Home On TV & Video How Data Is Disrupting TV Tune-In Marketing

How Data Is Disrupting TV Tune-In Marketing


In the past, large linear audiences weren’t always addressable, and TV tune-in marketing was more “spray-and-pray” than precise.

But TV tune-in, that mainstay of traditional linear promotion, is getting a data-driven boost.

As linear ratings decline and consumers trend toward time-shifted content and new distribution points like mobile and over-the-top, marketers have more data at their disposal to advertise new episodes and series.

And the more data a network has, the deeper the insights it can glean.

“Recently, we’ve not only been asked to figure out why people tune in, but when people tuned out and why,” said Ryan King, managing director of research at Samba TV, a smart TV data and analytics platform. “We’re looking at second-by-second data to determine where there was drop-off.”

Cracking Cross-Platform 

To get a more comprehensive measure of audience tune-in across platforms, Samba TV works with clients to combine multiple data sets, including set-top box data, Samba’s device map, content IDs and attitudinal data from partners like Millward Brown.

With all of that in the mix, Samba is able to work around the standard C3 or C7 TV measurement window, which doesn’t factor in viewing that happens more than a week after a program’s original air date.

On-demand viewing can happen for a very long time after a show premieres and as new fans accrue throughout the season, said Sandy Padula, SVP of research and consumer insight for TBS and TNT. 

“So understanding how platforms work together is critical to driving tune-in,” she said.

Turner-owned network TNT used Samba to determine the effect of ad exposures related to the season premiere of its show “Animal Kingdom” across multiple platforms, including linear, VOD, digital video and social, and then measured the conversion of those exposures into actual tune-in.


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“We were really focused on bringing in new viewers to TNT who may not be expecting that type of content on TNT or maybe had just not been exposed to TNT’s original content at all,” Padula said.

Turner also uses TV tune-in measurement – along with a dash of social sentiment analysis – for basic attribution purposes, like determining whether an addressable, local cable or national TV buy resulted in the most tune-in.

“What we started to see 10 days after the premiere of the show was a lot more conversation happening organically and outside of our program talent’s large social footprints,” Padula said. “We’re looking at how we harness those new conversations for later in the season and asking things like, if you’ve been exposed to TNT’s content before, does that convert into tune-in for a new season?”

Frequency > Reach

Getting more granular with TV tune-in also helped Turner get smarter with its message frequency.

Because consumers are bombarded with so many brand messages, fatigue can easily set in, which is why networks are trying to be more conscientious when it comes to their message cadence by doubling down on creative – and CRM data.

“Whereas in the past you might have tapped out on your frequency in one channel and saw a negative impact, we’re becoming more strategic about ensuring we have the right frequency,” Padula said.

For instance, a network historically may have heavied up on tune-in promotions in the days leading up to a season premiere or finale. But now it’s more likely to consider who is viewing its tune-in campaigns beyond the initial air date of a program – and in what channel.

Turner found that by increasing frequency through “off-channel” buys toward male-skewing networks such as FX, USA and AMC, it had a positive effect on tune-in for TNT.

Audience has also significant impact on ultimate tune-in, which is where CRM and first-party data come into the equation.

“Our most loyal user may be hit 25 times with a tune-in promo, but they’re seeing messages about the shows they want to watch and they’re not being turned off,” Padula said.

On the flip side, to expose more people to its programming – and acquire more loyal fans – TNT must limit messages to its new viewers.

Whereas tune-in used to be all about amassing the most reach, it’s “transformed into a game of managing frequency,” said Craig Woerz, managing partner and owner of agency Media Storm, which works with a number of tune-in clients.

Although TV tune-in measurement is still what Woerz calls a “Wild West of unpredictability,” he says more networks and marketers (and their agencies) need to go well beyond basic GRP planning by modeling out audiences in aggregate – and by augmenting data to validate them.

“Shows are not made for everyone, yet buying based on an 18-49 demo says they’re for everyone,” Woerz said. “We know rarified dramas and reality shows are not for everyone, so why market them like they’re for everyone?”

Media Storm reverses that process by integrating data at a micro level and reducing its reliance on standard demos.

“[We’re] looking at the science and math behind audience aggregation,” Woerz said. “Now we have models for tune-in that start with on-air, but that increase [spend] when necessary [across] smart TVs, web, tablets and mobile.”

A Page Out Of The Mobile Marketing Playbook

OTT also is disrupting TV tune-in as marketers get more performance-driven with their approach.

Because platforms like Roku are a hybrid between traditional TV and in-app environments, they’re pushing the boundaries on what’s possible with tune-in promotions.

“If you look ahead into the future, TV will be much more on-demand and more of it will be going over-the-top,” said Scott Rosenberg, SVP of advertising for Roku. “The network’s task will not just be driving audience to its linear channel, but to on-demand channels. Tune-in needs to evolve as an art and science.”

A holistic tune-in campaign across OTT and linear borrows greatly from the mobile marketing toolkit.

Just like a mobile game publisher aims to generate app downloads on a phone, a player in the streaming space like Roku needs to drive OTT app installs and generate new subscriptions and trials.

The result is a “hybrid of TV tune-in and app marketing,” Rosenberg said.

“When we started the business, most audience development was more run of network, [as in] ‘Let’s go get more installs or subscribers,’” he said. “Now, the majority of our audience development promotions are targeted.”

For instance, a streaming video-on-demand provider looking to promote its app might partner with Roku’s audience development team.

Rather than spraying and then praying that people subscribe to their service over Netflix, publishers or SVOD partners could ask Roku to find new users they’ve never had an interaction with before, and within that group of users to identify the subset of people who look most like their existing subscribers.

Some publishers are also getting more sophisticated at targeting different cohorts, like someone who started a trial, but didn’t convert, for example, with different offers based on their tune-in history.

Roku has tested new formats designed to drive further tune-in across apps.

In particular, it’s seen good demand for an interactive video ad unit developed in collaboration with Innovid that teases a 15- or 30-second promo for one app within another app via an interactive app install ad.

In other words, it’s a traditional tune-in marketer’s answer to cross-channel marketing with an interactive twist.

“That’s really accelerated,” Rosenberg said. “Most of your time on Roku is spent watching TV, [so] we’re showing you different TV apps you may be interested in watching.”

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