Comcast’s debut advertising report should have been a perfect opportunity to demonstrate a keen understanding of where the market is heading, but instead we find an MVPD clinging onto its legacy advertising business for dear life.
Most notable from the Comcast Advertising Report 2022: Actionable Insights for the Modern TV Advertiser is the fact that Comcast seems to caution against advertisers putting all their eggs in an addressable basket.
“Advertisers should be sure this hyper-focus on in-market customers does not detract from their need to reach future potential buyers,” the report reads. It gives the example of a luxury automotive brand which saw one-third of its purchases come from viewers that were not identified as having been ‘in-market’ for the car.
While MVPDs are usually desperate to push the infinite promise of addressable, Comcast has held back. The reasons could be two-fold. It is likely looking to retain some confidence in its traditional, non-targeted TV revenues, which are due for a big hit in the near future, while perhaps it is also trying hard to distract from the fact that its addressable initiatives have been too little, too late.
Considering that the automotive brand in question achieved three-times higher conversion rates by reaching those deemed to be in-market, via addressable advertising, palming off the technology certainly seems like an odd move – especially in a year that many are viewing to be addressable’s ‘take-off’.
The report certainly reads as though Comcast is trying to protect its linear impressions, with the recommendation that multi-screen campaigns perform best (in terms of audience reach) when only 20% to 30% of advertising spend is allocated to streaming.
The argument here is that linear can do most of the groundwork in pulling in the large numbers, while streaming should be used tactically for incremental reach. Comcast does caveat that adjusting within a wider bracket of 10% to 40% may be necessary depending on the desired audience, but this seems far too low if one wants to target those under 30 years old.
However, our main gripe with the Comcast report is that it deceptively frames its findings as holistic representations of the video industry at large.
As far as we can tell, these stats only concern viewers, publishers and advertisers that are somewhat tied into the pay TV ecosystem. Even those who have been living under a rock for the past five years will have an inkling that this is not the full picture.
Viewers are reportedly still spending over six hours a day watching linear TV, with 75% of that viewing occurring outside of primetime hours. This linear viewing is split by 69% cable and 31% broadcast. But what is unclear is whether this six-hour average accounts for all video-watching households in the US, or only those with pay TV packages?
If it is the latter, as suspected, then we imagine that the average linear watch time would shrink considerably once it accounts for the 20 million-plus homes that have cut the cord in the US since 2016. Faultline reached out to Comcast to clarify this, but did not hear back in time.
Comcast says that live content is still the big pull for viewers, making up 89% and 54% of linear and digital watch times, respectively. If anything, this 54% of digital watch time seems weirdly high, with the remaining 46% made up of VoD – 34% longform and 12% clips.
While we certainly agree that live is set to become pivotal in digital video consumption, the idea that binge-watching series only makes up 34% of digital watch times seems off. If Comcast is including FAST services in this number, it is slightly more believable, especially as FAST viewership grew 25% over 2021, with six out of ten connected TVs households now tuning into FAST services, according to Comcast.
The number of digital video ads is on the rise, with impressions up 45% year on year in the second half of 2021. The paper quotes a November 2021 survey from Effectv which found that 75% of viewers are happy to view streaming ads, so long as the content is free. There has also been a 54% increase year on year in audience targeted campaigns, which has fueled an interest in advertisers harnessing their own first-party data to find these audiences. Comcast says this has proven particularly true with political and automotive advertisers.
Comcast highlights how this need to optimize audience data has led to an increased reliance on the automation and efficiency offered by programmatic buying. Programmatic ad impressions grew 80% YoY in the second half of 2021, 60% of which were guaranteed deals, which leads Comcast to forecast that programmatic deals could comprise half of all premium video advertising by 2026.
As for viewing formats, 65% of programmatic views were on CTV, which is seeing a growing share of such buys, while set tops, desktops and mobiles each hold 19%, 9% and 6%, respectively.
Another interesting nugget is that many publishers are turning to schedule optimization technologies to maximize yield from inventory. In one case study, Comcast found that such tools can reduce manual workloads for publishers by 20%, while simultaneously boosting revenues by 20%.