From broadcast to broadband: is SVOD killing TV?

  • Opinion
  • September 22, 2014
  • Alex Lawson
From broadcast to broadband: is SVOD killing TV?

Disclaimer: I love subscription video on demand (SVOD) platforms. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu ... I can’t get enough. Catalogues of content to watch on my terms, when I want, where I want? Yes! A reasonable monthly fee for them? No worries. It’s the future and I’m in.

But from a professional viewpoint they’re a problem. It used to be easy. Book TV, some radio, print, outdoor and away you go. But then came the internet. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, content, content, content everywhere, and with SVOD offerings, no ads. 

TV ratings are falling consistently and it’s becoming more and more expensive for us to achieve the same reach as before for our schedules. So, is this the death of the linear TV model? TVNZ and MediaWorks replaced by SVOD platforms? What does that mean for us as marketers?

The answers for me are yes (but not yet), no and some challenges ahead. 

SVOD platforms aren’t new. ITunes and Quikflix have been here for some time and various software already allows access to overseas SVOD models. But the incoming Lightbox (Telecom), Sky’s (unnamed) upcoming offering and heavily rumoured (official) arrival of Netflix have got tongues wagging about the impending death of TV as we know it. 

There are still some infrastructure issues for these new players to get past, namely our not-yet-fully-rolled-out UFB network, but they’re definitely coming.

To be fair, the networks haven’t been sitting idly, and all have some level of online offering. TVNZ and MediaWorks both run an advertising-funded video ondemand (AVOD) model with most content from broadcast available for catch up. But the digital advances they are making highlight the biggest issue with broadcast: accountability. 

The AVOD model is accountable. Advertising is bought on impressions. We know when they’re watched and what the completion rate is. We know the type of people who watch and what else they like. Pause or navigate away, the ad stops and waits for you. You could leave the room and come back, but for a single 15” or 30” ad? Most watch.

Compare that to traditional TV. 600 measured homes where viewers push a button when someone enters or leaves the room. We know basic demographics but that’s it. Data is released in 15-minute increments and a multi-million dollar industry is built upon that. 

Four-minute breaks of ads are the perfect length to go to the bathroom, make a drink, check Facebook, anything but concentrate on the screen that we want you to. Digital has proven real measurement is possible. So give us minute-by-minute ratings for linear TV. The UK and many other large global territories have had minute-by-minute ratings for a long time, so can’t we play in the same sandbox?

The networks know what happens during breaks, how the viewership drops away after the first or second ad and picks up again at the end. Is it coincidence that we pay a premium for first and last in break? 

What about the ratings that are being reported but not actually delivered in the middle of those breaks? 15-minute ratings smooth out those dips to include ratings from during the shows, which gives a false value on your mid break 30” spot.

A recent NZ on Air report into viewing and listening habits revealed that people still watch lots of linear TV and listen to lots of broadcast radio. But the report was commissioned to look into content viewing habits to get more funding, not advertising viewing habits, so there was no big surprise in its findings. 

Despite my love of digital models, I don’t hate TV, or the ads. A well-crafted TV ad is a thing of beauty; entertaining and effective. It’s the current audience delivery method, with all the distractions we have, and the way they are tracked, that I hate. 

My challenge to the networks? Find better ways to deliver ads to viewers and make yourselves more accountable if you want our marketing dollars. 15 minute increments aren’t good enough. Show me your audience is there, during breaks, engaged with the screen. Let’s find a better way to deliver the ads. I’ll even help. You know where to find me. 


  • Alex Lawson is group business director at ZenithOptimedia.
  • This story was originally published in September/October edition of NZ Marketing.  

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