Vaccinations, plus investment from travel, retail and auto advertisers, will help shape the new normal.

The past year has been a bruising one for the television industry. Covid-19’s rapid descent on the globe turned off TV’s programming spigots, leading to a drought in advertising revenue. Consumers stuck at home continued to cord-cut or otherwise move over to streaming even faster than they had. And just as a sense of recovery seemed imminent, cases began to surge again: first in the Midwest, and now in almost every state in the U.S., depressing any hope of a quick, V-shaped recovery.

But as we begin 2021, things are starting to look up—sort of.

By mid-November, advertising levels across the top 25 TV networks had returned to 2019 levels for the first time since the pandemic began, according to the measurement firm Kantar. That’s one promising sign that advertising spend is finally moving in the right direction for broadcasters. And TV executives at companies like Comcast, Disney and ViacomCBS, which saw steep second-quarter ad revenue drops between a quarter and a third, spent the last months expressing to investors their cautious optimism about a rebound.

“We’re encouraged by what we’re seeing and, big picture, advertising is certainly moving in the right direction,” ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish told investors in November, after ad revenue fell only 6% in the third quarter compared to a 27% second-quarter drop. As AT&T CEO John Stankey put it in late October as the company’s ad revenues stabilized: “I think we’re out of the woods at this point, from being dead cold in the middle of the pandemic, to one where we feel like we can get hours [of programming] produced and brought forward.”

The Industry Recalibrates

That optimism remains precarious, however. The notion of a TV ad sales recovery comes hand-in-hand with a a recalibration of industry expectations around what the advertising landscape will look like now that Covid-19 has upended so much about consumer habits and their markedly weaker economic realities. “Recovery is really about how we position ourselves in this new normal,” said Gregory Aston, global head of research, digital advertising intelligence at the intelligence firm Kantar.

There are early signs that TV ad revenue will be more robust in the new year. National TV ad sales are expected to grow 5% in 2021, buoyed by investments around the rescheduled Tokyo Summer Olympics that will bring in an estimated $800 million, according to intelligence firm Magna Global. Because those projections for the TV ad sales landscape hinge on an economic recovery, as well as the assumption that tentpole programming events will continue as scheduled, it’s unsurprising that the industry is anxiously awaiting the roll-out of the incoming Biden administration’s pandemic response, to make early determinations how that will affect consumer and advertiser activity.  

Where to Spot Signs of Recovery

Vaccinations alone won’t provide the recovery for the TV business’s ad sales. Experts are watching how travel, retail and auto sectors return to television advertising to understand broader trends about consumer confidence and about the health of national TV media spending. Collectively, those three sectors represent around a quarter of total advertising expenditure, according to Kantar. Rising ad dollars in those areas will act as a bellwether by spurring other forms of peripheral economic activity.

“Given that these three industries have such a heavy impact on ad spending, where they go, the category ultimately goes, and there are ramifications into the broader spectrum of other categories,” said Aston.

Consider the travel sector: If those advertisers are spending more, it’s probable that restaurants and local advertising generally will also tick up on TV to capitalize on consumers that are presumably in trip-planning mode.

Consumer confidence in travel is a key barometer for other forms of behavior. “If a consumer is willing to travel overseas, they are clearly going to be willing to go back to the store,” Aston said.

The 2021 Retail Shakeup

Other more reliable TV marketers may look very different in the new year, shaking up their advertising plans. Retailers, many of whom made big ad buys ahead of the 2020 holiday season, may end up spending less on national TV in 2021, partially because there may simply be fewer of them in business by then.

Other retailers, emboldened by ecommerce, may change their strategy to prioritize driving online sales over in-person visits, which will shake out in the media mixes. That spend, too, may also hinge on retail locations being allowed to operate without restriction—and will depend on consumer comfort with returning to those stores.

It’s important for marketing to consider that consumer confidence, while a clear indicator of where to shift spending, is not synonymous with actual consumer spending power. Pent-up demand is one thing, but the ability to put money behind one’s desire and intent is another. High rates of unemployment and a bleak economic outlook may end up dampening certain advertiser spending until American families see a broader and more equitable economic recovery.

That disconnect may be particularly pronounced in the auto sector, one of the largest and most reliable spenders on national and local TV advertising. So far, that category has demonstrated a K-shaped recovery, in which a portion of the population is recovering and is willing to spend discretionary income, while another segment remains economically constrained and depressed.

That dynamic may mean traditional TV spending is less appealing to those marketers. If they grow budgets at all, it might be in digital rather than linear TV, where advertisers can target more precisely to households with discretionary income, Létang said.

Advertisers’ Needs Shift as Consumers’ Habits Evolve

As advertisers’ needs shift, consumer habits are evolving, and Covid-19 shutdowns poured jet-fuel on consumers’ adoption of streaming television and on-demand viewing.

Media companies are scrambling to act, propping up their fledgling services with flashy new content while executing widespread organizational restructures to be better positioned for the new normal; on the advertiser side, digital video buyers plan to shifting their budgets from traditional linear TV to connected TV, by an average of about 21%, according to a December survey from the International Advertising Bureau. That stands to have a long-term effect on what the future of the television advertising industry looks like, long after Covid-19 is relegated to the history books.

