SXSW: The New Rules of TV Marketing in Binge-Watching World

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Drawing audiences to TV shows is a whole new game when fewer people see tune-in ads or even know which network carries a given a show.
Drawing audiences to TV shows is a whole new game when fewer people see tune-in ads or even know which network carries a given a show.  Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Tune-in messages have become practically irrelevant as more viewers watch TV on a delayed basis. This has forced content creators to rethink how they market their shows to audiences who may not even know on which network their favorite program airs.

On Monday the panel "Bingers & Time-Shifters: The Future of TV Marketing" overflowed with SXSW attendees in the TV industry and marketers trying to figure out how to reach this elusive audience.

Younger viewers spend twice as much time binging content than they do watching TV live, said Melanie Shreffler, senior insights director, Cassandra. These audiences are so committed to binge watching, that 21% said they would prefer to binge watch TV rather than have sex, she added.

And with content living on so many platforms outside of the traditional TV network, 28% of younger viewers are unsure what networks originally aired the show they are watching, Ms. Shreffler said.

"We sometimes get lost in individual show and think attribution doesn't matter but it matters more than ever," said Rick Eiserman, CEO Trailer Park and Engine North America

The CW has seen its audiences save up shows to watch over the weekend, said Amy Shelby, VP-digital marketing, The CW. That's made the network think differently about its Saturday programming strategy, she said.

Unsurprisingly, digital and social media is key in reaching these viewers. The CW, like most other networks, is attempting to drum up interest in their programs by connecting fans with casts of shows on Twitter, running Facebook Live videos featuring their stars and creating ancillary content to live around the shows.

Mr. Eiserman said his company has been creating five times the amount of content it was making just five years ago.

Ms. Shreffler said it is important to give viewers content that they can build around. "This is a generation of creators," she said, adding that if you give them the tools to create their own content they will become your biggest advocate.

"We have been experimenting with promoting the promotion," Ms. Shelby said. So, for instance, The CW will release a 15-second clip of a larger 60-second trailer its plans to debut later. That lets the network not necessarily create more content but repurpose it in different ways.

While digital and social media is certainly where The CW's audiences are spending most of their time, Ms. Shelby said the network is also giving a new look to more traditional forms of marketing, like email marketing, that it has gotten away from in recent years.

There is a missed opportunity in live, in-person events for a generation that feels it is lacking a sense of human connection, Ms. Shreffler said.

Despite the binge-watching phenomenon, live viewing won't likely go away any time soon.

Mr. Eiserman predicts there could be a resurgence in reality TV, which tends to have a higher concentration of live viewers.

"We've never seen a new entertainment platform completely wipe out another one," Ms. Shreffler said. While she expects live viewing will continue to exist, she predicted that more of it will be integrated into social media, along the lines of the way Twitter has experimented with streaming sports.

When it comes to the future of TV, Ms. Shreffler predicts that in 10 years there will be new genres of content that we have not even heard of yet. She pointed to e-sports as an example. "If 10 years ago we said people are going to watch other people play video games," no one would believe it, she said.

There will also be the breakdown in the runtime of shows, she said, noting that there could be programs that run for just 10 minutes mixed in with long-form content.

Ms. Shelby expects more programming will be served based on people's moods.

TV will also get increasingly smarter and more personalized, to the point where we will each have our own personalized streams of content, Mr. Eiserman said.

But while it is important for content creators to give audiences what they want, Ms. Shreffler said personalization can lead to platforms getting stuck in their own filter bubbles, which can eventually feel old and tired.

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