Commentary

TV Buying And Selling In 2020: Science Fiction Or Future Science?

It is the end of 2020, time to look back on the year’s main developments as well as the decade we now leave behind. Let’s start with ASVD (advertising-supported video distribution) -- or as we used to know it, television.

It was not that long ago that TV advertising was mostly sold in breaks on over-the-air/cable/satellite distributed networks. Obviously, by 2015 that distribution model was already changing dramatically, and at that time included a fast growing model of broadband/Internet distribution. Back then, a lot of advertising airtime was still sold in the upfront season, and content was programmed in two waves (September-December and February-May). The first half of the past decade through 2015 really saw the undoing of that model, and content now is available when and where the viewer wants it.

Today, the majority of advertising inventory is sold via algorithm-based exchanges by the likes of BrightRoll (owned by Google), TubeMogul (Facebook), ESPN (with its exclusive NFL, MLB, Olympics and World Cup inventory) and others. The transition followed a pattern like the way electronic trading transformed the stock market at the beginning of this century. However, it didn’t take a decade, but a mere five years for the change, due to (of course!) the technology.

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The role of traditional TV networks has evolved dramatically as well. Today, networks are content creators, delivering that content to and through a diverse distribution system mostly owned and operated by Verizon, TW-ComFlix (the merged Comcast/Time-Warner/Netflix company), Apple/Disney, Google Fiber (with the Charter assets) and others. The networks get a share of ad revenues, and also generate income from content creation and distribution.

Ad sales today are split into two options, for ease of classification called “bulk” and “specialty.” With bulk, marketers simply set a floor and a ceiling for reaching a specific target audience -- and the exchanges do their work in nano seconds, in real time, and with near-to-zero waste outside the intended target. The delivery is completely screen-neutral unless you want to buy screen- or content-specific.

There are still bespoke content buys possible, which is what we now call “specialty.” Coca-Cola, adidas, Visa and other sponsors of the World Cup still negotiate multi-faceted deals consisting of sponsorship, product placement and other promotional activation and integration on top of their bulk purchases. The same is true for other specific content that an advertiser might want to associate itself with.

The ad sales departments and media agencies’ buying departments today consist mostly of programmers and analysts, giant servers and other ad tech. Just like on Wall Street, the human element has been drastically reduced. This has happened more so on the agency than on the network side, as many major marketers today have their own ad technology that interacts directly with the exchanges.

Nielsen this year finally released its full suite of integrated video tracking, which has allowed us a first full year of screen-neutral planning based on VERPs, video engagement rating points. comScore/GfK has promised to launch in January 2021, but the trial data the company released earlier this year looks to be pretty much in line with Nielsen. This means that 2021 will be the year that the industry will select its new standard currency in the shoot-out between Nielsen and comScore.

So 2021 will be another critical year for the ASVD Platform. We wish you wisdom and success with your future planning.

3 comments about "TV Buying And Selling In 2020: Science Fiction Or Future Science?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, August 25, 2014 at 6:53 p.m.

    It's always fun to fantasize, Maarten. However, I don't think that the way TV time is bought and sold has already changed as much as you think, nor do I believe it will be revolutionized the way you predict in only five or six years. Once again, we seem to be confusing old fashioned "linear" TV with digital. What you describe may or may not happen in the digital TV---or "video" world---- that's certainly a possibility. But I don't see it happening where the vast bulk of TV ad dollars are spent---- on the broadcast networks, the cable channels, in syndication or station "spot" sales.

  2. Maarten Albarda from Flock Associates (USA), August 26, 2014 at 7:57 a.m.

    Hi Ed: 2020 might be a bit optimistic but I believe all "TV" will become digital TV/video. It is perhaps too linear to think otherwise.

  3. Jason Burke from clypd, Inc, August 26, 2014 at 1:32 p.m.

    Ed, I do agree that the way that TV has been sold and bought will not change drastically. HOWEVER, many of the strategies that have been successful in the digital world (automation, data, SSPs) are already being built today for the TV ad industry and are enhancing the way that TV is sold.

    Perhaps not yet perfection, but certainly progress.

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