SVOD, AVOD, BVOD, FAST… when did TV stop being just TV?

Over the past decade, the television industry has invented a whole bunch of a new acronyms to describe its rapidly transforming business. Alex Spurzem, ANZ general manager at Samsung Ads, wonders if this obsession with defining itself is holding everyone - including brands - back.

The future of TV has much more in common with the past than we think.

TV audiences never really went away, they just found new ways to watch – and as an industry we found new ways of delivering and talking about it.

Smart TVs first hit our shores about 15 years ago and changed the game and viewing content via the internet gained pace. Subscription services arrived and changed the rules, driving further adoption with ad-free content without the wait. All of a sudden, TV became more than just linear.

In response, over the past decade the industry painstakingly created new terminology and acronyms to label every new model.

It categorised viewing into SVOD (subscription video on-demand), AVOD (advertising video on demand), BVOD (broadcast video on-demand) and the newest kid on the block, FAST (free ad-supported streaming TV).

However, as new models emerge our clearly defined buckets are evolving, and lines are starting to blur between models.

With new ad-supported tiers seemingly rolling out on tap via video subscription platforms like Netflix and Binge, HVOD – Hybrid Video on Demand – or SAVOD – Subscription Advertising Video on Demand – are the latest acronyms to emerge, describing the combination of various monetisation models.

The industry remains focused on classifying the latest developments, but is our need to define everything holding us back? More to the point – does it even matter?

Fish where the fish are

What started as a single source of truth with linear TV has now grown to more than 55 platforms in Australia alone. The seismic shift to streaming, and ongoing fragmentation of the landscape, has created an environment of complexity and confusion for advertisers.

It has also had major implications to many brands’ media strategies.

During our Connected TV (CTV) Masterclass Roadshow earlier in the year, we spent time listening to challenges Aussie agencies are facing across planning, execution and measurement as well as discussing the role CTV can play.

What we heard is that agencies and partners are becoming submerged and overwhelmed by alphabet soup.

Debates over what services fall into what bucket and which buckets make up Total TV is steering us away from what really matters: Where is your audience? Do you understand them? How can you reach them?

Connecting the TV dots

The reality is today’s TV ecosystem is streaming-first.

Marketers across APAC are taking note and adjusting their media spend in line with the streaming surge, according to Nielsen’s 2023 Annual Marketing Report, with a third of advertisers relocating 40-59% of their budgets to CTV.

In Australia, most people still choose to watch both linear and streaming.

We see this too. on Samsung Smart TVs, two thirds of TV viewing time is spent in a streaming environment versus one third in linear. Advertising on linear or CTV is not really an either-or debate. Those relying solely on free-to-air TV to get their brand seen are at risk of missing these mostly streaming audiences. The two can supplement and complement each other.

Forget the format, focus on the data 

When it comes to navigating streaming environments however, getting to grips with consistently changing streaming habits is the first step to veering away from the terminology and truly incorporating all formats as total TV – not just linear and BVOD.

This is only possible when we have the data to understand consumers.

From modelled data, such as that offered by VOZ, to deterministic data like our proprietary automatic content recognition (ACR), there are plenty of datasets that can be combined to help reunite those audiences for advertisers.

But using this data to start identifying whether budget should go to ad-supported or ad-funded (AVOD, BVOD, FAST or SAVOD) services undermines its value.

Its true value lies in understanding how advertisers can best leverage their budget to reach their target audience where they are viewing content. Real-time insights into consumer behaviour and engagement across the entire TV, including linear, individual shows, streaming apps, gaming and more, also help identify changing consumer needs.

Is it time to break down the silos?

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with the acronyms themselves. We need the silos between the groups for things like content and distribution rights.

However, a fragmented approach to a fragmented audience isn’t necessarily the best idea.

TV audiences may be split, but from a planning point of view, we need to take a holistic approach when planning any TV campaign.

New formats such as FAST and SAVOD are growing in popularity, but they are unlikely to replace paid subscription streaming services, just as those have not replaced linear.

The bottom line is that viewers don’t delineate by format. TV is just a TV in the eyes of viewers. They gravitate towards great content, with an increasingly important serving of cost on the side.

With the ongoing surge in streaming and the rise of free streaming amongst a cost-conscious nation, simply refining existing TV advertising strategies is unlikely to be enough.

The time has come for our industry to shift its mindset.

By planning against real data-driven insights – rather than siloed viewing formats – advertisers will be able to redefine which media mix is best equipped to help meet their marketing objectives, reduce wasted budget, and help ensure unduplicated reach across a highly fragmented market of viewers.

Alex Spurzem is the ANZ general manager of Samsung Ads.


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