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Kevin KrimDecember 12, 20237 min read

Four for 2024: EDO’s TV Ad Industry Predictions

2023 was a surprising, often challenging year across the board: for brands, agencies, studios, networks, and streamers. Inflation and interest rates forced marketers to make tough decisions, a pair of industry strikes brought disorder to production schedules and networks’ primetime lineups, and years of streaming over-investment ran head-first into the medium’s financial realities

As we look ahead to 2024, it seems clear that we’re in for another year of transition and turbulence. While the strikes have been resolved, the underlying economics of streaming must continue to evolve — even as our societal shift to streaming turns into a tidal wave. And the massively fragmented Convergent TV landscape keeping advertisers up at night? That isn’t going anywhere, either.

The good news? For all that’s changing in TV land, there are some things that never will. TV networks — and now streamers — will produce high-quality content, we will flock to great programming, and brands will pay up to reach us when and where we’re most engaged. 

In 2024, our industry will move toward stability in a streaming-first world by focusing on the basics that never go out of style: quality content, consumer value, and a commitment to delivering real, measurable results.

PREDICTION #1: 

“TV” will be defined by its quality — not by how we watch it.

Fifteen years ago, “What is TV?” was a straightforward question with a straightforward answer: If a piece of content appeared on your TV screen, it was “TV” — whether it was a TV program or a TV ad, and no matter how you saw it. Simple. But over the past decade and a half, this answer has become far more complex, and the lines between “TV” and “digital video” far more blurred. 

Today, we can access a network’s programming through a range of linear subscriptions, streaming services, virtual MVPDs, TV everywhere apps, and/or browser-based websites — whenever you want, however you want it — across our TVs, laptops, tablets, and phones. Conversely, the TV itself is now used for all kinds of content beyond the traditional broadcast-and-cable bundle: YouTube videos, Twitch streams, streaming exclusives, FAST app content, TikTok clips, and so much more.

2023 saw a major shift in how EDO’s clients planned and budgeted for “TV”, more often than not including YouTube in their TV budgets after years of including it in social video budgets. Furthermore, an increasing number of industry power players are now recognizing the expanded definition of “TV” by offering consumers the option to bundle streaming services, or to pair a linear cable and streaming service subscription at a discounted rate. 

In 2024, this trend will only accelerate, as advertisers, networks, agencies, and streaming platforms come to define “TV” as “high-quality video content” — regardless of where, when, and how we access it.

PREDICTION #2: 

A more complex, competitive, and costly TV landscape will make media agencies more important than ever.

For years, marketers have looked to the readily available insights, sophisticated automation, and precise targeting of digital as an opportunity to cut their media-buying agencies out of the equation and bring buying “in-house.” But many have come to discover (or are about to) that it’s much easier said than done, particularly in the world of Convergent TV.

As consumers migrate from a single cable bundle to a smorgasbord of rotating monthly streaming services, virtual mPVDs, and FAST apps, making the right media buy has become that much more complicated for advertisers. And we expect more ad-supported premium video streaming entrants this coming year (think a much enhanced Amazon Prime Video and a new Apple TV+ ad-supported tier). 

In 2024, we believe advertisers will increasingly lean on the media agencies that eat, drink, sleep, and breathe our industry to make sense of a world that seems to get more complex with each passing day. 

With 2024 presenting a double whammy of Elections and Olympics, the cost of buying Convergent TV will increase, presenting brands with a greater risk of getting boxed out of the increasingly competitive scatter market. And in a time of tightening economics where corporate headcount is precious, brands (and their CFOs) will be well-served to have a team of experts they can scale up (and down) out of their marketing budgets.

PREDICTION #3: 

Programmatic TV Advertising takes a leap forward, and we finally start asking hard questions about the data.

Buying and selling TV advertising via programmatic ad platforms was one of the hottest topics of conversation at this year’s Upfronts, with Disney announcing that one out of every three of its advertisers now buys programmatically — up from one in four the year prior. 

Programmatic will continue its Convergent TV invasion in 2024, as advertisers chase the allure of combining the highly engaging, premium environment of TV with the precise targeting they use to buy programmatic banner ads. It remains to be seen how media owners will manage the risk of cratering revenue yields that occurred when programmatic grew in the digital media industry over a decade ago.

Regardless, this programmatic trend will force all of us to finally confront a gaping hole in the fundamentals of the audience-targeting ecosystem: the accuracy of the data. According to a recent study from Truthset, nearly half the data used in digital audience targeting is flat-out wrong. And plenty of so-called “premium” programmatic TV ad buys wind up being trafficked on low-quality websites instead of the prestige TV app experience buyers expected. As media costs increase in an Election + Olympics year, these quality issues will get a bright, hot spotlight on them.

The upshot? 2024 will be the year that advertisers really start investigating the data they invested in to make their programmatic TV buying strategies sing. As the quality of programmatic audience data is questioned, advertisers will begin focusing on what works — evaluating campaigns based on the tangible outcomes their TV dollars are driving. 

This, in turn, will drive the DSPs and SSPs to confront another notable gap – most platforms only optimize for audience targets and cost minimization, while leaders like Google are optimizing for outcomes. Modern marketers will win by taking a more holistic view of performance, rather than simply assessing their ability to “reach” smaller and smaller audiences of dubious quality.

PREDICTION #4:

Major league sports fully embrace streaming — not just on Thursday nights.

When Amazon first won the rights to Thursday Night Football, media pundits were split on whether it would be a success. Would the median NFL fan be tech-savvy enough to log into Prime Video to see the game? Would the stream be able to hold up for major-league sized audiences?

We’re now 1.5 years into TNF on Prime Video, and it’s safe to say these questions have been put to rest. The NFL is a great brand with a loyal audience, and its fans are going to figure out a way to watch the action live, as evidenced by strong viewership numbers on Prime Video. What’s more, these games have consistently delivered more engaged audiences for advertisers. Think about it — it’s harder to switch out your TV’s streaming app than flip channels, and streaming has taught us to pick something and stick with it. No wonder that Apple is working with MLB and MLS, and Netflix is dipping its toes into the live sports waters, as well.

In 2024, we expect to see more major-league level sports showing up on an increasing number of (exclusive?) streaming services. And we’ll be watching the NBA. The league’s TV rights deal ends after the 2024-25 season, and several streaming services are rumored to be courting the league. We wouldn’t be surprised to see key games in the NBA In-Season Tournament, a smash success in its first season, wind up exclusively on a streamer.

We are living through a tipping point we’ve all known was coming. The new year will be a fascinating one — from our industry redefining “TV” to streaming sports changing how we come together — you can’t work in TV and advertising and not share the excitement, and more than a little bit of anxiety.

But by focusing on our industry’s core truths and the best interests of TV viewers, those of us who are ready to face the future with clear eyes will be ready for the emerging new world — in 2024 and beyond.

Now if only I could figure out what to watch tonight…

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