TV networks haven’t had the easiest summer. Ratings haven’t been great -- although some, like HGTV and Discovery, have done pretty well. The upfront was not as strong as hoped, although rumors are that scatter sales are going pretty well. Finally, Wall Street has been particularly tough on TV companies and is now concerned that carriage fees from cable and satellite companies are going to go into a decline sooner than most had thought.
However, outside of all of this trade industry swirl, the U.S. TV industry is still healthy and quite unmatched in scale, impact or economics by any other medium or advertising platform. While many question how TV will fare in 2020, there is still no question that it is still the 800-pound gorilla in 2015. But for that to continue, TV companies will have to work harder to make their own luck, since audiences and advertiser dollars are not just going to come to them as in decades past. At the very least, here are three things that TV companies must do this fall:
Promote, promote, promote their shows. Audiences and ratings can’t be taken for granted, even for great shows. With so many choices — including so many on streaming services — there’s no way that viewers can possibly know about every show out there that they might want to see. That kind of clutter requires promotion, and lots of it. Shows can no longer rely on having great lead-ins or being on a big-name network. Audiences are the lifeblood of the TV business, not content. Without audiences there are no ads, and ultimately no carriage fees.
Start winning back advertiser mindshare. Digital, social and mobile own advertisers’ mindshare these days. CMOs’ bosses are asking them what they’re doing on Snapchat and how many tweets they’re getting — not what their Wednesday night prime-time TV strategy is.
The TV industry has its work cut out for itself. It needs to get itself back into the top of the conversation with advertisers and their agencies. It needs to better market its competitive advantages over digital media alternatives: TV’s ability to deliver massive scale quickly with high-impact ad units, its unique ability to drive offline sales, and its lack of viewabiilty, fraud or bot issues.
Develop a direct-to-consumer strategy. There’s no question that TV program development, distribution and monetization has become much more difficult and complex. No longer can TV companies rely on cable, satellite and local broadcast affiliates for all of their distribution. They now need to develop broader partnerships with streaming services and digital platforms, and also develop strategies to deliver their content directly to consumers, whether through proprietary apps or TV Everywhere services. Since audiences are their lifeblood, it is imperative that all TV companies begin implementing strategies to go directly to consumers. Such tactics might not produce meaningful numbers for years, but will be table stakes for survival in 2020. That is a certainty.
What do you think TV companies should be doing this fall?