Tag Archive: future of TV

  1. Netflix with Ads: room for improvement

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    It’s been six months since Netflix launched its ad-supported tier. The streaming giant announced that it would introduce ‘Netflix Basic with Ads’ following a string of disappointing results in terms of subscriber numbers in 2021 and 2022. Despite vowing in years gone by that Netflix would never have ads, CEO Reed Hastings announced the move in the spring of 2022, and the new, lower-priced tier, launched that fall. There was great excitement amongst advertisers that the notoriously difficult-to-reach Netflix audience would finally be reachable. So how’s it going?

    An encouraging reaction from consumers…

    Whether through sheer luck or clever forecasting, Netflix’s cheaper ad-supported tier launched just as the cost-of-living crisis hit households in many countries. Many people view streaming platforms as a necessary expense, with entertainment providing a release valve for the strains of living through an economic crisis. What’s more, the proliferation of streaming platforms means that people are eager to spend less where possible. Young people in particular are switching to ad-supported tiers, driven by financial pressures and perhaps a greater tolerance of advertising. All this means that, two months after its launch, Netflix with Ads had one million subscribers in the US; it plans to increase that figure to 13.3 million by the third quarter of 2023. This will be music to the ears of advertisers; how times have changed since the early days of streaming when advertisers feared that consumers would be lost to ad-free environments.

    …but a lukewarm reception from advertisers

    While consumers have been relatively enthusiastic about Netflix’s ad-supported tier, the streaming giant had a more difficult start on Madison Avenue. Advertisers and media buyers were frustrated by the high CPM, which started at $65. While it is now lower, complaints centered around the fact that Netflix’s targeting capabilities and audience numbers did not warrant this price level; indeed, Netflix was forced to issue rebates after missing viewership targets. In December, it was reported that they had only delivered 80% of the expected audience.

    While Netflix’s CPM has now been lowered to around $55, many believe that $45 would be fairer given the platform’s current targeting capabilities, which are not yet up to par with those of other streaming providers, although to be fair, the likes of Disney+ and Max already had advanced ad sales operations up and running from their linear and cable set-ups. But advertisers are understandably not interested in ‘fair’ – they need to know that every dollar is being spent in a way that drives value, especially in the current economic context. For that, they need better ad targeting and third-party measurement. Campaign delivery was largely manual in the early phases of ads on Netflix and third-party measurement wasn’t available, but it is gradually opening up to third-party measurement in a signal that it will increase bidding volume.

    Netflix will host its inaugural Upfronts presentation next week (although it has pivoted from a live event in New York to a virtual, streamed one – likely because of picket lines for the WGA strikes), and will be eager to assure advertisers that innovations in the pipeline will bring its ad product up to scratch. Advertisers who attend Netflix’s session will be looking for three key things: ad capabilities on a par with those of its competitors, lower pricing and a larger audience. Because, despite the difficult start, brands know that once the creases are ironed out, Netflix’s ad product has huge potential. That’s why they haven’t abandoned the streaming giant just yet.

    What’s Netflix doing to address advertiser concerns?

    Netflix is acutely aware that improvements need to be made, and there are changes being made both to how it runs its ad sales operation and to its product offering. To address the former, it has hired Jon Whitticom, formerly the CPO of Comcast-Freewheel, to consult on whether it should build its own ad tech, or acquire a company with existing, high-quality capabilities. Netflix is currently partnered with Microsoft, but the issues that its ad offering has experienced so far, alongside Whitticom’s role, suggests that this partnership may not last much longer as Netflix seeks to in-house its ad sales operation.

    A few weeks ago, Netflix’s VP of global advertising sales teased some of the features that the streaming platform will soon launch. These include more advanced ad targeting capabilities; at launch, advertisers could only target by country, but more categories have been added including age, gender, state and designated market area (in the US). More interestingly, Netflix now also supports targeting by eight content genres, such as comedy, romance and action, as well as targeting by first impression, which guarantees a brand will be the first ad shown to a user during their viewing session. This product is likely to be sold at a premium.

