TV has significantly transformed over the last decade from the relatively simple days of traditional broadcast and cable networks to a new world of linear and digital video, distributed and streamed through a multitude of devices, screens and platforms.
This digital evolution has added capabilities to television delivery previously unattainable, and the traditional networks are adapting to and embracing these new digital-based technologies. Despite this evolution, TV's transactional legacy means that buyers and sellers have feet in the old and new worlds. In order to make sense of this dual complexity, a group of TV executives are tackling the challenges of this merged linear and digital world, meeting on a regular basis to discuss workable solutions and a way forward for the entire TV ecosystem.
The FreeWheel Council for Premium Video (FWC) brings together some of the most prominent executives from the TV industry—including representatives from the likes of ABC, ESPN, NBCUniversal and Turner—to discuss ways TV buying and selling can be improved. With more addressable and automated solutions now available within the world of premium video, the FWC is focusing on driving outcomes for marketers and agencies while enhancing the overall user experience.
TV's scale has always successfully driven awareness and customer growth for brands. No other medium has the track record of driving top-of-the-funnel awareness. That power of TV's scale can now be enhanced by the targeting ability of a digital ecosystem, driving results further down the purchase funnel.
"The leaders in the industry … have to have conversations and agree on common currencies, a shared technology, ways to approach data, how to use our own data as well as borrowing other people's data, so that we can move forward as an industry," says Dave Clark, EVP and general manager, FreeWheel. "The FreeWheel Council was formed with that mission in mind, to provide a forum for these leaders to come together, discuss these issues, work on projects together, and lead the industry towards what we hope is a better future."
At the most recent FreeWheel Council executive board dinner in New York, ahead of this year's TV upfront buying season, members participated in a roundtable discussion that focused on why quality reach, data and ease of buying matters to marketers buying TV and video today, and how TV is evolving to meet those expectations.
"There are a handful of things that are table stakes today that were not table stakes two or three or four years ago," says Amit Chaturvedi, EVP, revenue operations and product management, Turner, who noted that scale, trusted environments, transparency and ad experience are all now nonnegotiable for marketers. "When you put all this together, that's really what premium video means today. The programmer has to be able to check all of these boxes, just like the marketer has to be able to check all of these boxes." Brand marketers want to simplify how to buy TV and premium video by ultimately creating one plan, making one buy targeted at a specific audience, delivered wherever viewing occurs, and finally, receiving one comprehensive report. TV companies are working to establish greater consistency and efficiency, so TV and premium video in aggregate provides the simplicity that other digital platforms offer marketers. Aligning on inventory, platforms, data and best practices will also help to deliver on that streamlined buying approach. "The way TV is evolving is trying to take some of the best of digital," says Laura Nelson, SVP, audience solutions, Disney ABC Sales. "How do we bring data-driven solutions? How do you bring new ways to reach clients with different opportunities?" This is especially relevant in light of the fact that advertisers and premium video publishers are about to embark on this year's upfront negotiation, and while many of these companies will be going head-to-head competing for the same advertising budgets, there is an understanding among FWC members that TV operating more like a platform will help foster a more positive advertising ecosystem and create unique opportunities for brand marketers. Krishan Bhatia, EVP, business operations and strategy, NBCUniversal, summarizes this progress succinctly: "We believe TV is evolving in a number of ways. Better measurement across all platforms to deliver on a total audience perspective. Automation, to increase the efficiency of the workflow. And data, in order to make premium video more intelligent through targeting and optimization."