of years before CTV penetration is as high as 90% and ‘BVOD/streaming only’ viewing is the norm. 

So, why can’t we work towards preparing for that? Foxtel, Fetch, Samsung & Sony are all offering converged access to content, AND the government is now getting involved in a ‘prominence framework’ to determine the order of apps appearing on a CTV home screen.  It feels as though everyone else can see exactly what is about to happen, but traditional TV is being held back from appreciating its own metamorphosis.

We can’t shy away from the speedy growth of digital TV, and I don’t think we should.  There is some really cool data & insight coming out of the likes of Samba TV, Samsung Ads & Foxtel (to name a few) but as an industry we aren’t leaning into it. From an agency perspective, the multiple datasets feel overwhelming and complicated when we are forced to analyse side by side.  Networks are wanting to talk about programme reach, screens convergence, attention, AI, etc and all I think buyers really want is the ability to evaluate video opportunities for their clients, using a singular trusted dataset. 

It’s taken VOZ 5+ years to get to its current state, and data access is clunky from where I’m sitting (as none of the founding creators of VOZ considered the burden on the tools providers & agencies for the data required for total TV reporting).  I for one am hoping that all these corporate bodies, the TAMs, Free TV, IAB, Video Futures Collective, Samba TV, Samsung Ads, etc can come together & collaborate in tech, then compete with content.

What the Future of TV event showed me was that we’re no longer a unified industry, but a dysfunctional collection of opposing noises.  TV will never be as it was, and I’m glad for that! So, let’s pull up our big people pants & work out how we want to behave in future years with the same sense of collaboration that has traditionally made our TV market so strong. 

Positive change for all wouldn’t necessarily mean (more) investment & across-the-board restructures.  What if it started with just 3 steps:

1.      Uniformed dynamic & converged automated buying platforms

2.      Put energy behind metrics which the industry can access regularly and analyse easily (possibly even relaxing the pressure for ‘gold standard’, as isn’t it better to have some data Vs no data?)

3.      Support each other to build a freeview platform for viewers today, that makes accessibility simple and measurement world-class.

With the collective smarts & experience across all parties, we might achieve something to be truly proud of and ensure TV has a really robust future. My fingers & toes are crossed!

Carolyn Northcote, Media Director, Avenue C

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