Have We Entered A Time Loop?

That's how Nielsen's just-released planning guide to this year's upfronts/newfronts begins. After reading it, I'd have to agree it's kind of like deja vu all over again.

For one thing, it kicks off by noting that despite all the new-fangled changes in media technology, the most popular shows are the same ones you'd expect to watch on linear TV -- "NCIS," "Grey's Anatomy," "Criminal Minds" and "Star Trek." The only difference is that instead of watching them on broadcast TV, Americans are streaming them over-the-top.

The report then goes on to ask, "Is streaming the latest incarnation of TV syndication?" That one made me scratch my head, but then I realized the analogy: Both syndication and streaming platforms made their bones with old TV shows.



But enough about nostalgia, the report is supposed to be a primer for 2023-24 upfront planning and buying, so let me focus on the meat of it, though you can access it in its entirety here.

Much of it focuses on the very same trend lines you can find from Nielsen's monthly "The Gauge" reports, which have persistently shown American eyeballs shifting from linear to streaming content and CTV screens. I'll spare you those eyecharts, because you're probably still glossing over from past ones, but there are some interesting new insights contained in this report -- as well as som not-so-veiled soft-peddling for Nielsen's new Big Data-plus panel service.

Meanwhile, you can gloss over this graphic, which does have implications for planning and buying. It shows the "exclusive reach potential" of CTV among overall adults, as well as various ethnic segments:

But before you run to your dashboard and start readjusting your plans, Nielsen adds this caveat: "This data doesn’t reflect a realistic buying scenario; there are no parameters set such as CPM, max impressions or dollar amounts. However, the chart does represent the maximum reach potential and, in doing so, flexes the planning power of a deduplicated, cross-media view of your audience."

If this part seems like deja vu to you, you probably were planning and buying back in the 80s when cable penetration was starting to take off and Nielsen had to keep readjusting its reach cume facilities until agencies started developing audience reach optimizers to account for all the broadcast and cable schedule mixes.

So yeah, the shift to streaming does have a bit of a time loop associated with it.

1 comment about "Have We Entered A Time Loop?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 25, 2024 at 1:16 p.m.

    Joe, interesting Nielsen data---thanks for  the link. What that chart tells us is that the vast majority of TV home adults---almost 70%--- use both linear TV and streaming, which should be comforting to many who have been told that "traditional" TV is dying. What's missing is the nature of the exclusives for each platform---the streaming exclusive is no doubt dominated by younger adults---and, of course,  we must bear in mind the cost of attaining incremental reach via streaming as an add-on to linear.

    One might argue that we should turn things around and see linear as an add-on to streaming, but that's not a realistic approach for many advertisers who are wedded to certain program  types---sports, news, big time specials---that are available mostly via linear. Which will change over time---but are roadblocks right now, favoring a linear first attitude.

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