The future of TV is now (or never)

By Published on .

Credit: Illustration by Ad Age

From cord cutting, shaving and cord nevers to addressability, dynamic ad insertion and increasingly ad free experiences, the ad environment is more dynamic and complex than ever before. And now—right now—we are at a critical inflection point. This can either signal an industry renaissance marked by more relevant ads (fueled by rich data) or it could be the industry's death knell.

The more complicated media consumption gets, the more we retreat to comfortable metrics and our marketplace remains the same. In speaking with many peers and sales leaders, by all accounts our recent upfront was nearly entirely transacted on an age/sex currency. We simply cannot continue to create, buy, sell and deliver multi-channel ads using outdated currency and measurement metrics.

At the risk of being overly dramatic, the future of the ad supported video ecosystem lays in the balance. It was a sobering and pervasive theme at this year's upfront and it has roused top executives throughout the industry to work for crucial change.

Shifting consumption patterns combined with the growth of data and custom audiences have created a perfect storm – one that necessitates a different market approach and changes the paradigm by which we operate. We all find ourselves grappling with the same questions: Why do we not have a true cross-channel currency that works across linear and digital in a similar manner? Why do we continue to commoditize the business, driving efficiency against an outdated metric? Will the industry survive if we continue to operate this way?

Through the years we have seen a number of industry initiatives that have required collaboration across all parts of the ecosystem. I have had the good fortune of being intimately involved with two of these, namely the 4A's/IAB Terms & Conditions 3.0 and 3MS (Making Measurement Make Sense). These kinds of efforts are time consuming and sometimes frustrating, but ultimately very helpful in keeping the industry relevant and in line with consumer, marketer and agency expectations.

While these initiatives have produced valuable industry standards, they have taken a very long time to bear fruit. As a case in point, the 3MS initiative kicked off in March of 2011 and took nearly three years to produce meaningful output. We no longer have the luxury of time. The pace of change is accelerating and our industry standards aren't keeping up. We cannot go through another broadcast year upfront with the same approach.

At Magna, we have been following (and predicting) the steady decline of linear television ratings and the rise of streaming consumption. By next year, we will see over 50 percent of adults' video consumption on demand. Additionally, we predict that in the next 5 years streaming will make up half of the weekly video time for adults (18 to 49). Mobile streaming and OTT video will be the dominant streaming modalities and we are already seeing astronomic growth in these areas.

Without much fanfare, a number of folks from all sides of the industry have been meeting to discuss issues like these. The initiative has been named "The Future of Television" (or FoT for short) and is being facilitated by EY.

It started with a discussion at the end of last year acknowledging the number of well-attended industry gatherings that clearly signaled a desire for change. The need was now to facilitate an ongoing dialogue and establish broad action items. A key part of our process included a discussion around what dystopia would look like (an ad free world with reduced consumer choice, radical consolidation and skyrocketing cost of content creation) and agree on what utopia would be (a new value equation for all parts of the ecosystem, putting an end to the commoditization of the business).

The initiative has now been divided into three work streams: Currency, Data/Measurement and Platforms, each of which is meeting independently as I write this and meeting again just before Q4 as a collective group. We are finally gaining momentum to make meaningful progress across the industry.

We simply cannot continue to utilize the same currency and measurement approaches of the past 50 years. We must work towards a common cross-platform foundation that acknowledges and addresses changes in media consumption and leverages the rich data in the ecosystem. The future of our industry depends on it.

Most Popular