TV industry rallies to save audiences with Think TV headed by Ten’s Russel Howcroft

Howcroft: “There is an urgent need to clarify for advertisers conflicting and confusing digital measurement claims”

Network Ten executive general manager Russel Howcroft will chair the long mooted combined marketing and research body for the TV industry, Think TV, as broadcasters look to arrest the slide in audiences and advertising revenue against the rise of the new digital players, warning there is an “urgent need”  to change the conversation.

Howcroft will chair the new body which brings together the free-to-air and subscription TV bodies for the first time using the same model as Thinkbox in the UK.

The aim of Think TV will be to demonstrate “how television advertising in broadcast quality content environments remains profoundly effective and the clear leader among all media channels in terms of advertising impact and return-on- investment”.

The unlikely alliance comes after years of free and subscription broadcasters battling in the trenches against each other fighting for eyeballs and advertising share.

However, the emergence of streaming as a real choice for viewers has forced the hand of the broadcasters.

Number of Australians reporting they don't watch TV. Source: Roy Morgan

Number of Australians reporting they don’t watch TV. Source: Roy Morgan

Howcroft, tipped by Mumbrella earlier this year as having a lead role in the formation of Think TV, will be the body’s inaugural chairman, and said the the conversation about broadcast was filled with assumptions.

Think TV“Much industry debate follows the ‘ping pong’ shifts in digital media with many assumptions then linked to television’s impending doom, assumptions which are fundamentally flawed,” Howcroft said.

“There is an urgent need to clarify for advertisers conflicting and confusing digital measurement claims and misinformation about the impact of advertising in many digital channel. It’s hardly new news but advertising in broadcast viewing environments – linear and digital television – remains amazingly resilient, effective and brand safe.”

Speaking with Mumbrella he said the focus would be on evidence-based communication with marketers about the influence of TV on all its platforms, mirroring what Thinkbox had achieved overseas.

“We need to work really hard and we need to work diligently to ensure that the data that they get is considered and its well thought through,” Howcroft said.

“Thinkbox is about ,the advertising, it’s about what TV advertising can do for businesses. It’s stuff that we know is true but what Thinkbox has done is they have put the research into proving it to be true.”

Karen Nelson-Field, professor of media innovation at the University of Adelaide and CEO of media measurement company Media Intelligence, has backed the formation of the new body.

“The television sector needs an industry body like this to re-establish its baseline. A baseline that has shifted largely due to the falsely generalised sound bytes from digital case studies that are quickly turned into ‘best practice’ – often by those who stand to gain the most from their acceptance,” Nelson-Field said.

She warned that “the pendulum has swung too far”  when it came to the conversation about TV and all mediums should be considered on their merits.

The founding stakeholders will be the Multi ChannelNetwork/Foxtel, Nine Network, Seven West Media and Network Ten.

The board will include Howcroft as chairman, Seven West chief revenue officer Kurt Burnette, Multi Channel Network CEO Anthony Fitzgerald and Michael Stephenson, Nine’s chief sales officer.

Harold Mitchell, chairman of Free TV, welcomed the new alliance, saying despite changes in viewer habits, broadcast TV as a whole continued to deliver for advertisers.

“Think TV as an independent industry body representing free-to-air and subscription broadcasters will make a definitive contribution to the business case for advertisers,” Mitchell said.

ASTRA chairman Tony Shepherd also welcomed the move.

“Think TV is a timely and powerful initiative from subscription and free-to-air broadcasters to cut through many market misconceptions about television viewing and the unquestionable effectiveness to business results that broadcast television advertising delivers,” Shepherd said.


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