Why Edward Norton Thinks Ad-Supported Streaming Metrics Will Influence Programming Decisions

At ADWEEK's Big Game Brunch in Las Vegas, Norton and PepsiCo leader Kalen Thornton discussed TV measurement

Measurement challenges plague the ad industry, as linear TV investments dwindle and marketers consider alternatives to Nielsen data.

It takes time to receive performance data on TV campaigns, making it hard for marketers to adjust their video strategies in real time. The lag didn’t used to matter as much, since marketers usually committed to buy a certain amount of upfront network inventory each year.

Meanwhile, CTV investments are burgeoning and a new cadre of ad tech companies are creating measurement solutions that they say are better and faster than Nielsen’s.

“​​We can’t not all acknowledge that linear TV is toast. Like, it’s over. Ad-supported streaming is what television advertising will look like. Period, full stop. Within five years,” actor and filmmaker Edward Norton said during a panel discussion with PepsiCo vp and former NFL player Kalen Thornton at ADWEEK’s Big Game Brunch event in Las Vegas.

“People are going to watch on-demand content, and they are going to get served ads on it,” Norton added.

Norton co-founded one those new ad tech firms—the TV measurement company EDO—in 2015, alongside entrepreneur and poet Daniel Nadler.

In 2022, ADWEEK parent company Shamrock Capital invested $80 million in EDO.  

In a panel discussion led by ADWEEK’s Jenny Rooney. Norton and Thornton addressed measurement challenges, new partnership options for brands and how ad-funding streaming could be a windfall for filmmakers.

“Content through streaming will now have attributable revenue to it because of ads. And that’s going to be really meaningful for creative people,” Norton said.

Measurement options proliferate, but data’s useless without context

More measurement options benefit brands like Pepsi, but Thornton cautions other marketers to be thoughtful about their data collection processes and what they do once they have metrics in hand. More data is not useful if it lacks context.

“There is sometimes confusion between causation and correlation,” Thornton said of marketers’ tendency to misunderstand their campaign data. As advertising becomes more measurable, marketers must find supplemental ways to connect with audiences and find out what actually drives purchase decisions.

Measurement changes and the rise of new ad-tech players like EDO present marketers with options they never had before. Now, brands can divert traditional media channels and approach streamers directly to co-produce entertainment. It’s also true of sports sponsorships, the former NFL linebacker said.

“There is an amazing opportunity for us just to look at certain partners and reinvent the space. It’s no longer just about signing someone and expecting that return on investment through the years of partnership or signage in the stadium. You’re actually equity partners. This is someone that you are business with,” said Thornton.

Norton: Streamers will rely on campaign metrics to make programming decisions

There’s a lot on the line for the filmmaking community. If advertisers make the wrong promotional decisions, it’s the actors and filmmaker who pay.

“If we’re selling Grand Budapest Hotel, and Fox sprays and prays and inefficiently markets that film, Wes Anderson makes less money,” Norton said. 

That’s because even streamers struggle with attribution issues. It’s not always obvious which of their programming decisions correlate with revenue bumps.

By scrutinizing ad campaign metrics, streaming companies can evaluate what content types are most likely to attract or engage audiences. An underperforming film marketing campaign that could even thwart future programming decisions.

Artificially depressed results mean programmers may inadvertently pass over certain content acquisitions, and independent film distribution will keep suffering.

But there may be an upside for filmmakers as entertainment and branding converge. Ad revenue could provide ancillary revenue streams to film industry talent, according to Norton. Last year, SAG-AFTRA members went on strike to protest, among other things, streaming’s impact on actors’ residual income opportunities.

“This is the only world where I believe in trickle-down economics. I actually do think if Netflix is making more money on advertising on top of their subscriber thing, it’s a benefit to creatives,” said Norton. 

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