A Bright Future Awaits TV Advertisers That Put Consumers First

Those who listen and reframe challenges as opportunities will come out on top

The television industry has entered the golden age of everything. Audiences, advertisers and storytellers alike have ample reason to be optimistic. Yet, as an industry, there’s often bickering about the hurdles of what’s holding us back rather than what lies ahead.

Instead, it’s critical to take a long view and reframe commonly perceived challenges as opportunities. Advertisers must embrace change, rethink how to define “TV,” and keep consumers at the center of all you do. How you view the future will determine how quickly you get there.

With this in mind, let’s consider positive truths and changes impacting consumers and the industry, and the advice necessary for making the most of what may be television’s brightest year yet.

A look at the present and the future to come

Today’s audiences are more engaged and consuming more content than ever. According to ENGINE insights, the number of hours people spend watching television is nearly 32 hours a week. Streaming services also continue to gain momentum and entice consumers in the shift from traditional TV.

While viewers still spend more time watching cable and network TV, overall network viewing is down with streaming services continuing to grow share of overall viewing. According to Nielsen, 33% of time spent viewing occurs on a streaming service, up from 20% in 2020 and 14% in 2019.

And there is no shortage of programming from which to choose. In 2021, according to eMarketer, Variety estimated 1,923 original series—including unscripted and scripted—aired across broadcast, cable and streaming services—a record high. Over half of those shows came from streaming services. Netflix alone spent $17.47 billion on content in 2021 and is projected to spend $19.3 billion in 2022, fueling consumer demand for streaming content.

This explosion of entertainment options has created a happy problem for audiences (and a challenge for advertisers). Choosing what to watch at any given time is a big headache. Young audiences use social media and friend networks to pick content in this time of creative exposition. For Gen Z, specifically, they wish the industry could improve the content discovery process.

If the industry worked to improve the process, these adjustments would enhance the viewer experience and enable advertisers to create new, engaging ways to connect and to sell their products, just as they always eventually do.

Streamers’ adoption of live programming benefits everyone but is quite disruptive to the ecosystem in the short term. These partnerships will grow accordingly to support consumer demand: Apple/Friday Night Baseball, Amazon/MGM, NFL, HBO Max/U.S. Soccer, for example. Approximately 43% of U.S. adults 18-plus watch live TV every day, while 26% of consumers watch live TV at least a few times a week according to ENGINE insights. And 70% of these viewers tune into live TV using a paid subscription or free streaming service. 

Another positive trend is a natural evolution: business model experimentation. Disney’s lower-priced tier and commercials concept is a “win for everyone.” Even Netflix will get there on the record with the “never say never” shot heard around the streaming world at their most recent earnings call. 

Reframing “reality”

Indeed, there are obstacles abound. The ecosystem will evolve and withstand myriad challenges. Remember Darwin?

But the industry always comes out on top, better and stronger than before because, as a natural result of the disruption, the true winners listen to consumers.

Television advertising is more complex than it used to be. So are our lives. Technology advancements lead to new consumer behaviors and drive more immersive entertainment experiences and the glimpse of high-value advertising. With the advent of AR/VR, and 92% of broadcasters planning to adopt 5G by 2022, complex advancements will continue to drive the future. Remember, Netflix began streaming when bandwidth allowed.

To those who yearn for the days of media-mix modeling and siloed approaches, I urge you to realize it is all TV now. Cross-channel media targeting and measurement frameworks are essential. In 2022, the industry has officially acknowledged that multiple measurements must reflect the world we live in.

Embrace change and disruption

It’s time to shift your mindset to be optimistic and forward-looking. Here are four tips to “TV nirvana”:

Consumers are kings/queens: Listening to consumers is always in vogue. Consumers will continue to drive demand, which means media spending will always reflect “the truth” of consumer behavior.

Adapt the business model while embracing the consumer: Reshape the next 15 quarters rather than just focusing on the next earnings period. Focus on the entire video landscape regardless of channel. Accept that to audiences it is all “TV.” Viewers think “content first.”

Partnerships strengthen all of us: Seek partners who can provide de-duplicated IRM (Incremental Reach Measurement), build holistic, broader media plans to activate a cross-channel media mix and embrace newer tactics.

Think outside of your immediate perspective. Audiences decide what content is “premium” and they vote with their views.

But perhaps most importantly, accept that the future has nothing to do with the past. Consumers write the future. Successful advertising will evolve to meet the consumer where they are.

Embrace the “new”—tech advancements, a more level playing field, increased competition, unbridled creativity. The future is bright, only if you want it to be.

Scott Schiller is the global chief commercial officer of ENGINE, a global, full-service media and marketing services company. Schiller is a co-founder, long-time board member and former chairman of the IAB and an adjunct assistant professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business, and an advisor to Cornell’s department of communication.