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  • Writer's pictureChris Faw

Run Into The Storm!

If you are an Ad Sales Leader, time can be your greatest threat, or perhaps your greatest opportunity

There is an analogy about the difference between cows and buffalo.  Perhaps it’s an urban legend, but many believe when there is a storm on the horizon, cows try to run away from the storm.  Conversely, buffalo are said to head directly into the oncoming storm.  The net effect is that because the buffalo run through the storm, they spend less time in the rain and

lightning. It is said the slow-moving cows often move at the same pace and direction of the storm, so they  spend far greater time enduring the negative effects of the weather.  


Whether this analogy is true or not, there is still a valuable lesson in there for media leaders. Cleary for traditional media there is a storm underway.  Viewers are consuming vast amounts of video every day, but the providers, platforms and ad models have been undergoing tectonic shifts.  Traditional cable companies lost more than 6 million video subscribers between 2019 and 2022.  Cord cutting is particularly prevalent among younger demographics searching for specific content and a lower price point indicating the storm is unlikely to get better with time.   


So, what is the media leader of traditional media platform to do?


Recognize that  the storm is here, and this is just the outer edge.  The winds and rains are sure to pick up in the days ahead. Further adoption of streaming and alternative platforms will continue. Nielsen declared in July of 2023 that live linear TV had dropped below 50% of total video viewing with streamers now in the driver seat. Don’t be a cow, be a buffalo…run toward the storm. 

Everything old is new again.  Look around for common partners and align your needs with those in a similar predicament.  While it may seem that the world as we know it is slipping away, there is still time for broadcasters and MVPDs to pool their interests and audiences through partnerships and exchanges.  Together those two groups still command almost half of TV viewing .  Yes, it is diminishing, but as my old boss used to say, this is a slowly melting iceberg that still has some sustainability and scale.  Together the traditional providers could mine their remaining audiences, while eliminating costs and creating a friction-free transaction for advertisers wanting to reach a huge audience with a single buy. 

Advertisers want reach, so work with the enemy.  Cable operators, MVPDs and broadcasters have to be willing to partner with vMVPDs, streamers and other video providers.  In the early days of cable, there were often multiple cable companies in each DMA.  Advertising Interconnects were born to allow for seamless ad buying.  From there, overbuilders and satellite companies formerly seen as adversaries were invited to participate in the advertising Interconnects to maintain a  unified buying experience for the advertisers. An inefficient, disintegrated market does little to service the needs of a buyer or a seller.  The audience and the viewing levels are largely static, yet it now takes dozens of transactions and interfaces to deliver what used to be handled within a single ad sales entity.  We can aggregate that audience and put Humpty Dumpty back together again, but that requires a bit of creativity and ego suppression.  Fortune favors bold, informed, decisive leaders willing to make their own fate.   History tells us that this will likely happen over time, but why wait? Leadership can step up now and accelerate the inevitable.  Construct an ad model that reflects the new realities of the current viewing habits and more easily allows for future iterations. 


Now the good news about time.  The sooner the industry gets about the business of retrofitting the ad model to compensate for the shift in viewing patterns, the sooner the payback will begin rolling in for the audience owners.  Think of it as an annuity that pays regular steady dividends.  Properly constructed, a new cooperative landscape of “frenemies” can build a new framework that can last for years and years.  But the mutual benefits can’t start if leadership slowly walks along with the storm vs proactively charging into the storm. There is sunny weather on the other side.    


Here are four things to consider as you pick your path, and start this journey – we hope you turn towards the storm and run. 

1. Proactively Adapt to Market Shifts

Ad sales leaders should embrace the ongoing changes in the media landscape instead of resisting them. Much like buffalo running toward a storm, media leaders need to proactively adapt to the rise of streaming services and alternative platforms. By acknowledging and preparing for these shifts, operators can spend less time dealing with adverse conditions and more time leveraging new opportunities. Key steps include:

  • Investing in Streaming Technologies: Develop or enhance streaming services to cater to the growing audience that prefers online content.

  • Expanding Digital Presence: Strengthen digital and mobile ad offerings to capture a larger share of the shifting audience.

2. Form Strategic Partnerships

Traditional media operators should seek alliances with similar companies to pool resources and audiences. By collaborating, they can create a more attractive proposition for advertisers and share the burden of industry changes. Actions to consider:

  • Creating Advertising Exchanges: Develop partnerships with other broadcasters and MVPDs to offer a unified advertising platform.

  • Shared Audience Data: Collaborate on audience insights and data to provide advertisers with comprehensive reach metrics.

3. Collaborate with Emerging Platforms

Working collaboratively across vMVPDs, streamers, and other video providers can transform competitors into partners. This collaboration can help recreate the seamless ad-buying experience of the past, thus providing value to advertisers and reaching broader audiences. Specific initiatives include:

  • Developing Unified Ad Sales Solutions: Build integrated platforms that allow advertisers to buy ad space across multiple channels and platforms in a single transaction.

  • Participating in Cross-Platform Measurement: Engage in industry-wide initiatives to standardize and improve cross-platform audience measurement.

4. Innovate Ad Models

Ad sales leaders need to construct ad models that reflect current viewing habits and anticipate future trends. Innovation and flexibility in ad formats and sales strategies will be crucial in staying relevant. Actions to take:

  • Implementing Dynamic Ad Insertion: Use technology to dynamically insert ads into live and on-demand content, optimizing for audience engagement and advertiser return.

  • Creating Interactive and Targeted Ads: Develop ads that are interactive and can be targeted based on viewer data, increasing engagement and effectiveness.


By running toward the storm with proactive adaptation, strategic partnerships, collaboration with new platforms, and innovative ad models, ad sales operators can navigate the challenging landscape of traditional media and emerge stronger on the other side.




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