Birds eye view

Why it’s the best time to be a media/TV planner

Let me start by asking you a question about E4’s audience. E4 is the home of American sitcoms such as Brooklyn 99 and The Big Bang Theory, alternative animations like Rick & Morty and of course socialite hit Made in Chelsea. Of all the adult impacts E4 delivered in H1 this year, how many of them do you think were from people aged 55 or older?

The answer is a whopping 44%. To put that into context the comparative figure back in 2012 was just 12%. The audience most of us would naturally assume E4 is built to cater for – 16-34s – accounted for 57% but this is down to 18% so far this year.

This shift is partly due to the ongoing trend within linear TV that sees 16-34s migrate to other platforms, but is there more at play here? Are we falling into the media-bubble trap of assuming everyone else thinks and acts as we do, and that audience demographics are static cohorts that don’t evolve over time?  It’s reasonable to assume there are lots of people who loved E4 back in their 30s and didn’t just stop watching it when they blew out the candles on their 35th birthday cake.

I like the E4 example for two reasons: firstly, because it challenges our preconceptions of what the ‘right’ channels are for your briefs, but also because far from showing a problem with linear TV, it shows the exciting challenges and opportunities that exist within AV planning and buying in 2022.

The blurred picture

A TV specialist saying we’re at a crossroads in how we plan and buy TV is about as common as a news reporter in 2020 saying we’re living in unprecedented times. The truth is we are at a crossroads, and we’ll likely be at different crossroads in 10 years’ time. But that doesn’t make it any less true, nor the options available to brands any less exciting.

In the early years of the rise of Netflix binging was king. Have all 12 episodes of Breaking Bad to watch this weekend. Gorge yourself on the latest documentary from the States. This was a radical change from the traditional model of shared weekly moments, everyone watching TV on a Sunday night to find out whodunnit and then discussing plot points on Monday morning.

But in recent years the models have started to blur. It’s now common to hear your continuity announcer on linear TV say that you can watch the next episode on Friday or stream all episodes right away online. On the other side, Netflix and co are starting to drip feed their best content. The latest series of Stranger Things was released in two waves, while if Only Murders in the Building is your cup of tea you need to wait until Tuesday to get the latest episode on Disney+.

This move towards a more common ground doesn’t stop there. The well-publicised introduction of an ad-funded tier within Netflix is likely to land in early 2023, while ITV will soon be rolling out ITVX which promises exclusive content, series premiering online months before a linear release and a subscription-based tier. If content is king, we’re moving into a time when platforms, not channels, are the palace.

The data question

No article on this topic would be complete without mentioning data. TV has long wrestled with this topic; yes, there is lots of it, but how to properly apply it to a medium that is booked two months in advance and is more sledgehammer than scalpel? The pandemic put paid to the first barrier, with shorter lead times becoming the norm as sales houses saw the benefit of offering increased flexibility to advertisers.

As for the second challenge, while TV in its purest form remains mass reach, being able to dovetail with more targeting buying routes – be it through addressable, programmatic or CTV – means we can have our cake and eat it. The challenge for agencies and brands is to find the right mix (avoiding binary, ‘either or’ decisions in favour of diversity of channels) and remember that consumers don’t think in terms of linear vs BVOD and so on. Consumers watch content and will migrate to the platforms that best serve their needs; media plans that ignore traditional barriers and focus on attention and context should be the priority.

Daunting? Yes. Exciting? Absolutely. All three of the UK’s main broadcasters are in great shape (and let’s hope the new Prime Minister makes one of their first acts dropping the C4 privatisation) and with their respective digital agendas blending with proven excellence on more traditional platforms the scene is set for a new age of AV planning and buying.

Throw in the potential opportunities on Netflix, Amazon and Disney+ and there truly never has been a better time to be an AV planner.

By Head of Broadcast, Gregor Chalmers, as originally featured in New Digital Age.