Why TV and Digital can’t live separately anymore

Television Vs digital content. What seemed to be two irreconcilable worlds (and markets) are slowly but surely merging. As many were predicting the death of television as THE medium or to the contrary ensuring that digital would never enable the same capturing power as TV, audiences seem to have chosen a third way : a fragmenting media consumption across platforms and mediums, shifting from linear to on-demand, from main TV screen to smartphone on the go, from live to replay. Here lies the greatest challenge for the industry. How to address a unified media market and offer a seamless experience on all platforms, for users and advertisers ?


In the beginning was Television. And tracking viewers used to be very simple. Turn on the device, watch, turn it off. The way to monitor was somehow a bit random (a few selected households all over the country) but still efficient to draw behavioral patterns. The rise of digital platforms made it somehow a bit harder to track viewers, split between linear streams and replay. What really changed the deal though is the complete disruption of trackable consumption habits from a viewer to another.

As the whole industry was expecting the audience to chose one media to rule over the other, the audience chose to pick bits and bites from both and reinvent its own scheme. Starting an episode on television and finishing it in your bed on Netflix. Discovering a stand-up comedian on YouTube and buying his last show on a channel’s on demand platform. Watching the second half of a football game live on TV and the first one afterwards on catch-up.

As we already stated it in this blog, unities of Action, Time and Place have been smashed by the rise of our multi-platform world. They have been replaced by instantaneity, contextualization and personalization. Acknowledging that there are no clear rules of consumption anymore means that the industry needs to master all media channels not as independent threads but as a complex and intricate web, in order to understand what their viewers do.


This clearly sums up why both the television and the digital industries started to take a peek at what the other was doing. Very soon, replay, catch-up and on demand appeared for all networks and became ways to retain viewers, whenever they wanted to watch the programs. Targeting and Time to Market became essential levers for television. Digital platforms on their side started creating live events, as live broadcast was television’s remaining rampart. Twitter announced livestreaming programs, Hulu and YouTube made live programming monetization a priority and live streaming became the standard, opening a brand-new playground for publishers and advertisers.

As YouTube and Netflix became available on television, TV channels started publishing exclusive content on digital platforms, urging people in the same time to consume outside the traditional frame. This content blending explains why it became so hard to distinguish television from content.


Let’s take a few examples to understand why the model has become so hybrid :

· Watching Live Sky News on YouTube : TV or Digital ?

· Subscribing to Amazon Prime Video through your PS4 : TV or Digital ?

· Watching a Game of Thrones episode replay on HBO’s website : TV or Digital ?

· Using your AT&T subscription to watch YouTube video clips on your television : TV or Digital ?

We could go on and on, but the point is that TV and digital have so much copied each other’s specificities that it becomes hard to even state where the frontier stands. No wonder some companies started buying both and building empires.

Last year, AT&T bought AppNexus for around 1.6 billion dollars. This followed previous acquisitions such as DirectTV and Time Warner. The AppNexus acquisition is a clear sign of the largest pay-tv provider in the U.S going forward in its digital distribution strategy. As Google and Facebook are projected to hold around 60% of the digital ad market in 2018, AT&T has found a way to compete against its main rival Verizon and its subsidiary Oath.


In this story, data is key. Creating a bridge between TV data and digital advertising was just a matter of time. Television offers tremendous amounts of data and digital the best way to track consumers. Ultimately, AT&T holds the media market’s dream in its hands : developing a buying platform that enables seamless advertising strategies on all devices, both for TV and digital video.

This is one example amongst others, showing that television and digital were not really competitors anymore as they understood they would be more impactful together and give a more appropriate answer to a fragmented audience.

Digital segments are increasingly used to improve targeting. Even Google and Facebook take a growing interest in understanding what viewers search for right after having watched a TV ad. To the contrary, Television uses digital as laboratory to test commercials before they launch it on the big screen.

Let’s not get carried away. Average American adults still spend more than 4 hours a day watching linear and tie-shifted television. And television remains the ultimate medium when it comes to advertise : viewers have more trust and more attention. Then, the question is how to combine the reach of TV advertising with the targeting and measurement of digital ?


Broadcaster such as ITV have started building addressable TV offering but still face technical issues. Even though they already offer targeted ads on on-demand and catch-up service, they struggle when it comes to the holy grail : addressable TV in a linear environment, even more for live programs.

The inability to plan media buys seamlessly between platforms, publishers and networks is today’s biggest obstacles for marketers to invest more and more budget into advertising. Even though everyone has realized the scope of this major shift, the organization is still not ready to welcome this change and technological constraints might represent the last frontier.

Amongst other technological issues, video understanding is a true blocker when it comes to expand addressable TV on linear environment. Being able to understand in real-time who’s on screen, what they do, what brands appear and the whole context might be the ultimate way to finally and completely merge TV and Digital skills into a single advertising experience.

The internet has been created and made searchable for text. As video will represent 80% of global traffic in 2021, both TV and digital will need to rely on strong partners dedicated to deliver state-of-the-art video understanding in order to step into this new era.