    Advertisers will also be excited about the ability to buy inventory against Netflix’s Top 10 list, which is generated on a daily basis and ranks the top shows and movies by total hours viewed, and is displayed to viewers when they log in. This would give advertisers the ability to reach millions of viewers in a concentrated period of time.

    Netflix with ads has huge potential

    Although the launch of Netflix with Ads was a bit rocky, the streamer seems to have recognised that and is implementing solutions and features to make its ad sales operation worthy of its content. But there’s still more potential, for example creating a data clean room. Layering in first-party data, incorporating conversion-attribution and allowing for measurement of reach and frequency beyond the Netflix buy would be an extremely exciting proposition for advertisers.

    Netflix is home to some of the best streaming content in the market. If it can complement that with market-leading targeting and measurement capabilities, it will be a hard proposition to beat, and then, for many advertisers, worth the premium price.


  2. Insights from day 2 of CES 2020

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    The momentum doesn’t slow for a second at CES! On day 2 in Las Vegas we were treated to a smorgasbord of innovation – some ready-to-go, some just conceptual, but almost all are exciting and will transform how we as consumers go about our everyday lives.

    Hollywood meets Silicon Valley – but will it work?

    We started the day by attending one of CES’ flagship corporate keynotes. This one was from Jeffrey Katzenberg, former Disney Chairman and founder of Dreamworks, and Meg Whitman, former President and CEO of eBay and Hewlett Packard. They were unveiling Quibi, their mobile entertainment platform which they have positioned as the sweetspot where Hollywood meets Silicon Valley; they underlined the collaborative aspect of the creative process, where content creators and engineers work hand-in-hand right from the start to drive innovation. Quibi offers viewers a ‘revolutionary’ video-streaming technology that delivers portrait and landscape video at the same time, and allows creators to take advantage of other mobile capabilities such as GPRS, time, camera and interactivity. All content is in ‘quick bites’ (hence ‘Quibi’) of 10 minutes or less – so that it can be consumed in those historically hard-to-reach moments on the go. This means super-short series episodes and splitting movies into ‘chapters’.

    A lot of emphasis was placed on the opportunities that this platform represents for advertisers, especially the fact that it specifically targets the hard-to-reach millennial generation at a time when they are particularly hard to reach – on the go. Their low ad-load will also no doubt appeal to ad-weary generation Y. Quibi’s first-year advertising inventory, worth $150m, has sold out and they have many world-famous brands on their client roster, including AB InBev, Procter & Gamble, T-Mobile and PepsiCo; the latter was invited on stage to talk about the innovative, collaborative creative process and the brand-safe, brand appropriate environment.

    Quibi is undoubtedly an innovative new streaming platform and the idea of creating short-form video content for the on-the-go generation is a good one, but some questions remain. In the age of the streaming wars, how will this young start-up fare against established competitors such as Disney, Netflix and Warner? And will viewers really want to keep flipping their phones while they are watching a show to get the full Quibi experience? Furthermore, with content costing on average $100,000 a minute to produce and with plans to deliver a huge amount of content, is the business model sustainable? Quibi launches in April – after that, time will tell.

    A dose of futuristic technology

    After Quibi’s talk we made our way up the Strip to the Las Vegas Convention Center, where the world’s leading future-facing brands showcase their innovations. The Center is mind-bogglingly huge with the footprint of many exhibitors’ ‘stalls’ matching that of a mansion. We made a beeline for Samsung’s space, eager to see for ourselves the products that they revealed in their keynote speech. There’s so much to say about Samsung’s contribution to CES that we will be posting a separate blog about it tomorrow, but suffice to say that their space was seriously futuristic and shakes up what the future of the home, the city and even of you (and me, and all of us) looks like.

    It’s all about screens

    Screens were a big area of innovation. Our eyes were drawn by LG’s undulating display of their OLED screens – and as we entered the LG space we were shown just how slender these screens are. There was also a roll down screen on display – similar to the roll-up screen showcased a few years ago and which is now available to buy. Meanwhile, Samsung displayed its enormous MicroLED screen called ‘The Wall’. MicroLED technology allows screens to be built at any size, and The Wall is truly huge, at 292 inches or 7.4m. Its sheer scale and extreme brightness and contrast meant that it was truly a sight to behold!

