Comcast advertising report: Live TV lives on

A new report from Comcast about TV-advertising possibilities offers one conclusion you might expect from that source — people still like to watch live TV! — and others that are less obvious or assured.

“Comcast Advertising Report 2022: Actionable Insights for the Modern TV Advertiser,” posted by the Philadelphia firm, draws on data from Comcast and its FreeWheel ad subsidiary to paint a picture of when and where people watch and how advertisers might best reach them.

Its first item is the continued relevance of real-time viewing, even after Comcast saw video-on-demand usage spike at the start of the pandemic. The report says a full 89% of the six hours and six minutes of traditional TV viewing each day happens live — and real-time watching also accounts for 54% of streaming.

(Unsaid in this report: With only 11% of traditional-TV viewing happening via DVR or VOD, Comcast X1 Cloud DVR and its constant revenue stream must represent a great business proposition for the company.)

This live viewing doesn’t map to traditional assumptions either, with 71% of traditional-TV watching happening outside of prime time.

Even among viewers who have switched to streaming, larger screens continue to draw the most attention: 63% of digital content viewing happened on connected TVs, followed by 14% on TV boxes; 13% happened on desktop computers and only 10% involved mobile-device screens.

The report’s actionable advice for advertisers may not come as a complete shock, given the source: “Rely on traditional TV as the foundation for media plans.”

Comcast notes a boom in digital ads — up 45% from the second half of 2020 to the second half of 2021 — and even steeper increases in ad-targeting campaigns (up 54% in that period) and programmatic ads (up 80% year over year). And most of those programmatic ads showed up on connected TVs (65%) or via VOD boxes (19%).

The report then suggests that the optimum share of a multiscreen campaign targeted at streaming viewers is 20 to 30% now but adds that “overall streaming viewership is likely to increase and take on a larger importance for (and should represent a larger percentage of) an advertiser’s video advertising strategy.”

The report further warns that the slow demise of cookies and other third-party tracking techniques will make first-party data more important.

After reading the report, an analyst noted that it did not address some issues with this looming shift to targeted ads.

“The problem with programmatic is that there is little in the way of transparency,” emailed Alan Wolk, TVREV co-founder and lead analyst. “Advertisers know their ads ran somewhere on a streaming service, but when and where is often a mystery.”

He added that switching to first-party data may not help because it’s often old. The result among many advertisers: “They will target more or less the same broad Nielsen audience they are going after on linear on streaming, using programmatic ad buys against a broad target to get incremental reach.”