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How Can Networks be Better Than Netflix? Follow the Math

Remember when the cloud concept came along and everyone joked about it meaning nothing and then it transformed the way everything is done in like 3 years? Those jokes were made about “big data” because WTF does that mean, really?

Yet that big data + machine learning + social and device graphs = the messy attention economy we find ourselves in.  Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, YouTube, Apple, Spotify, Hulu all have “data-driven” ingrained in their approach to audiences, content and revenue– obviously.

How is the TV industrial complex going to deal with the new data-driven dynamic? (Aside from the fact that it has a $70B brand subsidy baked in) The answers show up as hundreds of anecdotes sprinkled along newly forged roads all leading to the same place– the pot of gold that is swapped for the hearts and minds of consumers.

Here in the last two weeks alone, are a few examples of data dynamics with promise to reshape the landscape:

So where  are the TV networks when it comes to making their Netflix-like data driven play? The knee-jerk you’re having says “on OTT, dumbass!–look at HBO GO and ESPN, and CBS All Access will be 16 million by 2022 “.

And while its true many networks are doing a great job of deepening consumer relationships (and of generating a minor percentage of overall revenues). They also aren’t that compelling in by way of personalization, yet.

Maybe the new macro and micro bundles from Warner (coming in 2019) and Disney– and TV sets like VIZIO and those powered by Roku can potentially “do the math” for consumers and suggest, optimize and monetize at scale across all of it. (Or maybe there will be new walled gardens?)

Stepping out of maybes–let’s be real, TV is a linear beast serving up billions of TV ad impressions a day. Everyone benefits from the linear “why now” premieres and events bring. So they aren’t going away nor should they.

Networks have the raw materials for Netflix-type data at their fingertips with ACR data— “people who watched this, watched that” is now a near real-time EKG networks can watch to inform programming decisions. Inscape for instance can tell you viewing patterns at a granular level, things like– households that watch GMA tend to do so on a smaller device in the kitchen. Those folks also tend to watch crime shows at night, and are less likely to interrupt ads on the whole. (I am making that up)

The key is how networks correlate said granular data to their show apps, show programming, dynamic scheduling, push alerts and the rest. At some point, networks will realize they have deeper fan buy-in for franchises and more touch points to meet consumers where they are– everywhere.

Linear to Hologram: Turner’s Total Addressable Audience

Clues to TVs data-empowered future from a network perspective can be found in this look Inside Turner’s 50-person data strategy group which reveals how multi-platform content machines are being built with “total addressable audiences” in mind. That is certainly on message with this: Turner Ad Sales Boss Donna Speciale Wants To Blur The Line Between Linear And Digital. And this isn’t just network executives talking and thinking about GRPs. 

Two announcements from Turner in the last week  attest to the forward thinking: a new (live) medical crowdsourcing reality series  and a “Multi-platform Venture” with fashion icon Jenna Lyons . If both sound different that ‘normal’ TV its because they are.  Undoubtedly, the data makes sense for each.

Watch the industry follow that lead.