    Flexible screens were another big talking point. Intel showcased its conceptual 17-inch foldable screen which works as a laptop or monitor, while Lenovo unveiled the ThinkPad X1 Fold. It seems inevitable that foldable screens will become far more commonplace over the next few years.

    Tomorrow: Samsung deep dive

    We’ll be posting a deeper dive into Samsung’s presence at CES tomorrow, including their keynote and seeing their innovations in action on the show floor. In the meantime, if you’d like to discuss anything at CES and how it affects marketers, please contact us on value@ecimm.com

    Image: Alex Matthews

  3. Insights from day 1 of CES 2020

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    Las Vegas, early January: it must be time for CES, time for 180,000 delegates to discover, quite literally, what the future holds. Alongside the famous show floor, where delegates can enjoy futuristic product demos from brands as diverse as Samsung, Nikon and Impossible Foods, there is a dazzling array of talks and discussions on a wide range of topics, from smart cities to health and fitness.

    We spent our first day on the ‘Future of TV’ tract, a series of panel discussions and talks featuring brands, agencies and TV experts discussing what the future holds for TV, and what that means for advertisers.

    A mantra for the new decade: progress before perfection

    The day started with a session on ‘The New Frontier of Television’, with the Editor of Forbes’ CMO Network, Jenny Rooney, interviewing Deborah Wahl, Global CMO of General Motors, about what developments in TV mean for her brand. Deborah talked about how GM has reaped huge benefits from the rapidly changing TV landscape – their effectiveness has increased by 10% over just three month – and how they are embracing the change by getting their teams comfortable with learning and failing. She noted – as have many over the week – that failure is inevitable, but that’s ok. If everything you do is working all the time, then you’re not doing enough, because there’s so much out there to play with. Deborah’s mantra epitomises this mindset: progress before perfection.

    Deborah also discussed how excited she is about the future of TV and how the huge amount of data available to advertisers now is helping creativity to become scientific. It’s delivering faster, better, more measurable results so that creative can be customised in almost real-time, creating content that is better for consumers – and therefore better for brands.

    When CTV effectiveness is fully measurable and provable, ad dollars will shift quickly

    Next up was a panel featuring Lynn Blashford of White Castle, Gustavo Alvarado of Activision and PepsiCo’s Kate Brady, facilitated by Innovid’s Stephanie Geno. The group discussed scaling success in connected TV (CTV), and started out by discussing what is holding brands back from CTV: it receives just 3% of media investment in the US, despite accounting for 30% of media consumption. The key reasons given were measurement, high CPMs, a lack of inventory and proven models from linear TV: investment in tradition TV has always led to an increase in sales, and it’s difficult to take money away from something that is proven to work. Brands are still looking for ways to illustrate success as clearly and quickly for digital devices and CTV so they can start shifting significant ad dollars to these platforms.

    Kate Brady mentioned how her ultimate goal is to harness data from CTV to optimise activity on a weekly basis – and ideally even more frequently – ‘the more data we can have, and the better we can optimise, the more it will help us’. She emphasised the importance of using data to work out what resonates with one customer versus another, so that personalisation can drive brand love as well as ROI. Meanwhile, Gustavo Alvarado discussed how direct response hasn’t been a focus on how we buy TV, but the opportunity to ‘add to cart’ direct from a CTV ad would be a really exciting development for advertisers. However – he said that whatever the future holds, it must be measurable. Measurement is key.

    What do the streaming wars mean for CMOs?

