The Evolution of Data-Driven Television

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The television industry is something that has always been data driven. In the 1950s TVs were an expensive item. A family had no more than one and they all watched together. All content, including the advertising embedded within it, was designed and produced by a few broadcast networks and was of the family-style mass market variety.

Of course, advertisers back then still wanted to know if their dollars were having any effect. Distribution of the advertiser's message in this era could be accurately measured from a small panel of consumers. A few data dimensions were often enough to represent the entire U.S. population and could tell a story. This is how Nielsen's measurement came into being. In fact, actual sales data was so sparse and so far down the funnel that there was nothing else to measure except brand recall. A panel of a few thousand homes was sufficient to measure all of this.

Today's ad-supported entertainment ecosystem is much more complex. The number of platforms, mediums and devices is multiplying at a rapid rate. With this evolution have come different -- and better -- kinds of data.

The panel approach is finally being supplanted. Data and technology are being brought to bear like never before. The set-top box has become exceptionally powerful and capable, both as a means for personalized, high-definition content delivery and a key component to improve TV advertising. In the last 5-7 years, a key innovation has been the efficient collection of census-level viewership data. We now have access to true observed behavior from millions of homes nationwide. This, coupled with anonymized information on subscribers, has finally made it possible for marketers to precisely answer the question: "Did awareness translate into sales?"

Beginning in about 2012, TV has become as precise with targeting and measurement as any online or digital platform. Addressable TV, with a reach of over 50MM homes, offers household–level targeting on a national scale. We can now use data sources like Experian, Acxiom, Epsilon and others to do first- and third-party data matches, as well as crosstab what content is consumed in a home against any number of demographic and behavioral elements to create exceptional levels of insight.

In a digital landscape, TV's lack of direct measurement had long hindered accurate attribution of ad dollars to the source that truly drove sales. Because digital was completely measurable, and TV was not, digital got outsized credit for driving sales. Not any more! DISH Media Sales has been a leader in enabling marketers to accurately account for TV ad spends. Marketers are conducting A/B tests on their targets to test their ad's efficacy. With this kind of evidence, it's not a surprise that dollars are coming back to TV.

The TV experience of today is vastly different than that of 50 years ago. There's no reason why TV advertising should continue to be stuck in the past. Advances in data and technology are helping marketers reach the right audience, at the right time, on what's arguably the best screen in the home.

To learn more about the power of addressable and data driven TV from key players in the space, download our Viewpoint Report.

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The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of management or associated bloggers. 

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