ByMark Gorman, CEO, Matrix Solutions
Broadcasting giant NBCUniversal lit a fire under the industry when it unveiled CFlight, a new metric for broadcasters that unifies linear and digital viewing of an ad campaign. Championed by NBCU’s Linda Yaccarino, the company’s chairman for advertising and client partnerships, the move has been hailed as a gamechanger to account for consumption trends of the 21st Century viewer.
The convergence of digital and over-the-top platforms has disrupted linear viewing and advertising campaigns, the lifeblood of TV, leaving both local and national broadcasters with a fundamental truth that newspapers have already confronted (and are still confronting)—the need for digitization, better measurement, better targeted and a common currency across advertising platforms.
Today, approximately five percent of TV stations’ overall revenue comes from digital media. The introduction, alongside NBCU’s push for CFlight to become an industry standard, is TV’s answer to jolt life into flattening revenues with more accurate and actionable measurement metrics.
But is it the right answer? Should one of the nation’s largest broadcasters be writing the rulebook on what a common currency metric around linear and digital viewing looks like?
The digital landscape is a wild west for broadcasters—there’s no cap to digital media platforms, there’s less of a rulebook to play by, and admeasurement from digital campaigns generate more insight for brands. And let’s be clear, Google, Facebook, and Twitter—these are media companies. Impact is more measurable, the platform more preferred.
CFlight is an attempt to level the playing field, and while it certainly is a step in the right direction, an industry standard for broadcasters shouldn’t necessarily come from the very entity that’s being measured. What’s been developed for digital was driven by Google, and to a less extent, Facebook. These two players are in direct competition with other digital publishers, thus dramatically tilting the metrics in their favor.
I am not saying that is what NBCU is doing. They are not! In fact, I do think they are taking an honest swing to create a standard and dialogue. But this is designed from their perspective as being NBCU, and their larger parent, Comcast.
Consider, instead, an alternative source—from the technology side.
Across local and national media, technology companies have become a dominating force in advertising when it comes to managing customer relationships, automating buying and selling, and generating analytics of a campaign’s performance.
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The need for digitization has spurred a call for broadcasters to more seriously consider their investment in technology, particularly when it comes to automated buying along with the consultative approach of the media ad seller. Across the entire industry, broadcasters have typically relied on their own legacy systems developed over the years to process the ad selling workflow. As broadcasters further move into an era of digitization, one that is built upon technology, they will likely seek third-party partners for integration as opposed to relying on their legacy technology stack, which is a good development.
The industry should look to third parties for technology, and in turn should also look towards them for a common currency that’s inherent to the dominating technology platforms today. After all, they’re agnostic! Technology companies—who are not Google or Facebook, as they are direct competitors, but third-party technology companies—who see the opportunity to develop a system that can benefit both inventory holders and purchasers.
What’s more, in the event that CFlight does take off (pun intended)—will the technology side be able to support it? As already mentioned, this is an industry ripe with outdated, legacy technology, and if the CFlight standard takes hold suddenly, broadcasters will find themselves adhering their approach to technology akin to NBCU, leading to less innovation and more stagnation.
We must also consider localization. National buys are a different flavor from a local buy. The introduction of a common currency metric from a national broadcaster adds a layer of complexity to streamlining workflows across the board. Media companies will need to deploy strategies that play to the strengths of their local markets while simultaneously capitalizing on the efficiencies that a common currency will deliver—meaning a one-size-fits-all approach won’t truly be a one-size-fits-all solution as it relates to implementation and execution.
A common currency must take into account local and hyperlocal ad buys and their intended impact, which is to reach a very specific and targeted audience. A common currency can help determine the value of such a specific and targeted campaign as a guideline, but it must account for a heavier value to be scaled appropriately across national and local.
A metric championed by technology will ultimately give consumers a better experience, enable advertisers the ability to streamline ad delivery to targeted audiences, while simultaneously empower (local) media companies with better knowledge of their inventory’s value.