Broadcasters Seek Expanded Marketplace Definition With Rise of Digital

Speakers at DOJ workshop last week laid out how narrow view of broadcast marketplace is hurting local broadcasters.
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WASHINGTON—How people watch TV has dramatically changed in recent years, but in the view of some broadcasters, their means of utilizing the evolving marketplace hasn’t kept up with the times, specifically when it comes to advertising. This was a point of topic during the Competition in Television and Digital Advertising Workshop that was hosted by the Department of Justice on May 2 and 3.

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“DOJ has the same view of the broadcast TV marketplace today as it did in the 1970s, 80s and 90s,” said Rick Kaplan, NAB executive vice president of Legal and Regulatory Affairs, in his testimony. “Never mind that cable and satellite providers now offer hundreds of channels of high-quality content. Never mind that the internet has thoroughly upended the way consumers access and engage with video offerings.”

Broadcast company TEGNA’s CEO Dave Lougee echoed these thoughts in his own testimony. Referencing how his 19-year-old son watches most of his content through his mobile device, he points out that viewing style is gaining in popularity with not just people of his son’s age, but all ages as it becomes more readily available.

“Advertisers over digital platforms now show ads that look exactly like traditional TV ads, over platforms that are growing viewership rapidly and enjoy extremely broad reach, along with the ability to focus on particular locations or other characteristics,” said Lougee. “These ads are powerfully competitive with over-the-air broadcast ads in the local ad market. And this competition will only grow.”

Kaplan argues that the DOJ’s reasoning for not updating the reach that broadcasters have is no longer adequate. Elements of what gives broadcast advertising an advantage—a combination of sight, sound and motion; a greater reach; and the value of brand awareness—are not unique to broadcast anymore. When it comes specifically to digital, DOJ has made the argument that digital ads are different from broadcast because they can be skipped, minimized or blocked.

“I will let you in on a little secret: you can also do those things with broadcast TV,” Kaplan explained. “It’s called grabbing a snack from the fridge, disappearing to the bathroom, or even just hitting ‘fast forward’ on your DVR remote. In fact, in most cases, it is harder to do an end-around a digital ad, because often you can’t even get to the highly-desired content without first playing one or more advertisements.”

Ultimately, Kaplan states, broadcasters need to be able to have access to this wider world of advertising revenues so they “can meet their obligations and commitments to cities and towns across the nation.”