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And Then TV Got Weird…

I love the TV media business but it’s an understatement to say that things got weird a few years back. Not to sound like an old guy, but times used to be much simpler than they are now. I mean, cable used to be the big deal that changed a landscape that consisted of a handful of TV networks and an independent or two.

Now I’ve got broadcast TV and cable TV, as well as TV streaming services in the form of Over-the-Top (OTT), which is TV delivered digitally without a paid subscription and TV Everywhere (TVE), where you access your subscription through a mobile streaming device.

Here’s why things are weird. I personally have a cable subscription, as well as a couple of different connected TVs (CTV) in my home, cabin, and office. Technically, I’m not a “cord cutter” (or am I?) or a “cord never” (yep, that’s a thing) but my kids are. What used to be a handful of advertising options is now splintered into the main broadcast networks and independents as well as a bunch of cable networks, and millions of streaming options served to me digitally. Oh, and those cable and broadcast networks can now be provided to me on a variety of platforms.

I can buy streaming video advertising from dozens of providers (including my broadcast and cable reps) as well as managed and self-service platforms. Often times, they are selling me the same inventory. This product can be accessed by the consumer on their computer, mobile phone, tablet, set top box, gaming console, and connected smart TV. Ads can be pre-roll, mid-roll, skippable, non-skippable, long form and short form.

See? Things are weird.
Let’s make it more weird by interjecting some stats:

  • 60% of American consumers are now streaming (Nielsen)
  • Connected TV use is now at 8 billion hours per month (Nielsen)
  • Attrition from cord cutting is about 5% annually (Multichannel News)
  • Overall video consumption is up but TV viewing is down (Broadcasting + Cable)
  • Only 7% of viewers are watching live TV (Broadcasting + Cable)*

These are astounding (especially that last one) and might just explain why so many of my “traditional reps” have put forth OTT and CTV opportunities these past few weeks. I totally get it. I think it’s wise for them to use their existing relationships, expertise, and credibility to remain relevant in a changing marketplace.

Furthermore, I think their core product is still viable, especially live sports and news. I don’t overreact to research bullet points* (and neither should you) as they are typically slanted to persuade, not inform. Remember my point is that things are weird, not that broadcast or cable television is worthless or that streaming TV is the greatest thing since tomato juice in a can.

I would just be cautious though or perhaps more strategic in how I position streaming TV options as a broadcast or cable rep. I recently told a broadcast rep in Seattle that my lead gen was not as robust as it has been historically. She immediately offered me an OTT opportunity as a solution. It had no discernible advantage over what I’m doing in the market already. It had higher CPM’s, less control, and lacked the real-time dashboard my self-service platform has. There was no mention of her core product and how it could be utilized as part of the solution.

In her haste to sell me what is new, she inadvertently de-valued her core product. Understandable, but not good.

It’s almost become a cliché to say that the media landscape is changing. Those of us on the agency side are well aware of the ongoing shifts in media consumption. The wonderfully gifted and highly personable ad sales community is equally attuned to these changes. Things are weird, we get it. We all remain committed to generating the results our clients seek and by working together, we will always get there … regardless how weird things get.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Ed Olsen is the owner/president of ReThinc Advertising and CEO of Line Drive Sports Marketing. He has over 25 years of media experience that include leadership positions at Cox Media, Fox Sports Arizona, and IMG College. He can be reached at

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