Linear TV: The Next Frontier

Geoff Wolinetz Vice President of Client Relationships

There’s a scene in the Seinfeld episode, “The Pitch,” where Jerry and George are pitching their concept for a sitcom about nothing. NBC executives, Jerry and George spend a little time hashing out the sitcom idea in real time. While pressing them on the concept, the president of NBC, Russell Dalrymple (played by Bob Balaban), asks George why, if nothing happens, is he watching it?

“Because it’s on TV!” a frustrated George exclaims– to which Dalrymple replies “Not yet.”

In the years since that episode first aired, “it’s on TV” has changed pretty dramatically. The ways and methods in which we consume TV have evolved in many ways. Between time-shifted viewing, SVOD platforms, direct-to-consumer mobile apps and dMVPDs, there are numerous outlets on which we can watch our favorite programming. Indeed, the definition of TV itself has changed significantly in recent years.

TV is Dead = Fake News

Given all of the changes in consumption methods and platforms, it would be easy to assume that the bell you hear tolling portends the death of television. But TV is not dead—indeed television is far more alive than it ever has been. Just three examples to put things in perspective:

  • One 30-minute episode of Judge Judy still gets more ad views than an entire day of YouTube. Some reports say as much as double the ad views.
  • Joe Marchese, President of Ad Sales at Fox, said in his last upfront presentation that on any given Tuesday, Fox viewership is equivalent to 700 Facebooks. In fact, that’s just three hours of primetime.  A full day of Fox programming is work 70,000 Facebooks.
  • Not only are people continuing to watch a lot of TV, but the ads on TV consistently drive better outcomes when compared to other placements. According to a recent study, ad recall is highest with TV across all demos—including hard-to-reach Millennials.

Ad Recall is Highest with TV Across All Demos

If Digital is Lake Superior, TV is the Pacific Ocean

Television’s biggest challenge isn’t the loss of viewers; it’s undeniable that TV’s scale remains unmatched, especially when you factor in both its traditional definition – the set-top box that sits next to your living room TV – and the new definition – the content you consume across all of the many platforms on which it’s available. The present and future of TV is in the unification of these fragmented audiences, so we can’t take the reality of that fragmentation for granted.

Our challenge is to solve for how we can create operational and technical fluidity and fluency throughout these platforms to make sure that we’re maximizing the experience for our consumers– and as a result, delivering them advertising experiences that create value for all parties. FreeWheel’s goals and products are all in service of that end:  to create a unified ad management platform that converges inventory management and optimization across all sales channels.

It’s a lofty goal, for sure, but we’re already putting points on the board in a couple of different ways. Through our Hybrid Linear Digital Ad Scheduler (HyLDA), working with the world’s largest publishers, we’ve successfully run over two billion live impressions in a linear-style log for the most viewed live-sports broadcasts. And through our Set-Top Box Video On-Demand (STB VOD) and Linear Addressable trials, we’re doing digital-style ad insertion in traditional linear tech.

Given this accelerated convergence and the sales strategies that seek to leverage all video inventory as a fluid pool, it won’t be long before digital and linear operations teams are asked to become familiar with each other’s businesses, systems, and processes. Organizations that are working toward this now, like NBCU’s Total Audience Delivery, which combines their linear, digital, and out-of-home total viewer metrics, will be greatly advantaged in a world where currently fragmented audiences reunify.

Because that’s why we watch.  It’s on TV.