As more and more people switch to streaming content on their phones and computers, TV networks are trying to keep up with the use of more data-driven advertising.
This “is one of the huge stories of our time,” said Axios media reporter Sara Fischer. “It’s what’s going to bridge the gap between TV and digital.
“At the end of the day, if you’re a TV network, you can’t rely on just selling linear ads...that have no meaningful relationships with customers forever.”
Fischer’s reporting found that in 2017, NBC sold about $1 billion worth of ads based on audience data rather than Nielsen ratings.
This shift is, in fact, one of the reasons that TV networks are looking to merge with cable companies.
“Cable and satellite companies have data through the set top boxes so that they can better target users,” explained Fischer.
NBC’s merger with Comcast in 2011, for example, helped that company steer its advertising towards data-based insights. Now, Fischer said, the rest of the industry is catching on. She cites AT&T’s desire to merge with Time Warner.
The new advertising model runs tangent to targeted digital ads that rely on data from platforms like Facebook and Google.
“They’re going after that self-serve model that you’re seeing typically on the tech platforms,” said Fischer. “And that’s what they’re saying they want. They want to be able to compete with those tech platforms.”