The beginning of autumn is an important time in the television industry. It’s when all the broadcast networks launch their new shows and duke it out for ratings dominance in the key audience demographics.
This year is no different. CBS hopes to solidify its recent prime-time dominance in total audience. NBC is looking for lightning in a bottle and recapturing its old mojo. FOX wants to keep its power with younger demos. ABC wants to continue its power with women. CW wants to show it can hold and grow its relationships with teens.
Behind the scenes, and on second screens, lots more is happening. Networks are embracing social media this year like never before, leveraging check-in tools like Get Glue, Likes on Facebook and social analytics from firms like Blue Fin Labs.
But that’s not all. This year, for the first time ever, the majority of networks launching and relaunching shows will be tracking the success of their TV campaigns with spot level, success metrics and attribution derived from direct-viewing measures: digital set-top-box viewing data. Heads of marketing at the networks and their agencies are now tracking the success of their TV campaigns this year just as they were buying search terms or evaluating view-through conversions from Web ads. With direct measured viewing data of millions of viewers now available, TV network marketers can know who saw their ads and whether or not people tuned into their shows. The game has changed.
Historically, networks measured their off-channel promos with only panel measures and focus groups, and primarily focused on the demographic of bulk audiences as they “flowed” from show to show and net to net at the demographic level. This year, they will know exactly which promos worked best by audience, network, show and day part. They will know whether unexposed audiences still tuned in. They will be able to know their actual ROI. Every spot and every media buy will now be evaluated on a cost-per-viewer metric. Digital measurement and attribution has arrived for TV tune-in, at a level more like we see with search and ecommerce conversions.
No longer are network marketers making multimillion-dollar decisions by just gut, instinct and decades-old truisms and panel approximations. Now, they can know what the ideal frequency is by audience and promo type. They can know what the ideal lead time is for promotional campaigns. They can now compare the effectiveness of promotions spots on their own “air” versus those aired on other networks. They can know whether it really matters that their promotional ads contain day and date.
Why does this matter? If the folks who know the most about television – TV networks themselves – are now pioneering the use of digital set-top-box viewing measurements, how long can it be before more and more general market advertisers follow suit? I’m writing this from the ANA Masters of Marketing conference in Orlando, where every other word is about effectiveness and ROI in marketing. Not long, I suspect.
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