Somehow, my understanding is that Nielsen Media Research won the coin-toss and DMA it's been ever since. Seemed all right. Rarely, I have heard media people challenge one another as to whether this DMA is sized right, or given unfair advantage in the weights of justice. Wasn't a big issue for me either, up through the '80s when I was a national television buyer whose primary focus was the impending glacial slide of the broadcast network's ratings, higher CPMS and the arrival of niche-defined cable networks that had my clients questioning efficiency and targeting. The arrival of the cable networks and their distribution was crammed into the pre-determined DMA definitions, and business continued as usual.
It was in the later part to the '90s that I detected what I thought was the first crack in DMA's efficacy. Something was happening in terms of land grab. No longer did it seem reasonable to base DMA boundaries on the length and strength of radio or TV broadcast signal. You know that booming 50,000 broadcast signal that traversed many hamlets and cities. I noticed that the cable operators were quietly trading systems with one another - sometimes for cash but most often for proximity to their other assets --= building up their density in many urban and suburban locales. This activity was followed by larger mergers and acquisitions -- TCI, AT&T Broadband and Adelphia disappeared. Suddenly, more potent coaxial mandarins existed -- continuously located in the broadcasters' hoods.
Then, many months ago the telcos entered the fray with their deep pockets to support quadruple bypass play deployments of video, broadband and telephony (landline and mobile) on a market-by-market basis traversing U.S. counties one telephone pole at a time. And within a full-term pregnancy, TV stations will transition from a single analog transmission to multiplexing upwards of four channels from their locally based in-DMA market digital terrestrial location.
Concurrently we are continuing to challenge the government's attempt at loosening media ownership restrictions. On the docket: ownership of upwards of three TV stations in a market (large market); the 8-8-8 rule of radio ownership in a zone; cross-ownership of broadcast, radio and newspapers in a single market; digital terrestrial allocation and mandatory carriage by competing systems i.e., cable, satellite, telco; net neutrality governance; geo-targeting of all forms of interactive televisual properties across terrestrial transmission, cable, satellite, telco, broadband and mobile. And coupling distribution with new forms of behavioral, usage, lifestyle, loyalty and opt-in consumer data. Legislation, or deregulation, if it prevails, should encourage more concentration of media ownership in the paws of the few.
And what about content? Presently, professionally produced media content is being generated through fewer and fewer sources and its creation controlled by fewer media conglomerates. Although I am sure there will be those reading this blog that will proudly hail the democratization of news and content dissemination through the Internet as well as the plethora of stuff posited by the USCs, professionally produced content, whether theatrical, TV or even online, still rules the day, and most importantly, generates the bucks. Oftentimes, as we would all agree, the same few media mandarins are now controlling a greater slice of both distribution and content.
So is it time for us as an industry to redefine our physical definitions. Should we maintain our market definition (Designated Market Area) by simple physical geography for advertisers to utilize to map out their media spend and targeted points, or should we begin to define a media market based upon distribution of media services and control of content and editorial? I would recommend we morph the DMA to the DMZ: the Designated Marketing Zone. As each media conglomerate carves out a physical zone and offers many services (video, online, landline and mobile telephony), they will hopefully build up a trusting relationship with the consumer through upselling products and customer service. If this goods and services relationship evolves, then marketers will have the opportunity to participate in a unique relationship utilizing the trust the consumers have with their media providers to resonate with the marketers' products.
An illustration. Let's take Comcast's Philadelphia market and Coca-Cola:
Coca-Cola signage on Comcast trucks; a six pack of Coke delivered with every new subscriber install; Comcast community events sponsored by Coca-Cola; bill stuffers; every five VOD movies purchased by a Comcast customer, the sixth is provided for free rounding out the six pack; cross-promoted events at Philadelphia sports arenas; entertainment news provided by Coca-Cola through Comcast wireless services; special broadband offers connected through Comcast.net, Fandango and other high speed internet access services; and of course, this would be an exclusive relationship keeping out other soft drink competitors.
Hence, the Designated Marketing Zone, which in war parlance, translates into the DMZ.