“Several of the 2020 changes will be permanent ones, meaning it was an inflection and we are now on a different trajectory,” Létang said. “The shift to towards digital media consumption was a long-time one, the shift toward e-commerce was a long-time one, but it has accelerated, and we are not going back to the previous trajectory.”



Prima saw a significant increase in advertisers’ interest in the HbbTV platform in 2020. The year-on-year increase in the number of campaigns is 47%. In connection with the higher number of delivered campaigns, the use of HbbTV Creator has also grown. HbbTV Creator is provided to advertisers for free by the Prima group in cooperation with Kinet. The number of HbbTV applications produced increased by 76% year-on-year. In November, Prima introduced a new advertising format Splash Screen – an exclusive screen displayed when the application is started.

“The red button on Prima’s channels is viewed by more than 2 million people. The iPrima HbbTV application is visited by over 550,000 viewers per month. The most watched shows are similar to those most popular in iPrima’s video library: the series Slunečná, Polda and Sestřičky plus documents and new film releases,” says Josef Stránský, Prima’s CTO.

“This autumn, we have introduced a new advertising format Splash Screen, which has 100% visibility. It is an advertising format on the main screen of the iPrima application. The best-selling format in HbbTV remains Switch-In. This format achieves an average CTR of 2.3% in 2020. It can reach up to 300,000 unique viewers at a single moment. The frequency of a weekly campaign is usually up to three views per unique device,“ says Petr Hatlapatka, Head of Online Sales of Media Club operating as Prima’s sales agency. “September was this year’s record month for commercial campaigns when the cumulative reach exceeded 36 million viewers,” he added.

Another trend in HbbTV is the growth in advertising with regional targeting. More frequently there are advertisers targeting just Prague, Central Bohemia, Brno or more narrow and solvent income groups. “Up to half of our clients with regional targeting have understood that TV is a national medium but thanks to HbbTV, they can communicate locally with a lower budget while being visible on TV screens,” adds Petr Htlapatka.

In spring, in the period of the Covid-19 pandemic, Prima used geo targeting as well as the flexibility and speed of campaign deployment in HbbTV to support regions and municipalities. An offer for free information campaigns targeted to regions was used by more than twenty cities and municipalities. The campaigns reached over 3,000,000 viewers.

Apart from HbbTV Creator, there are various forms of working with the application, you can use videos, competition and questionnaire formats and many other options. The applications may be designed so that they could be used repeatedly, just replacing the graphics. This year’s major campaigns include the launch of the new Magnum Ruby taste where a quiz for valuable prizes was used. For example, viewers guessed the colour of chocolate in the Ruby taste, the year of creation, previous tastes, the main ingredients, etc. Another successful campaign was Coca-Cola’s application that was based on the HbbTV Creator template. In the background of the application, the client promoted a competition with a QR code, in the video window there were partner recipes. Apart from simple applications, clients also use the option to create more complex customised applications. Another creative campaign was České dráhy’s campaign promoting a new application that could be downloaded via QR code directly through the TV screen.

“The red button is also popular with clients from the automotive segment, mainly to support brand awareness. This year, we have participated in a campaign celebrating a significant anniversary of the Volkswagen brand or in the launch of the new Enyaq model by Škoda Auto. For example, viewers could search the inside and outside of the car, collect information about safety, driving units and recharging. All that from the comfort of their living rooms,” says Petr Hatlapatka, pointing out to the advantages. He also revealed another innovation made this year. “At the beginning of the autumn season, we prepared the first post-buy analysis for the HbbTV and TV campaigns together in a pilot project. If clients are interested, we will continue developing the project.”



Television is a highly cost effective media for large advertisers, Unilever’s global media operations director has said, with new developments in advanced TV further increasing the value of the channel.

Speaking on a panel at the Future of TV Advertising Global, Richard Brooke said: “As a company that sells to 2 billion plus consumers a day on an annualised basis, we look at TV to provide levels of reach. [TV’s] high levels of reach make it very cost effective.

“As people have started to consume media – particularly over the last six to nine months – in a very different way, advanced TV brings something to the party…in terms of adding and driving reach.”

Advanced TV encompasses over-the top (OTT) streaming services, video-on-demand (VoD), connected TV (CTV), audience-based linear advertising, programmatic advertising and addressable TV.

Asked about the role advanced TV can play in a brand’s channel mix compared to traditional TV, Brooke described how “it allows for a level of contextual relevance”, recalling memories from his youth to explain.

“I used to go to a small cinema on Fulham road, [close to] the Hibernian Club. If anyone has been there, you’ll remember that [Hibernian Club] advertised [at the cinema], because it was around the corner. Similarly, advanced TV can expand or bring new advertisers into the medium.”

Chairing the panel, brand, agency and industry relations director at Comcast’s Freewheel, Emmanuel Josserand, explained that in its recent exclusive study, 84% of marketers envisioned growth in advanced TV spend over the next twelve months.

