This shifting definition also makes it hard to answer the question “What will TV look like in 2027?” The short answer is “very different.” The long answer is this:
TV advertising will be granularly targeted, bought and sold programmatically and available from more sources. Programming creation/distribution will become more fragmented and come from everyone, from retailers to social networks to programmers directly.
Meanwhile, a central user interface will be at the core of finding content across all of the many sources. New viewing occasions will include watching programming with the family during long trips in your self-driving car.
Over time, as the traditional definition of TV dissolves, the most crucial detail will be whether a viewer is going to watch a show with others or watch it alone. This factor will define the video experience and ad opportunity just as significantly — and maybe more so — than the device or content.
TV ads: super-targeted, with quantified results
In the continuing evolution of the TV industry, most TV ads in 2017 are still served to masses of households and based on demographic data. Programmatic is making inroads into the business, though. In 2018, some 6% of TV ad spending will be executed programmatically, according to eMarketer.
While the industry is working in 2017 to link TV activity to consumers’ media use on their various devices and purchase activity in a seamless way, by 2027 it will be common practice to leverage a consumer’s cross-device identity. That means if a consumer has been researching new tires for her car on a VR device, then visits a physical store location, that tire manufacturer will know about this activity and be able to serve her TV ads that will remind her to make the purchase on her mobile device in her hand.
New programming from unexpected sources
The traditional TV and cable networks in 2027 will be competing with content from many other sources. In 2017, we no longer think it strange that a retailer (Amazon), a social network (Facebook) and a telco (AT&T) create or distribute “TV” programming.
Given the flood of content, the market will demand a better discovery mechanism. Rather than choosing between icons for Netflix, Hulu, the networks and Amazon, viewers will use an interface that surfaces content holistically, making access extremely simple. While viewers will still seek specific shows they want to see, they’ll also be able to just turn on the TV and see what’s on, browsing across all of the many sources that will exist in the future.
Other changes we can expect in 2027:
-- 5G will become widely available. Since its speeds are effectively comparable to today’s broadband, consumers will have a new reason to consider cutting the cord with their cable companies and rely instead on super-fast wireless broadband.
-- Addressable TV will be fully up and running. In 2017, addressable has taken off faster than many thought it would and cable companies are starting to offer better targeting so they can compete and win against the new entrants, like YouTube and Facebook, and other players who are coming into their space offering granular audience targeting.
Who knows what else we’ll see? Elon Musk recently launched a startup that hopes to link the human brain to computing devices, and Facebook is researching technology that will let people text via their thoughts.
There are so many tangential developments that will impact the industry, it's tough to scratch the surface of possibilities. Ultimately, what marketers want is their audience, everywhere -- and the blurring of lines between screens and delivery is well on the way to making this happen.