Why are Facebook and friends turning to TV?

The direction of travel in media and advertising has undoubtedly been towards video. Now, in video, the direction of travel is towards TV. Thinkbox's Lindsey Clay looks at what’s happening.

People ask me, they say “Lindsey, what’s happening with TV these days? Everyone is trying to do TV.”

I nod and reply “Yes, yes they are. I’m glad you mentioned it for this is the perfect starting point for a short article on the topic.”

It feels like every woman, man, social platform and dog wants some TV action. Some call this disruption; I call it new carriages hitching on to the TV love train. If you can’t beat them, join them. And there are many trying to join:

Facebook is buying scripted TV series (to have ad breaks). Twitter is into live sports broadcasts. YouTube is following its subscription, ad-free YouTube Red Originals with ad-supported TV shows. Amazon Channels gives Prime subscribers live TV in addition to on-demand shows.

Netflix, like Amazon, is an established investor in TV series and a revenue stream for TV broadcasters via their archives and new commissions. Snap has recently signed deals for TV shows. Apple recently debuted its first original show, ‘Planet of the Apps’.

Is this TV though? It is certainly ‘television-like’, to borrow the EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive’s phrase.

They’d be even more ‘television-like’ if the ones selling or planning to sell ads agreed to be measured as independently and trustworthily as TV - preferably by a JIC. And more so again if they were licenced by Ofcom (for the UK) and followed its regulations, which would keep things brand safe.

Our industry can get quite hung up about what ‘TV’ is now given the proliferation of video. This is understandable as there has been some blurring around the edges.

At Thinkbox, we define TV as the high quality, professionally-made, predominantly long-form, audio-visual shows we watch on any screen. This is because we just can’t help being catchy. But normal people don’t agonise over definitions; they know TV shows when they see them.

The attraction of trying to be more like TV is obvious. It is hard to monetise the long tail that makes up the bulk of video platforms like YouTube - it isn’t content people would pay for and they skip the ads if they can. And brands are not so keen on it; even less so now after all the scandals about brand safety.

TV is a world apart from this. It exists at the high quality end of the video world; the end people like the most; the end brands can trust the most; the end that attracts the largest audiences.

However, great TV is hard to make. The broadcasters are seasoned experts in knowing, commissioning or making what their audiences want and still they make some mistakes. It is a high risk business.

And making TV - great or not - is a major investment. The UK broadcasters alone invest over £6 billion a year making TV. I have no idea what that figure is globally, but it will be eye-watering. The companies tempted by TV have deep pockets but they are a long way off committing anywhere near as much investment.

What does all this mean for advertisers? Well, new blood will expand the world of TV - certainly the TV production industry will benefit. Although some perspective: in the UK, the TV broadcasters account for 75% of all the video that people watch. Some of the remaining 25% is already TV (SVOD being the obvious example) but most of it is not. The picture is similar the world over.

More importantly, and what advertisers should consider, the TV broadcasters in the UK account for 94% of the video advertising that people see. TV on Netflix accounts for 0% for example. People also watch it in an environment in which they are comfortable with advertising and understand the commercial contract of some time watching ads in exchange for lots of great, free shows.

Added to this is the fact that TV - the combination of the broadcasters’ quality content and contexts - remains the most effective form of advertising and is getting more so, according to the latest IPA study.

The recent direction of travel in media and advertising has undoubtedly been towards video. Now, in video, the direction of travel is towards TV. This should mean increased advertising budgets for video as a whole and TV in particular. But only the TV you can actually advertise with and where the advertising works.

This article originally appeared on Mediatel

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