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Streaming vs. Linear: Let Ad Buyers Be Aware


One of the hottest topics in the ad-buying world today is the debate over streaming TV vs. linear TV when it comes to spending a brand’s valuable marketing budget. I get it. Streaming has never been easier for viewers. It represents over 38% of all TV usage, according to the latest Nielsen Gauge Report. And is growing in its share of advertising dollars.

But by focusing on whether streaming is bigger or better than linear TV – or any other delivery platform for that matter – the ad-buying industry is not asking the right questions to successfully connect marketers and buyers with people.

The case for more unified ad buying

Linear TV still represents more than half of the audience equation – nearly 62% of total TV usage, according to Nielsen. And none of the parties measuring streaming consumption do it in an apples-to-apples manner.

To a marketer who wants to embed a brand message into programming content, the overriding question should not be streaming vs. linear, but rather how to effectively reach viewers on multiple screens and platforms. Brand messaging vies for people’s attention. The ideal media partner is one that can connect marketers to a huge linear audience, a massive digital audience and a streaming app with widespread use – ideally through a single transaction.

When people seek content – whether it is for entertainment, diversion or information – they turn to a device to get it. People consume content virtually everywhere today. It could port through a smartphone, a gaming console, a set-top box, a smart TV or streaming device, an app or even a social media platform. People care about receiving content through the portal and on the screen that works for them when they want it. They care less about where the content plugs in and how it is delivered or whether it is linear or streamed. They just want it to work.

This is already happening at the viewer level, but it does not always happen as fluidly from an ad-buying perspective. At companies like Spectrum Reach, our job is to simplify the ad buy: one proposal, one invoice and one aperture.

If a marketer wants to reach our 28.6 million internet customers, 14.2 million video customers and 30 million addressable households – along with the rich, deterministic aggregated, deidentified data that ports through all of those delivery pipes – we make it simple for them by offering both linear and streaming inventory. We also provide premium and multiscreen inventory combined with an innovative suite of tools that deliver cross-screen measurement to optimize media investments.

Better buying

On the advertising buying side, there remain some silos where media companies are transacting linear TV through one group and streaming TV through another. And I do not anticipate the linear vs. streaming debate will subside anytime soon. The rhetoric is just too enticing, and the deeper reality is difficult to capture in a headline.

But the people who buy and sell advertising need to know the difference and transact on the facts. Think audience teams and audience budgets instead of siloed approaches like local or national, news or sports and streaming or linear. We need to deliver all of it – in one plan and one buy to ensure one happy client.

For more articles featuring Jason Brown, click here.

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