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It might be a case of too little, too late, but the mainstream TV industry is finally waking up to the fact that the worlds of online video and traditional TV are starting to look more similar with every passing day. Gone are the days when people would diligently tune in to a certain show at a certain time on a certain channel. And gone are the days when people would rather watch a TV show on a huge TV screen in the living room rather than a much smaller smartphone screen. In recognition of the fact that advertising dollars are flowing to online video platforms, TV industry professionals are scrambling to reinvent their industry to make it more favorable to advertisers.
Advanced television and targeted ads
With that in mind, one innovation that people are talking about right now is “advanced television.” This term might not be nearly as sexy as other terms that TV insiders have come up with in the past (anyone remember the “TV Everywhere” concept from a few years ago?), but it shows just how far TV providers are willing to go in order to hold on to advertisers. The basic premise of advanced television is that all advertising on TV should be customized for the tastes, interests, and behaviors of the viewers. For example, if you love “Game of Thrones” and have a dog in your household, you’ll likely see different ads than if you have a cat in your household and are a big local sports fan. During a typical 30-minute or 60-minute TV show, two people watching the same show might view completely different sets of ads.
Sound familiar? It’s the same exact thing that the big digital advertising duopoly (Google and Facebook) has been doing for years with their targeted ads. The more Google knows about you, the more it can serve up ads that accurately reflect your tastes, interests and behaviors. And the more Facebook knows about you, the more likely it is that certain types of ads and promotions will start to show up in your newsfeed.
Does advanced television have a future?
Right now, advanced television is just a small sliver (less than 3%) of the overall $70 billion digital advertising market. Google and Facebook, on a combined basis, control nearly 60 percent of the overall market. So there’s a big uphill battle for cable providers like Comcast if they want to hold onto advertisers and make TV the place to be for digital ad agencies. The problem, quite simply, is that TV advertisers do not know nearly as much about TV viewers as the big social media giants know about their users. Social media giants know not only what you like to watch, but also your precise GPS coordinates throughout the day, and the types of friends and followers in your affinity network.
But that, of course, raises a question about user privacy. Google and Facebook might be the unchallenged leaders of the marketplace right now, but they are coming under severe criticism for the way they collect, analyze, share and sell user data. So it’s quite likely that TV advertisers could start to feel the same pressure if the ads being shown on the TV start to border on the wrong side of creepy. Imagine if you’re talking to your spouse one morning about a certain type of medication, and later in the evening, an ad from a huge pharmaceutical company selling that medication starts playing over and over during your favorite TV show. You’d probably want to know which of your digital devices has been eavesdropping on your conversations and then transmitting that information to advertisers!
The big picture, of course, is that the worlds of traditional TV and online video continue to blur in strange and amazing ways. Nearly every major social platform has reinvented itself as a video-first platform, and Facebook and YouTube have been leading the charge to create professional-quality video content with the help of top content creators. So get ready for plenty of new innovation in the future, as big TV providers get involved as well in serving up entirely new ads to users.