The Shift to Outcome-Based Measurement in TV—And What It Means for Broadcasters

In the ever-evolving media and advertising landscape, the realm of linear TV broadcasting is undergoing a profound transformation. The upfronts—once a sacrosanct parade of premium content and celebrity in which the majority of top linear TV inventory was booked—are witnessing a seismic shift toward outcome-based measurement and digital-like targeting. This transition is fueled by marketers’ voracious appetite for tangible performance metrics across all media channels—and has significant implications for broadcasters navigating this new terrain.

Digiday recently reported that marketers across industries increasingly demand measurable performance across all media platforms, including linear TV. This demand marks a departure from TV’s historical emphasis on upper-funnel awareness and brand-building, which focused on reach. It signals a potential paradigm shift toward lower-funnel campaigns. The convergence of TV with digital-like targeting and performance metrics further accelerates the shift, increasing pressure on broadcasters of all sizes.  

Adapting to new realities: investing in technology. 

In a push to stay relevant and maintain advertising dollars that might otherwise shift to digital platforms or streaming services, broadcasters are embracing the demand for digital. Many are upping the ante by leveraging or investing in enhanced technological capabilities or attempting to build them in-house. Dish Media, for example, recently announced a partnership with Brightline to further its personalized advertising capabilities, while NBCU uses Freewheel to enable targeted global buys

Across the board, broadcasters are enhancing their tech infrastructure to accommodate performance marketing campaigns, underscoring the industry's desire to stay relevant and meet market demands. This may be a necessary shift, given last year’s National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) report that found many broadcasters have a long way to go to achieve digital maturity

“We found that while many broadcasters are committed to evolving, there is apprehension around the financial investment and how to balance projected revenue growth with near-term ROI,” the NAB report noted. 

Increased pressure to say ‘yes’ to performance dollars

The pressure to embrace performance-based marketing spend is existential for many broadcasters. “I was at a Beet.TV event last week, and this was one of the topics,” said Fraser Woollard, Boostr’s EVP of Business Development & Partnerships. “I spoke with someone recently laid off from a major broadcaster. They said they would do deals against any outcome—app downloads, foot traffic, website visits, etc.—whatever the brand wants.” 

As a result, Woollard explained, CPMs for these types of campaigns increase considerably. “But the cost for the seller to plan and execute these types of campaigns is pretty high, which is likely one of the reasons the broadcaster got rid of half of its advanced ads team.”

The challenges of proving TV performance 

While the industry broadly accepts this shift toward outcome-based measurement, experts remain divided on the extent to which TV should fully embrace performance metrics. As highlighted recently at The Future of TV Advertising Global conference in London, opinions vary regarding this transition's efficacy and long-term impact on the broadcasting landscape.

“It’s always been the case that there’s a subjective element around why a medium works or doesn’t work in capturing budget share. Marketers buy into a vision about what a medium can do and organize their activities around it,” said industry analyst Bryan Weiser. 

“Marketers never even think about [radio] despite all the effectiveness studies that are out there . . . Understandably, because there’s something better than radio for most goals that they have . . . Historically, television has been that ‘better medium,’ but digital is now coming to supersede TV,” Weiser added that marketers want to be seen as spending on digital because it seems credible due to KPIs that are easier to define and track. 

Proving effectiveness can be challenging for broadcasters venturing into performance marketing campaigns. “Part of the challenge revolves around attribution, especially last-touch attribution, which only gives credit to the last ad placement before action, rather than the combined journey,” Woollard explained. “Sellers want the ‘upside’ for additional ROI—but don’t want to assume any downside risk due to things outside their control, like poor creative, bad news that affects the brand.”

The opportunity for broadcasters

The shift to outcome-based measurement in TV represents a pivotal moment for broadcasters, necessitating agility, technological prowess, and a reimagined approach to advertising. 

As broadcasters work to support performance-driven campaigns, they are uncovering additional long-term benefits—namely, establishing a foundation for unifying their linear and streaming businesses and organizational realignment around the importance of trusted data and integrated analytics.

Here are a few guideposts for broadcasters transitioning: 

  • Look to automation to reduce costs. Performance-driven campaigns are costlier to execute internally and require expertise the broadcaster might not have in-house. Automate what you can to manage your business’s efficiency across campaign types and channels.
  • Get a handle on your data. Reliable data and integrated analytics become indispensable tools for broadcasters seeking to sell performance impressions across all media channels. Break down silos—especially across streaming and linear inventory—so that your data lives in one place and can be accessed by the teams that need it.
  • Make your partners’ KPIs your KPIs. Ask your agency and brand clients how campaigns are performing for their business and what KPIs they are tracking. Delivering 100% of booked inventory is becoming table stakes; to thrive, the savviest broadcasters will make their customers’ success metrics their own. 

While the shift to outcome-based marketing may still be nascent—it’s unclear what percent of inventory is being sold this way—it’s a move that may be here to stay. “Selling deals against outcomes will be niche for a while,” Woollard notes. “But with Netflix selling ads to TV buyers and NFL games available via Amazon Prime, the linear folks must adapt to ensure they maintain their share of spend.”


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