The study suggests that the increased advanced TV spend primarily derives from either an increase in budget, or a shift of spend from linear TV or display – and with the report also finding that the majority of marketers are expecting a decrease in marketing budgets for 2021, it is suggested that the latter is more likely.

Tim Willcox, managing director at Dentsu’s programmatic arm Amnet, explained that although logic would argue that the budget for advanced TV should migrate from traditional TV budgets, the reality is that the value advertisers demand from traditional TV budgets locks all parties in, to the point where it’s difficult to pull budget out.

“In the short term, that [advanced TV] budget is coming from other digital channels, because they’re a little bit more fluid. You’re able to flex them a little bit more without actually harming return on investment,” Willcox added.

On the other hand, Emmanuel Crego, managing director at Values.Media, said: “I’m convinced that addressable TV budget won’t come from other media because addressable capabilities are an incremental targeting on top of socio-demo one in linear TV, a better optimisation of linear TV budget.”

However, for Brooke, it is too early to determine whether the additional spend for advanced TV comes at the cost of linear TV. Rather, “when the content is there, the budget will follow.”

“The reality is that content is always going to be a driver for advertisers’ budget because the content is what people watch, and there is some amazing content available at the moment. In lockdown people have been binge watching on all that’s available.”

More important for Unilever, Brooke added, is that as TV moves away from a singular regulated linear stream, that all actors in the industry remain responsible providers of content.

“The regulation applied to TV is a very good thing. As TV moves away from a singular regulated linear stream, what we as Unilever will be urging the space to do, and what we would expect, is to remain a responsible provider of content.”



TV viewing habits have been upended. Audiences are more likely to watch content by themselves. Dayparts no longer determine platform choice. These changes demand a new approach to TV planning, writes Sky Media’s Sarah Jones.

TV has changed more in the last 10 years than in the previous 50, with over 150 channels, an array of different devices and new platforms launching every other week, it seems. People have the flexibility to choose what they want to watch, when they want, on whatever screen they want.

However, with increased channels, devices and platforms, comes greater complexity for the media industry. We have adapted our plans and processes to account for the change in viewing behaviour, but the acceleration driven by 10 months spent at home means we have reached a tipping point. Traditional TV needs a rethink.

How has TV viewing behaviour changed?

We see Sky Q homes where all content is neatly presented in one place as key to understanding trends in TV consumption.

Different audiences are changing their viewing habits at different speeds based on their needs. The TV narrative has changed from assumptions around an ageing audience to younger audience viewing rising again. In fact, 2020 has the highest total TV set viewing levels on record for 16–34-year olds.

New habits show that TV is being viewed across different platforms and devices, but the traditional big screen experience still leads the way with 92% of viewing. This is helped by better connected platforms and players, and bigger, higher quality screens, meaning catch-up services are no longer restricted to laptops or tablets.

The shift towards video on-demand (VoD) has seen the greatest acceleration during the lockdown period, with a noticeable rise in solus viewing. With more people confined to their houses comes either a compromise in content viewing or watching content on your own terms, on your own device. In 2020, we have seen the biggest growth on Sky Go across mobile phones – up 53%. Despite the flexibility to watch whenever and wherever, 82% of all Sky Go is watched at home. We will be watching this trend for further developments as lockdown measures ease again.

Different content also determines different platform consumption patterns. For example, Sky channels saw 99% of live viewings for sports and news, whereas dramas on Sky Atlantic saw mostly viewing on-demand – 63% in fact. As a marketer, if the platforms are not planned holistically this could have a significant impact on the content that is surrounding your brand.

Dayparts no longer determine platform choice. We have reached a tipping point for VoD this year: people are choosing to view during the day and night. In 2020, with people spending more time at home, we have seen the biggest percentage increase in viewings between 2pm and 3pm. Within this time slot, linear viewing was up by 16% and on demand was up by 57%. These daytime viewing increases are more pronounced midweek, with Thursday seeing the overall largest increases in VoD viewing. With documentaries and leisure content driving these daytime uplifts, maybe the excuse of ‘edu-tainment’ takes the guilt out of daytime TV.

Another significant VoD increase time slot is between 12am and 1am, which has risen by 70%. Late night viewing is also evidently not such a problem without the following morning’s commute.

TV planning is more complicated than ever

By having such a wealth of data on viewing, we could cut and re-cut this data by audience, channel, device, day-part, platform or any other dimension for TV planning. As the new platforms have been bolted on, they have adopted digital metrics rather than TV metrics. This means that TV plans have become fragmented between different platforms and different audience definitions, and the way that a TV campaign is measured versus a VoD campaign is different. Plus, with different systems and approval deadlines, there is a lot of admin around campaign management.

With the nation’s viewing evolving at pace, and the dimensions for TV planning becoming ever more complicated, what does this mean for the future of TV advertising?

Bringing it back to what matters

Audiences do not differentiate between whether they are watching content on linear or on demand, they simply sit down and find great stuff to watch. At Sky Media we believe it is time to do the same – to bring our platforms together to deliver a unified plan for advertisers. We have spent the last 18 months developing a new proposition called ONE campaign, launching in January.

