The Future Of TV Is Clear

July 8, 2019

Over the past several weeks, I’ve had the honor of presenting to two Brand Innovators Summits in Minneapolis and Chicago on the Future of TV. Like all conferences, I learned as much as I shared, and now I want to share with you what I’ve learned. But first, I had to go to a mountain top in the Rockies. Which was pretty great.

The future of TV is, well, unlike anything you’ve experienced in TV but everything like you’ve experienced in digital. The fact is that giant screen in your living or family room has become, for all practical purposes, a giant computer. It has chips in it, an IP address, and, most likely, high speed internet flooding its pixels. 

The stats are clear. More and more people are cutting the cord to traditional cable. In fact, there’s an entire generation of consumers we now call “cord-nevers.” If you have kids under the age of 20, you know what I’m talking about. Who thought anyone would ever enjoy watching full episodes of Black Mirror on a damn phone? Forget the TV. Those tiny screens seem good enough. Weirdos.

This massive change in consumer behavior, fueled by HD-level WiFi and giant computer screens called TVs, means that marketers are increasingly able to target individuals and households, not “people who watch these shows.” To me, it’s very, very clear where we’re headed. The days where we purchase audiences in bulk based upon a very limited data set of reported numbers are limited. You gotta get your head around buying individuals and households, not shows. We’re nomadic. We jump all over the place. We jump from show to show on any given night. Add YouTube — THE WORLD’S LARGEST WEB SITE — and you know what I’m talking about. That rabbit hole of watching endless car chases is real shit.

The growth curve for the emerging Connected/Addressable/Over-The-Top (OTT)/Advanced/Programmatic TV options is far outgrowing any traditional television viewing. (I could go on for days about the differences, or you could read this excellent overview from SteelHouse, one of my fellow presenters, instead.) Yet, most media buyers continue to treat TV as somehow different from their digital buys. I mean, I sort of get it. It’s not full scale yet. We don’t have a firm date, obviously, and we believe that traditional channels are still very much important — so much so that we just hired a director of media investment, Jake Coldren, who brings to us many years of both traditional and digital planning. In fact, Jake shared with me this morning that his biggest frustration in the space is that the lack of innovation from networks.

Jake says: “The biggest complaint this year out of the Upfronts has been the broadcast industry’s resistance to evolve. Advertisers can see ratings continue to hemorrhage and are becoming frustrated with annual double digit inflation costs. Yes, it is the largest reach platform (for now). But if you aren’t in the pharma, auto or beer category, it is becoming harder to justify a big TV investment. Brands are asking for solutions, but the industry has been very slow to respond to those demands.”  

So while you can see that a lot of big players in broadcast continue to drag kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, the rest of us see the writing on the wall: we’re definitely on a trajectory towards a fully digital ecosystem. And emerging players like YouTubeTV, Amazon FireTV (more on that in a sec), Hulu, Roku, Sling, and others aren’t waiting around. I firmly believe everything will be streamed and every one will be addressable, and, more importantly, I firmly believe this is 100% good for brands of all shapes and sizes, not just the large brand media players anymore.

But don’t take my word for it. Just look at what challenger and direct-to-consumer brands are doing in the connected TV space where they are exploiting white space to participate in television whereas until now it was cost-prohibitive. There are deals to be had. It’s early in this game, and the campaigns we are currently running in connected TV offerings like Hulu perform excellently. We treat them like any other pixeled funnel channel, just at the very top of it. Digital TV is important because many other digital channels have suffered from a scale problem. You can only go so far with search, social, and display. Digital TV gives brands the creative and targeting real estate to inspire people in a large format screen that other channels simply can’t.

The holy grail is yet to come — fully interactive television. That’s where I’m banking our future here at Ciceron. So who should we pay attention to? Amazon. Their FireTV offering is clear. Do you think Jeff Bezos wanted to get into the TV business? Nope. He’s in the transaction business. Imagine interactive television where every ad contains conversion opportunities and connected to your Amazon Prime account. That’s where this is headed, folks. 

Get ready.