Blog Post

The Value of TV in the Age of Digital

mike menkes
mike menkes 09.19.2019

In May, modern TV history was made with the series finale of Game of Thrones, drawing an impressive 13.6 million viewers for its initial live airing. It was a “can’t miss” TV event, guaranteeing that if viewers didn’t watch it live, they would be subject to a barrage of spoilers come Monday morning. With the rise of social media and an always-on digital world, missing a major real-time television event doesn’t just mean you have to ask your friends not to tell you about it, it means you essentially have to enter into digital detox until you’re up to speed.


Game of Thrones was a prime example of how TV – and video entertainment content in general – still plays a major role in our modern social circles. And while the ways we watch TV are changing and water coolers are becoming a relic, I sure still hear a lot of conversation in the snack room at work about what people watched last night. And as word-of-mouth tracking companies show, people certainly talk about advertising and brands they’ve been exposed to as well. The moral of the story? TV isn’t dead. It’s simply evolving for the digital age.


One of the biggest indications of the evolution is time-shifted TV. As a time-pressed, working parent of three kids, I try to squeeze in a few minutes of Yankees and Rangers games, but otherwise rarely watch live TV. My wife and I tend to record and watch some of our favorite shows on our DVR, which complements our Netlfix, Hulu and Amazon Prime alternatives.


But time-shifted TV, even with its fast-forwarding options, doesn’t make me immune to advertising exposure. In fact, studies show that even in fast forward mode, ads achieve recall. Which means there isn’t anything to be afraid of in the realm of time-shifted TV. Furthermore, research has indicated that ad recall is higher for exposed ads as we know the viewer is focused with remote in hand.  And let’s face it – how is this different from scrolling past ads on other platforms, occasionally pausing to take in what may interest us?


The same advertising exposure holds true for those who have “cut the cord”. I work with a lot of Millennials, a famous cord-cutting generation, who have opted out of a cable subscription and instead look to those same Netflix and Hulu alternatives for their content options. But, despite their desire to elude commercials altogether, they too are exposed to ads, whether through the services they use or the network websites where they catch up on weekly episodes that can only be found on cable.


The “is TV dead?,” debate continues, but viewing habits demonstrate that TV is most certainly alive and remains a valuable place for marketers to place their content. Will there be another modern "must-see" TV event in coming years like the Game of Thrones series finale? Time will tell. But regardless, the new challenging, complex TV landscape is still full of opportunity.


Here are a few reasons why:

TV is still on top

Despite a highly fragmented media landscape, TV is still a highly relevant way to reach mass audiences. Yes, even cord-cutting Millennials. In fact,  77% of 18-34 year-olds watch TV at least once a week. And, the amount of time spent watching TV, live or time shifted, still dwarfs that of watching TV on connected devices, smartphones or tablets.


Nothing beats TV for brand building

Let’s return to Game of Thrones: Remember the now-infamous Starbucks cup gaffe of last season in which a branded cup appeared for a second or two in a banquet scene? Experts estimated that just a few seconds of accidental brand exposure – and the social media frenzy that followed – was worth an estimated $2.3 billion. If you need to establish or reinforce a brand, there is nothing like TV. There is a reason why Google and Amazon were some of the top television advertisers in 2018 and continue to be so in 2019. These tech companies have joined Apple in believing in the value of video content to sell new products and reinforce the brand for established products and services.


Quality of exposure counts

Why does every social platform want in on video? Every piece of research on ad creative tends to come to the same conclusion: sight, sound, and motion are the elements needed to build recall and brand impact. Even within the world of digital, a video impression is worth 3X that of a display impression as we have seen through our ROI Genome research. Of course, there are various ways you can deliver :30s, :15s and :6s ads. Online video and OTT rock. Just make sure you complement with traditional TV for reach and mind your CPMs to maintain ROI.


Co-viewing is common

With television, you’re more likely to get a particularly co-viewing experience versus digital media. A recent study showed that 48% of TV viewing is done in a group, and 49% say they are doing more co-viewing than three years ago. This means that every impression may have two or more people actually exposed. Reality television is an excellent example of the rise in co-viewing, with large “watch parties” frequently forming around shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.


Upfronts still offer the right time, right price

ROI depends on price inputs. If you do not buy TV in the Upfronts, you are left buying in scatter, which can be a 15 to 40% higher price difference. Moreover, industry prognosticators are saying that rates may be hiked into the double digits, because advertisers like Peloton, Wayfair, and Warby Parker all want in on what TV has to offer.


Gone are the days when families would huddle around in the living room every night and be fully in tune with the tube, but TV still works, and – in addition to digital media – must be part of any truly impactful national marketing plan. And as addressable platforms get broader, digital and TV will merge even further.


TV is a growing and evolving entity that will always command a powerful connection with consumers. We just have to stay tuned.


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