TV Unboxed: How to Unleash the True Potential of TV in 2024

By Gregor Chalmers, Head of Broadcast, The Kite Factory

I firmly believe Die Hard is a Christmas movie.  I also love turkey on the big day and abhor sprouts.  There are some who would have you believe Die Hard is not a Christmas movie, turkey is dry and tasteless while sprouts are an essential addition to the festive plate. These people are of course wrong, but I am almost certain they and I can find some common ground. And that ground is likely to be in front of the TV.

In fact, nearly 60% of UK adults admit to watching more TV than usual over the festive season, be that enjoying miracles on 34th street, flying through the air with snowmen or rooting for a plucky young boy as he tackles some home invaders while his family live it up in Paris.  But it’s not just what we’re watching that is different, it’s how we’re watching it.

“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water” is a Zen saying that for our purposes could read “before streaming, watch TV. After streaming, watch TV”.  How else to explain the fact that as a nation we still spend about the same amount of time watching long-form video content as we did in 2018, despite the weekly adult reach of linear TV dropping from 91% to 83% in that time as reported by IPA Touchpoints data? It’s time we reimagine how we as agencies and advertisers look at TV, stop having binary “either or” discussions and instead focus on how this wonderfully diverse ecosystem can be used most effectively.

Reports of the death of linear TV have been grossly exaggerated but there is a reality to the numbers: according to Ofcom there were 2,490 TV programmes watched by 4m or more people in 2014 compared to only 1,184 in 2022. Christmas day is not an exception to this trend, BARB reports a 50% drop in viewing for the most watched show on the big day when comparing 2022 to 2012. But according to a 2021 Radio Times poll 41% of people said the TV was the one device they couldn’t do without at Christmas, while only 6% gave the same status to their laptop.

So, we know that stuffed full of your festive favourites and looking to avoid a heated argument over Brexit with your problematic relative, the TV remains a haven on December 25th.  But hey, it’s 2023 not 1993: not for you the role of arbiter between those who want to watch a seasonal romcom or those who want to watch the Dad’s Army Christmas special for the 100th time (you know who you are).  Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV, ITVX, Channel 4 streaming, Sky Go…not to be cliched but the possibilities are (almost) endless. You’ll find something you can all agree on – groups of three or more people watching TV together accounted for 26% of all viewing on Christmas Day 2020 vs just 8% across the year as a whole.

This percentage of time spent watching a particular channel, along with claimed attention, needs to be factored into your media plan as they influence the best channels for driving fame for each audience. Just think about how the Gen Z in your family sneak away from the table at Christmas, avoiding Grandpa droning on, to go watch something. Well scale it up as 80% of 18-24’s is watching Subscription Video On Demand or Connected TV on a weekly basis. These channels are therefore more cost effective when looking to reach a younger demographic and should enter the media mix at a lower investment than older audiences. They are also highly effective at reaching consumers with greater attention and when watching with other people, so would be weighted heavier when looking to drive fame in a campaign.

We need to re-think what we mean by “TV” and understand it’s never been more vibrant.  There’s never been more to watch, whether you want to immerse yourself in the cheesiest Hallmark Christmas movies or bah-humbug your way through a Scandinavian crime thriller.  The content is out there, and people are watching it in high volume, but it’s up to agencies and brands to understand their behaviours and provide relevant and engaging advertising alongside it.

At The Kite Factory, we’ve identified five hero video formats – Linear, BVOD, streaming, CTV and FAST advertising – that all have nuanced roles to play, and to make the most of them, you need a media plan with a framework that understands the role of each and how they complement one another.

By factoring in the strengths and weaknesses of these five hero video formats, agencies can craft the perfect AV plan for their target audience and campaign objectives. Our Seen and Heard tool allows media planners to map out the different qualities that make each video format uniquely suited to particular objectives – qualities that can also vary according to audience. We always come back to how we can maximise the reach or frequency of a piece of media and work from there – to do this it’s incredibly important to factor in weekly reach for each audience and the incremental cost per reach. Once you have this you can craft the perfect plan.

Many of you reading this might find yourself, on Christmas Day, listening to somebody lamenting that “the TV at Christmas just isn’t as good as it used to be”.  This will be my 13th Christmas as a TV planner and it is totally fair to say that buying a TV campaign isn’t like it was when I started in 2010. It’s a whole lot better, while also being a lot more challenging.  I might not be able to rely on a handful of linear spots delivering me tens of millions of viewers but what I can rely on is an exciting, diverse landscape of suppliers, formats and content all housed within that glorious smart TV set in your living room. As my Christmas hero would say, yippee ki-yay.