We are still talking about and making deals in a fairly typical way. Buyers and sellers are still meeting -- if not in person, then through Zoom -- and they are negotiating off many of the same conventional metrics and for schedules that are likely to begin in the fourth quarter of 2020 and end in the third quarter of 2021.
Many reasons have been given, including the difficulty of combining databases to leverage new models and imperfect inventory management. We still need to develop best practices and experimental learnings, and establish incentives for changing and not simply defaulting to what we know best and what we did last year.
While these are somewhat valid explanations, there may be a simpler underlying cause for why the TV ad market is still sold pretty much the way it has been for decades.
While this may seem like an inevitable and business-saving evolution for media and advertisers alike, why do we still have a fairly traditional upfront?
Linear TV still generates significant audience levels and is the focus of many conversations about how we can make it more attractive to advertisers -- and consumers -- so the viewing may be better monetized.
Conference panels and articles talk about lessening clutter, shortening the window for options and becoming more granular with targeting, but there doesn't seem to be as much progress.
While making linear TV sales more like digital may seem inevitable, demand for broadcast and many of the larger cable networks still is high enough to warrant maintaining the current process for a few more years.
Yes, ratings have fallen precipitously, and COVID-19 is quickening the free fall, but advertisers still find that linear TV works -- and is cost-efficient.
Even with the lowest ratings we have ever seen, linear TV is still an important component of a media buy, effectively drawing consumers into the purchase funnel and increasing reach faster than other media.
What we may see happen is the convergence of linear TV with ad-supported streaming services such as Tubi and Pluto. However, it will be a few more years before we see AVOD surpass linear in viewership.