The television industry is undergoing a huge transformation thanks to the rise of connected TV (CTV) devices, which now reach the majority of American homes. As the marketplace where the vast majority of television inventory is still bought and sold, the upfronts can serve as a laboratory for industry buyers to determine how to evolve with the changing times.
The rise of CTV is creating huge opportunities for marketers and brands that rise to meet this challenge. With that in mind, here are three things buyers should keep in mind as they head to the upfronts this year.
More than just reach
For decades, television has been the ultimate reach play. Likely the biggest discussion at this upfront will be about the changing understanding of reach. Networks have traditionally sold inventory on a broad reach basis, but as CTV becomes a substantial part of the media mix, marketers have a greater opportunity to understand their audiences at a granular level.
Today’s brands increasingly own or have access to specific first-party data about their desired customers. That data can be used to determine the value of inventory and to find desirable audiences in unexpected places. At the moment, buyers should be looking for more granular audience insights to help them appropriately value inventory. In the long run, it’s likely that advertisers will have the upper hand on pricing because they’ll know more about the value of every impression.
Device is as important as demo
While roughly 80% of television inventory is bought and sold on the upfront market, the way we buy hasn’t changed much over the decades. The upfronts have traditionally been about securing inventory rather than thinking about fulfillment, but that’s changing fast. As CTV becomes a more expansive part of every buy, savvy marketers should start thinking about what that means for their campaigns and how they can tell more eloquent and impactful stories on those connected screens.
Not all impressions are created equal, and understanding the potential of CTV will allow buyers to value connected impressions appropriately. Most networks will allow buyers to purchase specific device types or adjust the amount of CTV in their media mix. Instead of focusing purely on reach, buyers and marketers should hit the upfronts prepared to think critically about how much CTV they want to buy based on the audiences they need to reach and the type of experiences they aim to create. Experience will be increasingly critical.
Unique ad experiences are essential
The 2019 upfronts season is taking place at a time when many different trends are colliding. On the one hand, the rise of CTV gives advertisers a much wider canvas on which to create different types of experiences for viewers than traditional linear TV. On the other hand, the willingness of viewers to consume ads at all is being put to the test. The continued dominance of ad-free Netflix and the emergence of similar ad-less TV experiences like Apple TV+ and Disney+, which will roll out later this year, will contribute to a sense of ad fatigue among consumers.
As more viewers grow accustomed to experiencing television without traditional interruptive advertising, it will fall to advertisers to recapture their attention. That means looking beyond broad reach and utilizing new tools of the CTV environment. This could mean employing personalized data-driven video creative to enable a more direct connection or implementing the ability to purchase goods directly and/or add them to a shopping cart for later. In some cases, it might even mean producing content that integrates with or expands on the content of the show. Connected TV devices give marketers a multitude of options for engaging consumers in the new living room, but it will require a change in the way we think.
Connected TV isn’t going to change the way we buy television overnight, but we are seeing the impact of connected devices on linear TV markets today. Savvy buyers should start thinking about how the rise of connected devices will reshape the landscape of opportunities in television. Recent research found that CTV can drive impressive results, like a 78% lift in overall engagement. By focusing on that future, potential upfront buyers can position themselves to succeed by delivering better results today.