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94% of TV Ads Reached Only 55% of Linear TV Audiences

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SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.—New data from Samba TV for Q1 2022 shows that advertisers face serious challenges in reaching targeted audiences, thanks to fragmentation and a saturated linear TV ad market that has become more complex in the wake of increased cord-shaving and streaming subscriber churn.

A telling stat highlighting those difficulties is the fact that 94% of TV ads reached just 55% of linear TV audiences, according to Samba TV’s State of Viewership Report for Q1 2022.  

“With $68 billion poured into linear advertising every year, the substantial waste taking place in this sector should be a wake-up call to advertisers,” said Samba TV CEO and co-founder Ashwin Navin. “The reality that 94% of linear ad impressions in Q1 only reached just over 50% of audiences demonstrates the dramatic need for a flexible approach to ad spend and the imperative of leveraging guaranteed incremental reach opportunities to effectively maximize ROI.”

Samba TV’s quarterly State of Viewership Report provides a comprehensive overview of television, movie, Connected TV (CTV), and advertising viewership. 

One key takeaway from the report is that the majority of linear ad impressions oversaturate the same half of tv viewers, with 94% of all ad impressions reaching just 55% of audiences.

These same audiences saw an average of 144 linear ads per day, while 45% of American households saw only 11 ads per day. 

While it improved by 3% since Q4 2021, this dramatic imbalance suggests that linear campaigns are still reaching the same viewers over and over again while leaving the rest of Americans unexposed to messaging, the researchers said. With little opportunity to reach new viewers via linear, advertisers need to look to guaranteed incremental reach opportunities to maximize spend across devices and platforms.

Another key finding in the report is that cord-shaving is on the rise. Although the average percentage of households watching linear each day remained at approximately 50%, the rate of cord-shaving accelerated by more than 20% year-over-year. This dramatic rate of cord-shaving is even more severe across millennial households where one in four watched less than one hour of linear per week. 

The report also suggests that a ceiling to SVOD consumption may be coming into view. While streaming video-on-demand (SVOD) consumption remains on the rise, Samba TV data shows that just 59% of SVOD-viewing households watched more than one service in Q1 2022. In addition, less than a quarter of households watched four or more SVOD services in the quarter, showing there is a point beyond which consumers are not willing to spend, the researchers said. 

The Samba TV report also suggests that SVODs risk churn if they can’t make their offerings more attractive. More than half of Hulu, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime Video’s top program viewers watched just one program among the streamer’s top 50 shows during Q1 2022, the report found. 

With viewers only tuning in to one new buzzy movie or show, providers risk “cyclers” hopping between platforms and canceling subscriptions, the researchers said.

Another key takeaway from the report is that advertisers are missing key demographic groups on linear. The report found that top advertisers over-index among white and Black viewers but aren’t reaching Hispanic and Asian audiences at a proportional rate. Meanwhile, each of the top 10 advertisers on linear served a disproportionately low number of impressions to audiences below the age of 44.

“From the consumer viewership landscape shifting further toward streaming to major advertisers breaking legacy molds to select currency-grade measurement partners, the industry has undergone several shifts over the past quarter,” Navin concluded. “Despite the consumer flocking to streaming, these platforms face substantial challenges in maintaining growth and retaining subscribers. This quarter’s State of Viewership Report underscores the distinct challenge advertisers are facing in their quest to reach fresh and diverse audiences across devices,” 

The full Samba TV's  State of Viewership Report is available here

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.