Newspaper article International New York Times

Shifting Ad Landscape for TV

Newspaper article International New York Times

Shifting Ad Landscape for TV

Article excerpt

Traditional television might reach big audiences, but social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter can offer cheaper ways to connect with specific groups.

The current television landscape is challenging for advertisers. Ratings are down but the amount of programming is sharply up, along with the number of streaming options available, many of which allow viewers to skip commercials.

As advertisers consider the best ways to spend their money, the excitement that once greeted the beginning of the fall television season has given way to anxiety. Industry analysts and advertising executives said the upfront market -- the annual ad sales period that begins in May with lavish presentations by the networks -- was unambiguously weak this year.

Magna Global, an ad-buying group owned by the Interpublic Group, estimates that the total amount of money advertisers committed during the upfront market this year fell 10 percent for broadcast networks and 5 percent for cable networks.

Yet advertisers have still poured billions of dollars into the fall TV season, which begins in earnest this week with a flood of new programming. Advertising and television executives say activity has picked up during the so-called scatter market, when advertisers buy commercial time during the season, but they also say dark clouds are hovering.

"What you can't do on the one hand is say, 'Television is dead,' because there's a huge demand," said Rob Norman, chief digital officer of WPP's GroupM. "On the other hand, you can't say, 'Everything is O.K. -- television is fine."'

Advertisers still see conventional prime-time television as a way to reach a huge audience. But as more viewers record shows to watch later and shift to on-demand and streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, the notion of real-time viewing has declined, especially for scripted TV shows. And that has made it harder for networks to persuade advertisers to open their wallets.

Magna Global predicts that TV advertising in the United States will fall 3.5 percent this year, to $63.3 billion.

At the same time, the percentage of ad dollars going to digital media continues to rise.

Advertisers are especially concerned that traditional television is losing its effectiveness as a way to reach young audiences, who are increasingly watching shows online.

According to a recent report from the research firm Forrester, 36 percent of the core television audience -- defined as those aged 18 to 58 -- now watch traditional television in a typical month. That is down 2 percent from last year.

That shift in viewing behavior has made many advertisers rethink their marketing strategies.

General Electric has for the last several years largely moved away from prime-time advertising, said Linda Boff, the newly appointed chief marketing officer. …

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