It really goes back to the fundamentals of media: to find the right blend of channels and platforms to reach an advertiser’s audience. Our vision is to transform the media landscape by focusing on audiences, not platforms.

With one audience (BARB or Addressable), one measurement (CFlight offers de-duplicated total campaign reach), one simplified price (unified metrics means prices can be blended), and one process, we hope to streamline how campaigns are booked, measured and managed.



John Litster, managing director at Sky Media, considers the need for simplification in media and calls on the industry to start making a change

Mark Twain, Blaise Pascal, Winston Churchill, Dostoevsky – just a few of those who have been credited with variants of the phrase, “sorry for the long letter, I didn’t have time to make it shorter”. But what’s that got to do with TV advertising?

In an article discussing the need for simplicity, you’ll have to excuse the irony of 1500 words to give a little context.

In the last 10 years, the TV industry has experienced more transformation than in the previous 50. Having spent not quite 50 years in the TV advertising industry, there is no doubt that the complexity and pace of change is greater than it ever was.

From three channels to 140, from one device to five, from one broadcast platform to a plethora of choice, TV (in all its forms) has not just evolved, it’s exploded. It shouldn’t be a surprise that with so much flexibility and choice, on average people in the UK are still watching over 3.5 hours of TV a day.

In the last 5 months we have seen record TV viewing
And then, a global pandemic hit. With more time spent at home, TV kept the nation entertained, connected and informed with familiar, trusted and escapist content. We saw new viewing records for Sky Sports, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

At Sky, on-demand viewing hit a new high – up 36% YoY, with the 4th of June becoming our biggest ever day for on-demand consumption.
It wasn’t just a moment in time. Since the first lockdown, TV viewing has continued to go up across the board (+12% linear, +15% BVOD, +26% SVOD) and in the first weekend of the second lockdown we’ve seen an 11% viewing uplift versus the previous 6 weeks.

As often happens in big transitional moments, emerging behaviours have been accelerated, driven by changing consumer needs and enabled by technology. But this acceleration in behaviour also means an acceleration in complexity for the media industry.

Audience viewing is now truly multi-dimensional
At Sky, our unique access to viewing data offers a rich understanding of how viewing is changing and how, with innovations in technology, we are driving a change in viewing habits too. Let’s spend a bit of time unpacking what we know…

  1. Demographic stereotypes are evolving
    The TV viewing population and the rituals within each group are changing at different speeds, with a narrative previously around an ageing audience. This has shifted with VoD, and accelerated by COVID, we see younger audiences rising again. 2020 currently has the highest total TV set viewing levels on record for 16-34s.
  2. Big screen still beats the best of the rest
    New habits show TV being viewed across different platforms and devices, but the big TV screen experience still leads the way (92% of viewing) – helped by better connected platforms and players meaning catch-up services are no longer restricted to laptops and tablets.

This year, Netflix became part of the Sky basic package and Disney+ and BT Sport are accessible within Sky Q, alongside a wealth of other on demand content providers.

And with the proliferation of 4K and HDR making the viewing experience even better, as Rory Sutherland posed, ‘the only real threat to lounge TV viewing is if someone bans the comfy sofa’.

This attraction to the biggest screen in the house means the lounge is where the majority of content is still watched (89%). This pattern does change by content type, with a shift to other rooms (mainly bedroom and kitchen) for BVOD (78% lounge) and SVOD services (63% lounge).

  1. Sky Go is also equally Sky ‘stay’
    In 2020 we’ve seen the biggest growth for Sky Go across mobile phones (+53%), followed by tables (+28%) and consoles (+28%). Why, with people not ‘GOing’ anywhere much?

With more people under one roof comes either a compromise in content consumption, or (as supported by the numbers) people choosing to watch content on their own terms, on their own devices.

Of all Sky Go viewing, 82% is watched inside of the home.

  1. Different content influences how people choose to watch
    There is also a dynamic at a channel level where the type of content it provides shifts the way it is consumed.

Sky channels on average are 75% linear viewed, with sports and news 99% live compared to hard-hitting drama on Sky Atlantic, where 63% is viewed on demand.

Some of our new channels, like Sky Comedy and Sky documentaries, launched this year with significant range on demand and a stacked strategy for new releases, driving a more even balance of live and on demand viewing.

This content driven behaviour is supported by Thinkbox’s ‘The Age of Television: the needs that drive us’ research. This outlines 8 need states that define why and how people watch TV – from ‘keeping in touch’ and ‘experience with others’ (which is driven by live content) to ‘distraction’ and ‘escape’ (which lean towards the choice that on-demand gives the consumer).

  1. Dayparts don’t determine platform choice any more
    When on-demand first arrived on our screens, we treated it as a ‘micro-ritual’ – focused around weekend, ‘appointment to view’ moments, with households choosing something ‘special’ to watch.

But this year we have reached a tipping point for VOD, where people are choosing to watch on demand content during the day too.
During lockdown, whilst linear volumes were boosted during the daytime more than peak, for VOD all day parts – both weekdays and weekends – are seeing the impact of behavioural change.

