Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

How TV can bite back at FAANG

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

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For Broadcast April 04, 2018

Smarter use of viewer data and audience trust can counteract digital threat, says Kate Bulkley

The Great British Bake Off

Those pesky younger audiences. Everyone wants to lock them in, but they keep dodging around. The shows they watch, the games they play and the apps they use are many and varied. And don’t get me started on the social media platforms they spend their time on, because these change, too.

It’s not just the kids, of course, but in a world with a smorgasbord of choice, it’s getting tougher to find, much less keep, audiences with any kind of scale.

Just last week, BBC director-general Tony Hall complained that broadcasters are in “a fight for the future”. He pointed his accusing finger directly at the west coast of the US, home to FAANG: Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google.

It’s a scale issue, lamented Hall. How can we mere broadcasters compete against the technical, financial and creative firepower of the FAANG? Especially with younger audiences weaned on YouTube and expecting to be able to watch everything on-demand all the time.

Hall’s answer is to revamp the iPlayer – and he’s right, up to a point. He also wants to focus on local and regional programmes to give the BBC a USP. Fine – but make no mistake, with their very deep pockets, it’s only a matter of time before the FAANG get into local content as well.

But among the dire predictions, there is a big shift in the overall attitude towards these players’ untrammelled power and clout.

Thank heavens for whistle-blowers like Christopher Wylie, the data scientist who has been dishing the dirt on the dubious activities of political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

The proverbial other shoe to drop was Facebook’s slow and rather muted response to a crisis that has slammed the social networks’ stock price and caused a majority of Americans to distrust social media firms, according to a recent poll by think-tank Pew Research Centre.

Certainly at Ad Week Europe, the fallout from what The Economist called Facebook’s ‘epic fail’ on protecting its users’ data cast a pall over the value of the digital advertising controlled by the FAANGs. Culture minister Margo

James told delegates: “We have to get the regulation right – and it’s not right at the moment.”

The good news for TV companies is that the unrestricted power of the FAANG is set to be reined in a bit, and the TV players’ ad sales systems and user trust levels are already a lot more robust.

On top of that, TV companies are starting to get a lot smarter about how to use viewer data, meshed with the panel data that has been the ‘gold standard’ of ad sales for decades. All of this gets underlined when the trust and efficacy of online advertising looks to have such big and ongoing problems.

And then there is the very big issue of reach. Amazon is a FAANG and it is ramping up its video content on Amazon Prime Video, but guess where the giant e-retailer is spending money to raise its profile with consumers? On traditional media, including an estimated £5m headline sponsorship of Channel 4’s The Great British Bake Off – the tech giant’s biggest UK TV ad deal to date.

GBBO attracted the largest audience of 16 to 34 year-olds of any TV show last year in the UK. Little wonder, then, that Amazon wants to use it to push its Alexa virtual assistant and Echo speakers.

The deal makes GBBO one of the top entertainment shows for sponsorship in the UK, next to The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, both of which are on rival commercial broadcaster ITV.

Now that’s a piece of cake that would make any TV company happy and shows there are many ways to skin the FAANG cat. Sorry for the mixed metaphor – I didn’t have time to ask Alexa for help.

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