Commentary

Linear TV Helps Propel Rise In OTT, Connected TV Ratings

TV upfront market is still going on -- heavy in negotiation. But is anything light and breezy here?

While much has been made about big mid-teen percentage decline drops in linear TV ratings, behind the scenes discussions from TV network executives are talking up major results of digital platform viewing -- OTT, connected TV, and full episode players -- as well as higher advertising revenue.

The question is: How much?

Donna Speciale, president of advertising sales for WarnerMedia -- for its ad-supported TV and digital platforms, TBS, TNT, and CNN -- spoke frankly about whether the positive buzz was making its way to specific meaningful digital viewership.

Speaking to Variety in a video interview at Cannes Lions, Speciale said: “Yes, the ratings points in linear are down, but they are transforming other platforms. OTT is up. Programs are up on other platforms... It’s not filling the gap, but it is definitely adding to it.”

It isn’t making up the difference, then? Speciale response: “It’s not. Time will tell.”

When it comes to the linear TV marketplace, conditions have been the same way for some time. Speciale confirmed: “Demand is there, and there are less ratings points.”

That said, Speciale and other TV advertising executives do believe all digital viewing should be considered. This, as the industry continues to moan about the lack of single industry-standard viewing metric on the horizon. 

So what happens in the short term or near-term -- in terms of new metrics to measure or decipher TV’s impact?

The answer comes in three areas: determining “attribution” -- how channels/platforms/programs/time periods are individually performing for TV marketers; finding and guaranteeing new audience segments; offering up some guarantee deals when it comes to specific marketers’ business outcomes.

That said -- for this upfront -- brand advertising executives will continue to cling to legacy metrics that point to positive key bottom line media costs, in many cases “low” historical base CPMs from which new yearly price hikes are tacked on.

That’s the heavy part of the upfront discussion.

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