Brain Chatter: Inside the Canadian TV Industry's Turnaround Strategy

April 28, 2017 Shane Schick

It’s not like people in the TV industry don’t care about ratings anymore, but right now there are a lot of other numbers on their minds.

Bad numbers.

Scary numbers.

The kind of numbers that make you want to . . . escape it all by binge-watching something on Netflix.

I’m referring, of course, to the hoards of people who are spending at least some of the time they once spent consuming traditional broadcast TV in favour of an on-demand option, chatting on social media or even playing a mobile game. This was the big topic at the Future TV Advertising Forum in Toronto recently, and the overarching conclusion is that brands simply don’t have all the numbers they really need.

“There seems to be confusion about what’s measured and what data is available,” Neil McEneaney, President & CEO of Numeris told the audience.

In other words, it’s not enough to show a big stat suggesting TV viewership is declining. The Holy Grail is showing the impact of a cross-platform approach -- what happens when a brand advertises on TV, online video, social media and so on.

According to McEneaney, the industry has yet to develop measurement and reporting on cross-platform campaigns that are consistent and trustworthy.

“There’s a lack of confidence in statements about numbers. Clients will say ‘The digital spending needs to be audited.’ I hear it all the time.”

Numeris is working on it. The company wants to work with various broadcasters on what it calls a Video Audience Measurement tool that will be developed over the next 18 months. McEneaney believes the tool will help prove that advertising on digital and TV actually improves the overall results of a particular campaign.

At comScore, the company believes it may have already done that based on data from set top boxes as well as census data. Though this has only been done in the U.S. so far, comScore co-founder and CEO Gian Fulgoni said the model goes well beyond typical data categories like age and gender. There are breakdowns for viewership of live TV, DVR, video on demand, PC, mobile and even income and household size.

“TV ad numbers don’t reflect the monetization of digital channel,” he said. “For TV to get its fair share of that consumption pattern, it needs to be measured at the right granular levels.”

After some advertisers recently saw their creative placed next to racist or extremist videos on YouTube, it might not take a lot of convincing for some brands to reconsider the networks. There’s also no question that for certain marketing objectives, TV is still the kind of reach that’s almost unparalleled, particularly during live events like the Super Bowl or the Oscars.

No matter how strong the data, though, the industry won’t be able to measure its way out of the perceived superiority of digital channels. It’s been fashionable to dismiss TV as antiquated and disrupted next to fast-growing social networks.

Now that digital feels a little less new, maybe TV will feel a little less “old.” (It helps that the younger-skewing media brands, like Vice, are betting big there). Its mere survival, as well as its willingness to adapt and complement digital channels means TV could wind up stronger than ever.

This show is far from over. Don’t touch that dial.

Shane Schick is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and tells stories about innovation in IT, content and more.

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