The TV business has finally taken some steps to reach the future it wants, instead of the future that disruptors like Netflix were about to impose, industry executives argued on Tuesday.
The way forward isn't exactly clear as audiences fragment and traditional ratings declined, but networks are making the necessary experiments, said Amanda Richman, president, Starcom USA, during a discussion on the future of TV during Advertising Week.
"I do have to applaud the networks for at least taking a step and doing something," Ms. Richman said. They created products such as streaming apps and data offering for marketers and said "let's figure this out," she said.
Maybe some of the hesitation may have been confidence that TV would remain marketers' best avenue to consumers, a sentiment still on display Tuesday. "TV content is still what everybody wants to view," said Mark DeBevoise, exec VP-general manager, CBS Interactive. "It's not like Netflix created a new form."
"The 15-to-60-second spots have been successful because they have been proven to drive ROI, so I love TV," said Scott Ferber, CEO at Videology, which sponsored the panel.
But Netflix demonstrated consumers' appetite to get TV content in ways that don't help pile up gross ratings points for brands, so networks had to react. CBS didn't join its rivals in building Hulu, a streaming platform designed partly to compete with Netflix, but last fall introduced its own streaming subscription service, CBS All Access.
Consumers' sign-in data is enabling ad targeting that benefits consumers and advertisers both, Mr. DeBevoise said. "When we have that information we become really good at serving great advertising," he said.
Now one of the challenges is getting content on all these devices in a way consumers and advertisers can use, Mr. DeBevoise said, calling that an issue that literally kept him up at night Monday. "We were down on some device," he said.
Another hurdle, constantly cited in discussions about the future of TV, is measuring audiences across all these devices.
Roku is another company trying to meld the best of digital ad tech and TV, said Scott Rosenberg, VP-advertising at the company. The ads are 100% viewable with 95% completion rates, supplemented by advanced targeting and measurement beyond Nielsen ratings, he said. "The prize goes to platforms and content providers who can innovate quickly there and can roll out the requisite ad tech that's necessary," he said.
With ad blockers that can do a more thorough and effortless job of skipping commercials than even DVRs could offer, many marketers and programmers are looking toward brand integrations to reach consumers. There, too, however, complications arise.
It's not easy, for one thing. "Many marketers also realize they don't have the same amount of people and time to go deep with those integrations," Ms. Richman said.
"Done badly it will actually harm your brand as opposed to benefiting it," she added. "That's the No. 1 reason we hear our advertisers say 'not this year.'"