The shift to on-demand streaming services to replace cable television has been gaining steam for years, but the flurry of shifting market conditions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating cable-cutting and providing opportunity for brands to reach new, highly engaged customers.

Meanwhile, customers that are maintaining their cable and satellite subscriptions are tuning in at levels not seen in years. Total TV viewership has been up nearly 20 percent in the U.S. as viewers have adapted to social distancing and stay-at-home orders.

With many advertisers pulling back in the face of declining sales revenue, smart marketers are increasing their ad spend on connected devices and traditional TV to capture a wider share of key demographics at greater value.

With live sports only beginning to return to TV and less expendable income for subscriptions, many viewers are turning to ad-supported streaming content. Ads on these kinds of services are referred to as over-the-top (OTT), as they bypass (go over top of) a cable box to deliver content. Programmatic ad buying via OTT provides great flexibility and value as brands need not get locked into a fixed pricing structure and can take advantage of lapsing demand to reach a more precise audience for less money.

Some of the advantages of OTT advertising for small and large brands alike include the ability to precisely target viewers based on their interests, demographic and digital behavior, to refine creative mid-campaign, to reach the same viewer across multiple devices and nuanced reporting metrics that provide insight to optimize campaigns for maximum ROI.

“OTT is a critical part of a well-rounded, omnichannel marketing strategy, especially now as viewership is spiking and there are deals to be had,” said Appleyard Agency Digital Marketing Manager Alison Hieb. “COVID-19 has put the already growing shift to digital media consumption into overdrive and brands that adapt accordingly will be well-positioned to see the benefits.”

On traditional cable TV, historically cheap mid-day viewing times are seeing exponential spikes in viewership, especially on news networks. What’s more, younger viewers who are usually hard to reach are returning to TV at unprecedented rates for information and entertainment not available on streaming services.

Streaming viewership among Americans ages 25 to 54 surpassed traditional TV in 2018, but a survey by international research and strategy firm SmithGeiger found that trend has reversed amidst COVID-19. The big broadcast networks have all seen big jumps in viewership, especially for news, financial and children’s programming.

“There’s really no better time to be on TV than right now,” said Appleyard Agency’s Broadcast and Cable Director Dana Wiggins. “Viewership is setting record highs and rates are way down, making it affordable to even the smallest advertiser.”

Cable-cutting varies by market, so while some markets may see fewer than half of viewers with a traditional cable or satellite service, others, like Northwest Florida, can see subscriptions being maintained among three-quarters of viewers. Digital media and broadcast managers at a local advertising agency will have the best insight into the local market and will be able to suggest an appropriate mix of traditional TV and OTT to best reach a target audience.

When it comes to on-screen messaging amidst COVID-19, surveys by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, MediaPost, and Ace Metrics conducted in March found that more than half of consumers are pleased to hear brands are taking action like making donating of goods and services, and that viewers show strongest resonance toward uplifting themes of unity and resilience. The surveys also found that a strong connection between the brand and the message must be apparent and that ads should be driven by relevance and information.

Establishing or bolstering a presence on OTT and/or traditional TV need not be an overwhelming endeavor, but you’ll want an expert by your side to guide the process. Professional digital media and broadcast managers have the experience and connections to leverage budgets of all sizes to maximize returns on ad spending. At the Appleyard Agency, our team is a leader in the industry, with specific expertise to help brands in Northwest Florida and throughout the Southeast. Feel free to get in touch.

About Will Isern

Will Isern began his career as a journalist, working eight years in Pensacola media before joining the Appleyard Agency in 2019. Now he works daily to help agency clients craft and share their stories with the world.

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