This year the biggest time slot % increase in viewing has been 2-3pm (linear +16% and on-demand +57%). The biggest linear increase has been between 11-12pm (+22%) and the biggest VOD increase (+70%) has been from midnight to 1am (late night viewing not such a problem when you haven’t got the morning commute!)

What more do we know about how VOD is consumed with this 2020 acceleration? We see middle of the day viewing increases more pronounced on a Wednesday and Thursday, with Thursday seeing the overall largest increases in VOD viewing.

With documentaries and hobby and leisure content driving these daytime uplifts, maybe the excuse of ‘edu-tainment’ takes the guilt out of daytime TV.

Increased choice makes planning complicated
With such a wealth of data on viewing, we could cut and re-cut this data by audience, channel, device, day part, platform or any other dimension for TV planning.

Then, as new platforms have been bolted on, they have adopted digital metrics rather than TV metrics. This has seen TV plans become fragmented between different platforms and different audience definitions, and the way that a linear TV campaign is measured versus a VOD campaign is different.

Plus, with different systems and approval deadlines, there is a lot of unnecessary admin around campaign management. It used to be digital specialists that spoke in code, but now the vast array of TV terms seems to have surpassed even that.

Different audiences, different prices, different measurement, different processes – it’s all starting to feel a bit too complicated.

All in one place, easy
As we explored above, audiences don’t differentiate between whether they are watching content in linear versus on demand. They simply sit down and find great stuff to watch.

Sky Q’s ‘all in one place easy’ approach aggregates all the content people love in one place, so whatever the format it makes it simple to find and watch the content they love. Sky Q customers watch more TV and enjoy their experience more.

With the nation’s viewing evolving at pace and the dimensions for TV planning becoming ever more complicated, what about ‘all in one place easy’ for TV advertising?

We’re spending the time making advertising easier too
Making things simpler takes time and needs a change in mindset too. At Sky Media, we’ve spent the last 18 months exploring how we can simplify the TV advertising market.

Our vision is to transform the way TV advertising is planned, measured, traded and managed by focussing on audiences, not platforms. Reach and connect with the right audience whenever and wherever they watch – in the knowledge it has the brand safety and high impact that only TV can provide. All in One Place Easy.

One audience (the audience the advertiser wants to reach), One measurement (measure in a unified way with CFlight allowing cross-platform reach and frequency), One price (unified metrics means prices can be simplified and blended).

And by stripping out the complexity to focus on driving the optimum blend of linear and VOD across BARB and addressable audiences, we hope not to just simplify how campaigns are booked, measured and managed, but to give the greater gift of time – time back to spend where it matters most.

So we’re investing time and money to make campaigns simpler and better. We’re calling it One Campaign, and we believe it will change the future of TV for the better.



By all accounts 2020 was a miserable year. A global pandemic led to an economic recession impacting the ad marketplace. Production studios the television and film industry. Stay-at-home orders closed retail stores and movie theaters. Viewers migrated to home entertainment, HBO Max, Peacock and the short lived Quibi were launched. Sporting events were either canceled, suspended or postponed such as the Tokyo Olympics. Meanwhile, there was a contentious election and in January the U.S. will have a new President. What else could happen in 2021? We asked some experts.

Tim Jones, CEO, Publicis Media Americas

“The old rules no longer apply: Cookies are going away, commerce has exploded and consumer expectations are driving the industry towards new future proofing opportunities and structures. In order for brands to succeed in a platform world, they must be digitally-resilient, have identity systems to provide personalization at scale and have the infrastructure set up to deliver relevant and meaningful experiences. When brands progress in all of these areas, they can create long-term consumer value and maintain a competitive advantage that will last far beyond any crisis lifecycle.”

Rob Davis, President & CMO, Novus Next

“Two growing marketer needs that were accelerated by the pandemic will extend into 2021: flexibility and customization. Long-term media deals are becoming ever-rarer as advertisers face continued economic and operational uncertainty; they need increasing flexibility to quickly pull back or shut off their advertising. Similarly, many brands—be they regional or national in distribution— will increasingly be looking to local media to help adapt to the wide array of local COVID regulations, closures and variance in consumer demand. Geo-targeted media will offer the needed customization.”

Esther Maguire SVP of Marketing, VideoAmp

“Connected TV Prevails: It’s important to reach people when they’re most receptive to consuming ads, that’s why Connected TV will remain as a powerful medium for connecting the dots between awareness and attribution in 2021. One-to-one engagement is an advertiser’s dream, but from a privacy perspective, it’s difficult to make those connections. Barriers and regulations like GDPR, new PII classifications and the death of the cookie are only the beginning. People want to make authentic connections with brands, not feel like a target. For an advertiser to find the right moments to connect with consumers, CTV should be in their arsenal.”