    With the launch or imminent launch of streaming platforms from Disney, Apple, NBC and Warner, we were particularly excited about the next session, about what the streaming wars mean for CMOs. Innovid’s Tal Chalozin interviewed Rich Greenfield from LightShed Partners about how CMOs can best navigate this new landscape. Rich noted how numbers for live TV are down by double digit percentages, and even when we do watch live TV we are not as engaged as we used to be, particularly during ad breaks. That’s true even for live sport, the saving grace of linear TV. This is partly because the ad experience on traditional TV is not nearly as engaging for viewers as it is on, say, Instagram. TV advertising has not kept up with the internet and isn’t customisable or shareable. He went on to discuss how expensive channel bundles are and how they force consumers to pay for channels they are not interested in. This, combined with a frequently heavy ad load, sends consumers straight into the embrace of the streaming platforms which are cheaper, offer content that they actually want to watch, and allow them to watch it seamlessly across devices.

    An interesting point that Rob raised was the fact that wealthier consumers are now effectively able to buy themselves out of advertising – so how do we reach them? The obvious answer is live sport, but there simply isn’t enough to satisfy the demand of the many brands for whom wealthier demographics are their target audience. It’s a question that has yet to be answered, but integration may be part of the solution.

    Moving from creating ads to curating experiences

    Next to take to the stage was the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Mastercard, Raja Rajamannar, in discussion with Innovid’s Beth-Ann Eason about Mastercard’s new approach to marketing. Raja started by emphasising that Mastercard now looks at consumers as people, for whom consumption is just a small part of their lives. What happens outside of that consumption – how they live their lives, their values, their passions – informs how and what they consume. People are bored of ads and care more about experiences than things, so Mastercard’s marketing strategy focuses on ‘nothing but curating experiences’, targeted in a highly effective way. Raja’s team divided people’s lives into 10 different passion points, such as music and food, and curated multi-sensory experiences at scale, with seamless and non-intrusive integration of the Mastercard brand. These experiences engage people completely and make them want to tell and spread the story of that experience – word of mouth for the 21st century. This strategy and razor focus on experience has helped Mastercard to move from number 87 to number 12 in Kantar’s ranking of the top 100 most valuable brands, and to be named Interbrand’s fastest growing brand across all categories.

    The future of linear TV in the US relies on NFL

    Innovid’s ‘Future of TV’ tract was wrapped up by Luma’s inimitable Terry Kawaja, who took us on a rip-roaring ride through the stream wars and the future of TV. He pointed out that the streaming wars have created Nirvana for customers, who have more choice at less cost, and that the future for linear television in the US essentially rests in the hands of NFL. NFL contracts are up in the next few years, and the big tech companies such as Amazon are getting ready to swoop – Jeff Bezos himself has said that Amazon wants to use live sports to drive value for prime customers. The big problem for the linear TV companies? Those big tech companies have a lot more money, and global reach. In order to defend themselves, the broadcast networks are turning to scale consolidation, direct OTT distribution and CTV tech acquisition – but they need to do it quickly.

    There are few losers in the future of TV

    One of our favourite slides of the day was one that we shared on our LinkedIn page here. In it, Terry showed his audience the winners and losers of the streaming wars. For agencies, tech intermediaries, big tech, content creators and consumers the streaming wars are undoubtedly great news, while for media distributors it is less positive. Terry believed that for brands it could go either way, but in a subsequent panel discussion that he hosted with brand CMOs and TV experts, he revised his opinion and decreed that the age of streaming was in fact a great opportunity for brands!

    An opportunity to bundle streaming service packages

    Another key takeaway from Terry’s talk was his prediction that the myriad options available to consumers would in time open up an opportunity for an independent third party to re-aggregate the streaming platforms, bundling up their services in order to make them more manageable – and more affordable – for consumers. His prediction for who that third party could be? Apple – who could well want to position themselves at the top of the TV ‘waterfall’ in the same way that Amazon is for shopping and Google is for search.

    More insights from #CES2020 tomorrow

    Day one at CES was an incredible opportunity to hear from experts about their vision and predictions for the future of TV: if you would like to discuss anything you have read here in more depth with our experts then please get in touch. In tomorrow’s blog we’ll be covering the keynote from Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman on their new mobile entertainment platform, Quibi, and bringing insights and innovation from the CES show floor.

    Image: Alex Matthews

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