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Live TV In Decline: What Brands Should Know


Live TV In Decline: What Brands Should Know

Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and other video-on-demand services have long been a rallying cry for the “TV is dead” camp. And while TV is a long way from being dead, new data from the Pivotal Research Group suggests it’s changing in ways we can no longer ignore:

  • In the last two years, average home TV watching has fallen by 2.1%
  • Adults watching day time and prime time viewing of traditional TV programming fell by double-digits for the third month in a row
  • In 2017, 58% of homes have streaming video on demand services (SVOD), versus 43% the year before
  • Homes with SVOD service watch 64.3 hours of TV per week, while those without on-demand services watch 73.5 hours

In an interview with Campaign, Pivotal’s Brad Wieser says, “Marketers don’t necessarily need to be concerned by the growing presence of SVOD services. Relatively few [consumers] have ‘cut the cord’ to rely exclusively on ad-free SVOD services, meaning that TV can mostly work much as it had in the past for large advertisers.”

But can it, really?

Deloitte’s Digital Democracy survey shows of more than 2,000 consumers finds millennials put far more value on paid streaming services than pay TV, and that combining all the demographics, two-thirds say the only reason they stay with pay TV is because it’s part of a (supposedly money-saving) cable/Internet/phone package. Combined with the variety of activities (up to 4!) viewers simultaneously engage in while watching TV, it’s a tall order to think it’s business-as-usual when it comes to TV.


A better assessment is to say that sometimes TV can work much as it had in the past, and sometimes it needs to work differently. Social media has become the new mainstream media. More than 90% of Gen Z and Millennials are on social networks and they use it to get news, resolve customer service issues and discover content, including new TV shows. Given the low levels of trust in traditional broadcast media, it’s no surprise that social has taken over.

A few brands are showing resilience for operating under these disruptive new rules.

Ad-blocking is a topic you will continue to hear more about. More than 80% of consumers will skip an online video ad if allowed, but Geico found a way around that with their pre-roll campaign, for which they won a Cannes Lion. “You can’t skip this ad because it’s already over,” acknowledges the consumer’s state of mind, but adds an unexpected and delightful surprise at the tail of each spot that keeps them hooked.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car has gone full post-advertising in their documentary film about Hockey, The road through Warroad: Hockeytown USA. The link between hockey and rental cars is not very apparent, but as Enterprise’s VP of North American marketing Lee Broughton explains in Adweek, “The days are gone when a brand like this could get away with making a direct pitch about workaday stuff like Enterprise’s friendly service or its choice of midsize sedans. The brand ideal [now] is to create emotional connections. You don’t just want to know [a brand] to purchase it, you want to experience it. This content does precisely that.”

As Enterprise has been an official sponsor of the NHL for seven years, there is precedent for the subject matter. And while the original intent was not to create a full-length documentary, they realized they were sitting on something more valuable than “a snackable piece of scroll-through”. And it aired on NBC Sports Network last February. Broughton’s hope for increased brand transactions is clear. “It’s a natural extension to develop a group of 40 million NHL fans and ice hockey lovers into customers of ours.”

So, as live TV viewing declines in some segments like daytime and prime time viewing, and streaming video on demand continues to rise, brands have an opportunity to get creative in how they make use of the customer’s attention. Some brands, like Geico, shape their ads and messages to surprise consumers in a way that relates to the viewers intent in the channel. Other brands, like Enterprise, are paving a new road in content marketing that elevates the function beyond advertising.

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