The Association of Commercial Television


When we talk about the potential demise of traditional linear TV, we’re talking about the potential demise of cable and broadcast delivery of linear TV, not linear TV itself.

That’s an important distinction as, like the difference between “OTT” and “CTV”, it clouds up discussions about the future of TV.

So far starters, linear TV is not going anywhere.

That’s one of the few developments around the future of TV I’m willing to make a firm bet on and it’s based on the fact that most people don’t like being their own personal programmer.

In my book, Over The Top, How The Internet Is (Slowly But Surely) Changing The Television Industry, I referred to it as the “Spotifyization of Television” and it’s a description that still holds up today.

On Spotify, users can listen to whatever song they want from a library of over 50 million songs. They can listen to a playlist they’ve created or one someone else has created. Or they can listen to one of the tens of thousands of radio station-like playlists that Spotify has created, including playlists that are personalized to their unique tastes.

Spotify’s own playlists have proved to be very popular with users as people quickly grow tired of their own music and want to listen to something new, only not too new.

That’s the basic premise behind the boom in linear-like channels on the FASTs, many of whom have hundreds of options ranging from genres like Crime and Horror to channels devoted to a single series.

The channels make it easy to use TV as background entertainment, to be able to click around, find something that is interesting enough for the moment, lean back and bliss out. (Or attend to emails, dinner preparation and similarly banal tasks.)

At some point soon I suspect we’ll have personalized linear channels too, either entire pre-populated channels (“Alan’s Crime Channel”) waiting for you, a personalized YouTube-like autoplay channel once the show you’ve just watched is over, or both.

Until then, there are certainly enough options on the FASTs where viewers have the ability to click from channel to channel the way they do on old school set top box cable.

Having these lean back options is important given how much of the current Second Golden Age of TV consists of “lean forward” options–shows you’ll want to pay careful attention to and watch with no distractions. They’re the yin and yang of streaming TV.

There’s another area where linear will find a home on streaming and that is live programming, be it news, sports or a special event.

There’s no reason why these three genres would not work on streaming, particularly if that’s where the bulk of their potential audience is.

Streaming is just a delivery system that uses the internet rather than broadcast signals or cable wire. If anything, it’s a superior delivery system as it allows for additional features like Amazon’s X-Ray, which shows the names of the actors in any particular scene. Easy enough to imagine a corollary feature that shows the athletes on any particular play.

The biggest advantage to moving linear to streaming is that it consolidates the number of inputs and allows viewers to take advantage of the ability to switch between linear and VOD at will, so that if a linear streaming channel plays a random episode of “Seinfeld” a viewer can quickly search for “Festivus” and watch that episode next.

It also allows for localization, so that streaming channels can be adjusted to reflect local tastes and news can be localized as well, right down to zip code-based weather reports.

Finally, it allows for better targeted addressable advertising, of the sort found on digital, that allows for better measurement and less wasteful ad spends.

One big caveat to all this: I wrote the aforementioned book in 2015 and much of what I wrote is still relevant today. Not because I’m any sort of genius, but because not much has changed over the past six years.

While there is the old saying “things change slowly and then all at once,” I’m not sure that applies to the television industry where things seem to change slowly… and then slightly less slowly.

We’ll know soon enough.



Only through the holistic and integrated management of all forms of TV media can advertisers achieve better measurement and greater effectiveness, writes Paul Evans.

TV is not going anywhere, it’s going everywhere

TV has come a long way since the very first commercial was aired over 80 years ago. It has innovated dramatically to create some of the most attention-commanding audience viewing experiences available to advertisers – whether we consider the quality of programming content offered, the different screens, devices and platforms where that content is available for consumption, or the emerging forms of data-fuelled, technology enabled addressability.

TV – once considered by some as media in terminal decline – is in fact at a significant point of reinvention. Buoyed by a 2020 that we might refer to as ‘the year of TV’, viewing behaviour shifted to TV as a source of trusted content, with growth demonstrated across all forms of TV – whether linear or scheduled TV, or the various on-demand and user-initiated formats.

With market forces – both audience and distribution – aligning behind the wider definition of TV consumption, it has a chance to shape its own destiny of transformation.

Effectiveness is everything

TV is also one of the most evidentially supported advertising channels in terms of performance and value delivery, and is widely understood to be the most effective form of advertising on this basis – bar none.

It’s hard to ignore or dismiss the volume of high quality, exacting studies that have been undertaken by academic, industry and commercial parties to validate the efficacy of the $200bn TV advertising industry. For marketers, TV is known as the media channel that embodies the very rules and principles of how brands grow, whether measuring longer-term brand building or short-term brand activation and sales outcomes.