Brian Morrison, CEO, Terraboost Media

“The heaviest OOH spenders currently are companies thriving during the COVID era, such as Amazon (AMZN +0.8 %) and Netflix (NFLX +1.7 %). While roadside traffic and commutes are down, consumers still must travel to supermarkets, drugstores, and doctors’ offices. Terraboost Media has built a network 100,000+ hand sanitizing billboards located at the entrances and pharmacy wait areas of retailers such as CVS, Rite Aid, and Stop & Shop. CPM are low, frequency high, and OOH affords opportunities to break through the clutter in ways other media cannot replicate. Our hand sanitizing billboards provide advertisers the ability to sponsor health and wellness and keep families safe.”

Bill Harvey, Executive Chairman, Bill Harvey Consulting

“Optimism will rise as vaccinations reverse the pandemic tide. Because this will happen unevenly by market, brands will increase their use of local media and rediscover its ability to find growth pockets for nationally topped-out brands. First results of trials of the WFA/ANA cross-platform measurement specifications will reveal that panel data cannot be used as a truth source and that combining big and panel data is more complicated but do-able. DCT expansion will result in new ROAS compilations that will benefit all television forms. Addressable TV will become easier to buy and more national network inventory will become addressable.”

Abhay Singhal, co-founder and CEO, InMobi

“Time spent using mobile apps rose to new heights in 2020, and apps will likely be even more popular in 2021. After all, Americans have been spending more time looking at their mobile device screens than they’ve spent watching TV since 2019, according to eMarketer. For media and entertainment companies (and really all advertisers), it’s critical to reach their target audience where they are: using mobile apps. Savvy marketers will increasingly leverage mobile in-app advertising in the coming months, taking advantage of its viewability, addressability and scale, among other benefits.”

Kym Frank, President, Geopath

“The emergence of outcome-based planning and buying that we saw take root over the past two years will flourish in 2021, especially as more granular data becomes available across all platforms. Consumers who were previously restricting their mobility will emerge from their homes – hungry for experiences and interactions. Marketers will look to leverage this increased out of home activity so that they can make up sales ground lost in 2020. That will mean an emphasis on using dollars efficiently by engaging with consumers where they can best convert them to purchase. It’s a convergence of events that we feel will lead to a solid year for OOH ad growth.”

Naveen Wall, Associate Director of Client Strategy, Movable Ink

“Customer retention will remain critical for streaming services as consumers reduce discretionary spending. As Pay TV households decline, the appetite for subscription stacking will grow (the stacking of several services on top of one another). Competition will heat up with new Subscription Video on Demand entrants, tiered pricing, and free ad-supported video services as consumers supplement their streaming diet with free alternatives. SVOD will continue growing, however, projections forecast a slowdown peaking in 2024 due to an overcrowded market and subscription fatigue. This places increased importance in 2021 on building loyalty and driving adoption with superior content and customer experience.”

Tim Vanderhook, CEO, Viant Technology

“Connected TV (CTV) is growing in importance which is fueling the shift away from device identification and toward household identification as vital to the new digital ecosystem. As constant market disruption is accelerating consumer consumption changes, industry leaders need to have eyes on every device in the home. Marketers who embrace household measurement will gain a clearer picture of return on ad spend (ROAS) and the true impact of their advertising campaigns.”

Yashina Burns, Director, Data Privacy and Legal Affairs, DeepIntent

“While CPRA won’t become law until 2023, other states will likely create similar regulations in the interim and further push the ad industry to adopt targeting technologies that are more conscious of consumer privacy. Marketing leaders need to get ready now by focusing on privacy-friendly solutions that limit the use of sensitive personal information. Publishers and platforms that offer compliant data collection across platforms – especially in the healthcare space where privacy is of the utmost importance – will be well-positioned to continue the services they offer to marketers amid the coming regulatory change.”

Michael Schoen, SVP/GM of Marketing Solutions, Neustar

“While entities like Gartner (IT +1.5%) and the U.S. Census Bureau have endorsed differential privacy, it’s not understood or used widely within the marketing ecosystem. In 2021, we’ll start to see a seismic shift in marketers leveraging differential privacy algorithms as a way to provide highly accurate multi-touch attribution without requiring individual-level advertising impression data. Advances in privacy like this are needed because traditional privacy safeguards, like anonymization, have been found to be ineffective. This advanced data science approach ensures brands can measure advertising performance across closed media platforms in a privacy-centric way without relying on third-party cookies and MAIDs.”

Bill Magnuson, co-founder and CEO, Braze

“In 2021, streaming brands will need to step up their sophisticated retention efforts. Despite the saturation in streaming as new user growth has declined for two consecutive months (September to October saw a 46% decrease in new user acquisition), there’s still new streaming services being rolled out. While new content is slowing down significantly, and as we continue to see a “k-shaped” economic recovery, streaming services will focus on retention activity and getting more out of their existing customers. Industry leaders have already prioritized lifecycle marketing where everything from onboarding to ongoing customer engagement is examined and tested every day.”

Raman Abrol, General Manager and Chief Commercial Officer, Amdocs Media

“COVID-19 accelerated the debate around theatrical runs, premium VOD and a streaming-centric future. Disney’s Premier Access of Mulan, along with WarnerMedia and AT&T’s (T +0.3%) approach with Wonder Woman, are redefining release windows. As consumers remain cautious about returning to theaters, expect several options to be explored in 2021, like condensing traditional release windows, partnerships between theaters and studios to share VOD revenue, and experimentation by theaters in new areas like e-gaming, e-sports, luxury experiences and corporate seminars. We’ll see revised premium recurring bundles that incorporate several of these unique experiences in the home, providing new revenue opportunities for content platforms and service providers.”

