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TV ratings slump has yet to deter advertisers

News, 16 May 2017
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NEW YORK: Official TV viewing figures are declining in certain demographics but advertisers, gathering in New York for the annual Upfronts, continue to prize TV's reach and reliability.

In the US, the coveted 18-49-year-old Nielsen ratings have fallen by 11% this season, The New York Times reported. And some heavyweight shows like The Voice, Modern Family, and NCIS, have seen even bigger declines of between 15% and 19% among under-50 audiences.

Kevin Reilly, the chief creative officer of Turner Entertainment, suggested that the industry is in a "transitional phase" where "to a large degree, boomers are keeping television as we define it today afloat".

Network executives are hoping that these younger audiences are moving onto digital platforms, and are, therefore, not recorded in the Nielsen ratings. 

But TV's reach and completion rates remain strong. Joe Marchese, Fox's new head of ad sales told the Times that the "number of minutes we show commercials is way more than YouTube or Facebook on a video basis — many multiples more".

And people are still watching TV. Lyle Schwartz, president of investment for North America at WPP's GroupM told the FT, that "overall we don't believe the consumer is moving away from video. What's going on is video consumption is diversifying" – as they watch content on multiple devices.

Marketers are having to follow them – "What is the difference between a TV, PC, an iPad and a mobile phone? We're looking at rectangular boxes with moving pictures" pointed out Keith Weed, CMO at Unilever – and are looking for more efficient ways to do so.

Networks are beginning to respond. Recently, rival broadcast networks, Turner, Viacom, and Fox, have joined forces to create OpenAP, an audience-targeting platform. Rather than aiming for broad demographics, the new platform will make TV buying more similar to buying online ads, targeting types of viewers.

"This consortium is about making it easier to do what we know needs to happen," said Marchese.

"We can combine what television does – deliver more advertising messages to people than any other platform – and make efficient buying possible."

Data sourced from New York Times, Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff

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