However, ‘digital’ expectations of planning, buying and measurement now set the operational benchmark for modern marketers and their agencies. Whether we refer to immediacy, accessibility, accuracy or transparency of measurement – and the data that underpins it – TV faces a significant delivery gap that manifests itself through a non-existent ‘user-experience’ of low-touch control, visibility and involvement.

When effectiveness is everything, TV’s problem isn’t its ability to provide value to advertisers. Its problem is its inability to measure and quantity the value of its effectiveness, and to democratise the understanding, optimisation and extension of that intelligence in real time.

The challenges from change

Amidst the positive ‘front end’ innovation that is changing the way audiences consume TV, an objective look at the operational layer underpinning this reveals significant challenges that – if left unchecked – will prevent the potential of TV’s future growth.

Indeed, the irony being exhibited right now is that with connected TV advertising, measurement actually seems to be getting harder and not better, leaving CTV as just another black box for brands. With doubts over the efficacy of CTV planning and buying, marketing investment will and should be slow to follow.

As an industry that is supercharging TVs capabilities through technology, we must now take ownership of the issues that are being natively built into the very fabric of its landscape, which we can summarise as:

The increasing and unnecessary complexity of infrastructure and language that is fuelling transformation, but holding back understanding for marketers. OTT, IPTV, ATV, MVPD, BVOD, AVOD, SVOD, TVOD, STB, HBBTV, ACR, DAI, SSAI. These are all probably familiar to us at a surface-level, but their proliferation is doing more harm than good through collective confusion.

An already congested TV ad tech ecosystem – ranging from demand and supply-side facilitators, content creators and distributors, and data aggregators – that has grown with incompatibility and interoperability. Compounded by the emergence of new ‘walled garden’ entities, we’re at risk of building siloes that create disharmony and limit effectiveness.

TV data – by any standard – is seemingly slow, dumb and disconnected. This is particularly true to the legacy systems and aggregation methods employed for linear TV, but a lack of transparency regarding provenance and quality of data is a reality across all of TV, fuelling bad measurement. And as the CTV industry relentlessly pursues a goal of audience addressability and personalisation, the perennial ‘digital’ issues of household vs individual targeting, online vs offline identity, and privacy/consent enablement are equally apparent.

Fuel the future of Total TV

At Adgile, we have always seen things differently. We were conceived and built to bring intelligent, real time visibility and control across linear and on demand TV. We create – not aggregate – unique TV data through our visual AI enabled technology, enabling users to understand, optimise and extend their TV planning and buying through our analytics, attribution and activation product capabilities.

We call this ‘Total TV Effectiveness’.

Total TV is not new language, but we want to bring new meaning to it. We believe it represents more than just the simplistic sum of TV’s linear, VOD and CTV parts.

Embracing Total TV as a category definition is much bigger. This instead looks towards the holistic and integrated management of all TV – uniting the different ways that TV can be consumed, with better ways of measuring and driving effectiveness. This is about improving the quality of data, planning and buying, talent capabilities, business and industry growth.

It reflects an ambition for the industry to come together and realise its true potential through safeguarding and promoting TV’s proven strengths (quality of content, viewing experience, effective advertising practice and business outcomes) whilst advancing into a data fuelled, technology powered future that strikes the right balance between mass targeting and addressability at scale.

We know that Total TV requires further change – change in behaviour, data and operations – and this manifesto aims to ignite that positive movement. As a means to provide direction to the debate and actions to the agenda, we wanted to highlight what we believe to be the necessary and actionable changes this industry can make right now.

Collaboration: Put simply, an industry working towards the common goal of Total TV Effectiveness. Working to avoid and dismantle ‘walled gardens’ that might prevent complete advertising outcome measurement, and instead building in interoperability and compatibility of data sharing across platforms. Linear and on-demand TV valued for their different strengths in addressing audiences need states, rather than a binary pursuit of CTV as a replacement for scheduled viewing.

Harmonisation: Achieving the necessary transparency and unification of data across all forms of TV to make it universally accountable. Elevating all forms of data to take a 3D view of identity – moving beyond the pursuit of an audience only definition, to one that includes advertising context and content data as the required constant to enable a single source of truth.

Simplification: Of definition, language and management. Simplicity drives understanding, adoption and advocacy. We reject what we don’t understand. We need to remove unnecessary complexity from the ecosystem and present Total TV as media that meets the needs of modern marketers and audiences – delivering value across the customer journey, building brands over the long term, demonstrating commercial accountability over the short term.

Total TV ultimately creates a better industry for everyone – audiences, brands, agencies and broadcasters – and it’s our obligation to collectively realise this opportunity. We have to move past the current focus on connected TV as the sole industry solution to effective TV advertising. It isn’t. The answer is about connecting TV. Collaboration, harmonisation, simplification. Let’s fuel the future of Total TV.