Amanda Shelton, VP, Product, Valassis

“Amid the pandemic with people spending more time at home, connected TV grew exponentially in 2020. There are certain consumers that simply cannot be reached on traditional TV anymore – only streaming or CTV platforms. Going into 2021, this momentum will lead to continued rapid growth in this channel. That said, we’ll see several changes in the advertising marketplace. For starters, advertisers will demand increased transparency around reporting, in terms of what content consumers are viewing, which publishers the ads are running on and their return on advertising spend.”

Mahesh Narayanan, President of Affinity Answers

“In 2021, I won’t be surprised if some media companies enter the TV device market or Internet TV market (via stick, like Roku or Amazon Fire TV Stick), to control the end-user experience. Negotiations like HBO Max on Amazon Fire and Roku, took forever and has definitely impacted subscriber growth. AT&T has WarnerMedia, Comcast (CMCSA +0.2%) has NBCU, so a Verizon (VZ -0.2%), ViacomCBS merger won’t be surprising to me. Marketing content on TV devices will become like an SEO exercise. Sponsored search results on TV devices (like Roku, Samsung) may become an increasingly adopted tactic.”

Kristin Dolan, Founder & CEO, 605

“Fragmentation of TV puts premium on data-driven audiences. With the ongoing pandemic, we’ve seen more people spend more time at home – in front of screens, so the attention paid to how people watch television is more relevant than ever. An abundance of programming, on new platforms, designed for niche audiences means an increasingly fragmented TV environment that places a premium on data-driven insights. To succeed, especially when working with constrained budgets, advertisers will need to determine where and when their target audiences are consuming TV content to uncover and most effectively reach these new audience segments.”

Daniel Elad, Chief Strategy Officer at TheViewPoint

“The pandemic has seriously impacted businesses across the globe. Hence, many have abandoned particular ad channels, but not CTV. Since March 2020, the ad dollars poured into CTV have reached a total of $8.11B, and this figure will account for $11.36B next year. Since we’re entering another pandemic year, I believe TV upfront deals will remain on pause. Meanwhile, more dollars will be shifting via programmatic pipes, and the pandemic will expedite this process. Unlike TV upfront, programmatic offers better flexibility for allocating ad spend, providing granular targeting and the opportunity to manage campaigns on-the-fly.”

Buzz Knight, CEO/Founder, Buzz Knight Media

“The balance sheets of broadcast companies will continue trending with lower margins yielding more experimentation to create new revenue streams. Diversity will continue to be an important boardroom topic and there will be small improvements by the audio industry as it relates to content creation and business implementation. Ad attribution methods will continue to evolve, improve and grow via new forms of technology that will help advertisers track campaign performance. New measurement options will emerge allowing broadcasters to add other forms of data to the story they are telling advertisers. Talent will begin to migrate to other distribution platforms as their fear of the future will continue to creep in.”

Matthew O’Connor, CEO, AdQuick

“Out-of-home advertising will rebound at a frenetic pace in 2021, but this comeback won’t happen simultaneously across all regions. What we’ll see is advertisers in a sprint to reclaim out-of-home media in high traffic commuter areas as people come back to work. Airport advertising, transit advertising and large billboards in Los Angeles and New York will rebound first as advertisers seek to target prospective B2B software and direct-to-consumer customers.”

James Heller, CEO and Co-Founder, Wrapify

“In 2021, I believe we will see large brands thinking more granularly about how media is purchased. As a result, there will likely be a shift from national campaigns towards more hyperlocal campaigns as more consumers leave major metropolitan areas where the population is denser and not as conducive to the work-from-home environment. There will be a big push for transit and out-of-home advertising next year if a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, but the challenge will be if the traditional media business will be able to handle the uptick in demand.”

Anne Hunter, VP of Product Marketing, DISQO

“2021 will see marketers increase focus on consumer privacy as legal requirements, technology environments and consumer expectations continue to evolve. Advertisers must bring ethics to their strategies as they ready themselves for a future without cookies — and privacy can no longer simply be treated as a box to be checked in compliance. 2020 brought a reckoning to companies across numerous dimensions, from how they treated their people and customers through the pandemic to their efforts supporting inclusion and representation. Across the board, there is an increasing premium on clarity of purpose and authenticity. In 2021, this will extend further into transparency around data collection with consent and trust.”

Jo Kinsella, President, TVSquared

“TV has undergone warp-speed acceleration, with transparent, cross-platform measurement and automation at scale empowering buyers and sellers to be more collaborative and agile than ever before. In 2021, we need to take what we learned from 2020 and continue to shake up the long-standing narrative around TV. For marketers, it means being completely data-driven with their TV campaigns – employing test-and-learn strategies to identify the right audiences and maximize reach and engagement across platforms and devices. For sellers, it’s about providing transparent, timely proof of performance and bringing next-level flexibility to planning and buying to meet advertiser demand and protect and grow ad spend.”



