The TV giants will kick off their pre-announced sales time this week, hoping to impress ad buyers with the glitz and emotional power of talent and show.
For now, however, some major buying and measuring initiatives have hit or fallen short – the TV business is threatening $ 70 billion.
Take, for example, Open A.P. In 2017, WarnerMedia's Turner, Fox Networks Group and the Viacom founded the consortium to make it easier for advertisers to buy the audience across the competing networks. Industry leader NBCUniversal brought it a year later.
Read more: People are tired of TV ads. Here's how NBCUniversal is trying to fix it.
One Open A.P. has lost two of his original masters, Joe Marchese and David Levy, who are away from their senior sales and sales ads at Fox and Turner. Earlier this year Turner pulled out as his new owner AT & T decided to pursue his own audience sales game, Xandr.
Open A.P. still has three large networks. It has just installed its first CEO, former Fox Networks exec David Levy, addressing a criticism that it did not have dedicated leadership. Open A.P. also promised to grow and expand the platform to simplify the audience buying on a scale.
Some agencies say Open A.P has not fulfilled its potential. They say it was designed for the networks, not the advertisers, who still have to negotiate network agreements and cannot easily compare the performance. Open A.P. Runs only about 5% of expenses right now.
There have been other setbacks on the measuring and buying front. Last year, agencies were thrilled when the big media target giants, Nielsen and Comscore, installed new leadership from the marketing worlds and kicked up hopes that they would accelerate the long-awaited step of measuring wherever people watch TV, with the rise of string cutting and digital viewing .
However, Comscore's CEO and President left earlier this year after less than a year after colliding with the board of directors over the company's direction.
In another high profile initiative, NBCUniversal has rolled out CFlight, an ambitious effort to deliver ads across the platform. But success meant getting rival networks to adopt it, which has gone slow.
Agencies also have their grip on it. In the accounts of several people watching one show at the same time, CFlight uses a public proxy instead of actual-level metrics, which buyers are accustomed to getting for digital campaigns, asking for up to 1
"That's what drives us and all our clients," he said.
What happened to cutting ad root?
With people watching less traditional TV, NBCU, Fox and Turner have made various promises to cut commercial root in the hope of improving the viewing experience and spelling of carpenter. Networks also pushed short, six-second ads that are popular in digital. But in practice, advertising time actually increased last year, and some insiders said the six-second ads didn't work as well as longer.
"Looking at the industry killing itself is amazing," regretted a prominent industry insider.
Some insiders said the short ads didn't work as well as longer.
"Being able to communicate a six-second message is amazing, incredibly difficult," said Dave Morgan, founder and CEO of Simulmedia, helping advertisers buy targeted TV. "In 15 seconds you can say something to make an action. But it must be very well understood."
The pruning time only works if advertisers pay more for the smaller ads (NBCU has reportedly asked for 40% to 70% more), which they are reluctant to do, unless they can be sure the ads will actually work better.
If networks can't get advertisers to pay more for smaller ads, addressable TV ads targeted to narrower audiences can have the potential to get more value outside of television. Advertisers are thrilled with this because it would allow a car manufacturer to show an ad to say a minivan to only minivan buyers, rather than all potential vehicle buyers. However, addressable TV has not taken off for a number of reasons, on the measurement and advertiser side, and on the network side.
Meanwhile, advertisers can already do this targeting in many other places.
"I can go into Hulu and use an advanced goal," said Ed Gaffney, managing partner and director of implementation research and market analysis at GroupM. "I can go to Amazon and Target to find people most likely in the market. There are many opportunities to get video ads in front of people."
All this means that buyers are looking for calls with low expectations.
"I don't know we should get this great" aha "moment," says Gibbs Haljun, total investment management for Mindshare US, of the network performance presentations. "There will be many remaining issues, and no one will be new." Live programming still drives the audience. Brand Safety. We give you full transparency. "What we want to hear more about is the research and how we move the industry forward."
Will the television industry itself change?
Some buyers wonder if the TV business really wants to modernize. After all, there are strong forces that keep tv on doing the same thing. It's built on letting advertisers spray ads for mass meters, not narrowly targeted. If TV companies let big advertisers buy addressable ads, they may realize they don't have to buy so many of them.
Networks know that their large commercial loads risk running away viewers. But cutting time means potentially sacrificing revenue because advertisers don't want to pay more unless they see evidence that sharper ads are performing better.
And if media sellers measure the same way as everyone else, it's harder to make the case that they are special and worth paying more for.
"Everyone is trying to do things to stand out from their competition," Haljun said.
However, linking to the old ways can mean missed opportunities. Online consumer companies such as Casper and Harrys, who started online, are revolutionizing how people are marketed. The DTC companies are starting to migrate beyond Facebook and spend on TV advertising.
But they are not likely to be represented by an agency holding company, their budgets are relatively small for TV, and they expect real-time campaign performance reports that TV companies are not created for and will cost more to manage.
Not selling classified ads also means missing out on all the small and medium-sized advertisers who flock to Facebook because they can do neighborhood-specific targeting where it's not possible on TV.
TV is changing, just not as fast as agencies want
Agencies are optimistic that change will come when television starts squeezing as advertisers can link enough audience to digital platforms that linear TV becomes less important. The linear TV market fell slightly in 2017 and again in 2018 when people switched to digital viewing.
Buyers are not without sympathy. People like Steuer give credit for efforts like CFlight. They also acknowledge that TV companies do not have full control over their destiny as their shows are being observed on other platforms such as Apple TV and Hulu.
"No matter how big CBS is, they're not going to get full data on Apple TV," says Chris Wexler, SVP for media and analytics at Cramer-Krasselt. "But more and more, the CMO is digital natives and will require the level of control they are used to having in digital."