The State Of TV Ad Sales: Not What You May Think

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MIAMI BEACH, FLA. — Does the future look rosier for cable TV networks than we think?  What about the sales health of broadcast TV?


Those questions were the focal point of a lively Wednesday NATPE Miami panel that saw a top Discovery Communications exec proclaim the $100 per month cable bill is more common than not.

With AXIOS Media reporter Sara Fischer skillfully moderating a session with some eye-raising comments, the biggest “say what?” moments came from Jon Steinlauf, the Chief U.S. Advertising Sales Officer at Discovery.

Steinlauf talked glowingly of cable television’s value to consumers, and why it continues to have value — thanks, naturally, to channels including those from Discovery.

“Paid television is still alive and well,” he said, even as tons of choices have emerged in recent years. “It is good for those out there that still sell advertising.”

In truth, Steinlauf includes in his view of cable TV the popularity of late in vMVPDs — the “skinny bundle” offerings such as DISH Network’s Sling TV and DirecTV NOW from AT&T.

But, he also believe people — lots of them — pay $100 a month for cable TV services, noting that if he were to get a show of hands from those in the room if they were among this crowd, arms would be raised en masse.

Meanwhile, Mark Marshall, the President of Advertising Sales and Partnerships at NBCUniversal, had a more pragmatic view on why TV — broadcast and cable — still matters. “If television is dying, why would Amazon go on to TV to promote a new product launch?” he said, noting that Netflix and Apple, among other big digital players, also use TV as an advertising platform.

Of course, it all comes down to content, and Steinlauf noted how Discovery has carved itself a space in the video content universe as the home of both scripted and “real life” programming. At the same time, he’s loving the continued interest in the cute “Big Game” counter-programming opportunity that is the “Puppy Bowl.” Appropriate advertisers have gravitated toward the event in ways where, Steinlauf says, the ads feel more like content. He advocates more of this as a solution to overcoming ineffective, and perhaps lengthy, commercial breaks.

That’s especially important in a world where Netflix has trained viewers to enjoy commercial-free programming, on demand. This “Netflix Effect,” says Steinlauf, “is dangerous.”

How so? In the long-term, it sets up a scenario where, when ad sales are necessary to sustain the spending vs. income ratio at Netflix, a problem emerges.

That said, the conversation brought content — and who has it — to the forefront.

At Univision, live event content meshes with good scripted content to deliver ratings that today top those of bitter rival Telemundo. Further, its built-in target marketing opportunity as a Hispanic media specialist is just what marketers demand in an addressable world.

To that end, Univision Communications President of Advertising Sales and Marketing Steve Mandala notes that just because there is more content today than ever before, “it is not all good content, and it is not everywhere.”

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