TV advertising revenue plummeted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, prompting broadcasters to slash content budgets and review spending. Tim Dams examines the extent of the decline in ad spend and assesses the likely rate of recovery.

“It could have been worse.” That’s the verdict of advertising giant GroupM in newly published research about the state of the advertising market in 2020.

Nine months into the Covid-19 pandemic, GroupM – whose global media buying agencies include Mindshare, MediaCom and Wavemaker – predicts an ad spend decline of 4.4% for the UK for 2020, which is much improved on its prior expectation of a 12.5% decline that it forecasted in June.

For the US, GroupM says the decline will be closer to 9% rather than a predicted 13% decline.

The figures are surprisingly good given that the advertising industry more or less shut down in March, with commercials production more or less halted as the pandemic took hold.

Advertisers around the world quickly started to reign in spend as lockdowns were announced. In the UK, ITV’s advertising revenue was down 42% in April, while Fox in the US saw revenues halve.

Advertising work then started to pick up in the summer, returning to almost normal in September and October with tech firms leading the charge.

GroupM says the advertising industry is experiencing a K-shaped recovery – the pandemic has seen rapid acceleration for e-commerce and advanced digital services and cratered industries like restaurants, bars, travel, entertainment and traditional retail.

Digital advertising is the “bright spot” in an otherwise dark year for the industry in both the US and the UK, adds GroupM.

In the US, it estimates that pure-play digital advertising will grow by 5% during 2020 on an underlying (ex-political advertising) basis, following on 2019’s 17% rate of growth. During 2021, the firm estimates that digital advertising will account for 55% of all advertising that it tracks.

Political advertising during the US presidential election has proved to be an important source of growth for digital media during 2020. Roughly 4% in total digital advertising was for political candidates and issues advertising, representing around 3% of the year’s gains.

In the UK, GroupM estimates that pure-play digital advertising will grow by 4.9% during 2020, following 2019’s 16% rate of growth.

Television advertising has also fared better than expected. In the UK, GroupM estimates it will fall by 10%, the worst rate of decline since 2009, but better than anticipated earlier this year. Its 2021 forecast now anticipates a 10% gain and a return to 2019 levels in 2022.

“Although streaming services receive much of the industry’s attention, traditional ad-supported television continues to do the bulk of the work supporting marketers’ brand-building efforts,” says GroupM.

National TV advertising in the US will see a decline of 7.9% during 2020 and rebound to grow by 6.6% during 2021 before returning to a flat or slightly declining longer-term trend.

“At this pace, national TV is faring better than every other category of media other than digital,” says GroupM.

The agency’s findings echo reports from the TV industry. At the height of the pandemic, the UK’s Channel 4 saw its revenue fall by half, and cut its programme budget by £150m. Chief executive Alex Mahon recently said the picture has improved and advertisers have returned, and that its content spend will go up “massively” next year to help it compete with streamers such as Netflix.

Last month, ITV’s CEO Carolyn McCall predicted an annual rise in advertising revenues for the final quarter of 2020, saying that “advertising trends are improving.”

Cinema has been most heavily affected advertising medium by the pandemic, with an estimated decline of 80% for 2020 in the UK.

GroupM expects a strong rebound of 160% in 2021 as film studios seek to monetise their backlogs with a surge of highly anticipated launches.
“While this rebound may seem optimistic, we note that it only brings cinema back to 52% of pre-pandemic advertising spend.”

GroupM notes that studios are likely to release some upcoming titles on their direct-to-consumer platforms. “Even once the virus has receded, it seems unlikely studios will release as many titles in theatres as they did in pre-pandemic years, meaning admissions are likely to remain below 2019 levels for some time.

Elsewhere, GroupM thinks audio advertising will fall by 16% and 27% in the UK and US respectively.

Print media will fall by 23% this year in the UK. In the US, the figure is 20% for magazine publishers and a 30% decline for newspaper publishers. “It is our view that neither the magazine nor newspaper sectors will ever exceed $10 billion in ad revenue in their current forms, even including existing digital properties.”

Looking ahead, GroupM predicts robust growth for 2021 as vaccines allow normal life to return in the second half of the year. In the US, the ad market will rise 11.8% on an ex-political basis, or 6% including it. “For subsequent years, we anticipate slightly higher growth than we previously forecast—now 5% in 2022 followed by 4% in 2023 and 2024—to reflect what we think will be an accelerated pace of investment in digital media by marketers of all sizes.”

In the UK, Brexit uncertainty still weighs on the British economy.
“At a minimum, our forecasts anticipate some degree of disruption to the economy in the early part of 2021 as adjustments are made; however, we think Brexit’s impact on the advertising market will be limited to a shift in spending away from the first quarter rather than meaningful full-year cuts.

More generally, we continue to assume that “normal” activity will return by the second half of the year, which pre-supposes that Brexit will not cause ongoing problems and that an effective vaccine will be widely distributed across the population.”