Michael Stephenson (pictured below), Nine Entertainment’s chief sales officer, says his company has a simple mission. “At Nine our strategy is simple, we create the best content, we distribute it broadly across every channel and platform to engage audiences and advertisers.”
Bringing together platforms is what Stephenson sees as being Nine Entertainment’s main advantage, “I’m in a very lucky, and balanced position. While we have the leading TV business we also have an incredibly big digital business, so if I think about what I’d ultimately like to do today is to be able to trade you an audience across our streaming or digital assets agnostically.”
“What that means is that the content we produce is available to consumers to watch on whatever device they choose. If we achieve that, we’ll grow our audience in aggregate.”
A major differentiator between the incumbent broadcasters and the global online platforms is original, local content, Stephenson says. “We have something at Nine, as do my friends at other media companies, that YouTube and Facebook don’t have which is we create quality content. What will differentiate us is we have premium, locally produced content that is one-hundred percent brand safe and one hundred percent viewable and, most importantly, is independently measured by third parties so there’s complete transparency.”
Stephenson says that programmatic trading presents opportunities for media companies, “I think it would be unanimous agreement from everyone in the sector that the development of automated trading platforms to attract advertising inventory and audiences has, and will, revolutionise the way inventory is bought and sold.”
“The automation of the transaction comes with the chance to implement and develop new business models so what you will see in television is a move away from traditional models where buyers and advertisers use historical data, usually the last four weeks or the same time last year, to buy an advertising campaign for the future.”
Describing the traditional broadcasting advertising model as being “terribly inefficient”, Stephenson believes applying data analytics will improve the return on investment for advertisers, “We’ve invested heavily into Nine Galaxy, which is a fully automated trading platform. A fundamental function of Nine Galaxy is Nine Predict which is an audience forecasting technology.”
“We’ve gone over the last eight years of data looking at Seven’s, Nine’s, Ten’s and Foxtel’s schedules, the programs, the genres and the audiences they’ve delivered across a number of demographics in order to predict what might happen in the future.”
“We’re about to integrate other data sets, think about the NRL fixtures with 2017 and weather forecasts for the next week so we might know that if the Broncos are playing the Cowboys in Brisbane, what impact might have on audiences. That to me fundamentally changes the way people buy from us, the volatility that has existed in many channels will be removed.”
Putting that analytic layer over existing knowledge and then adding other data opens up a world of potential for advertisers he believes, “The best possible advertising relationship a marketer can have with a publisher is the seventy-twenty-ten model,” explaining how seventy percent is the ‘transactional’ bread-and-butter work, while the ten percent is the groundbreaking and the twenty percent requires creative thinking.
“I think the greatest thing that’s happened to advertisers in the last few years is automating the seventy percent, I can then reallocate resources so I have a team that delivers the thirty percent premium advertising.”
Stephenson believes there are limits to programmatic advertising, particularly when it’s spread across the web. “Advertisers have been romanced by digital solutions to big brand products where lots of disparate impressions are served by lots of small media players across the long tail at a very low CPM that’s not one hundred percent visibility that may end up in unsafe environments.
“They’ve been romanced by the fact it can be done efficiently and cheaply but I’d ask how effective is that. If you think about media companies, that problem doesn’t exist,” he observes.
One of the promises with digital media is the convergence between mediums, something than Stephenson sees as being an advantage for television broadcasters. “When I think about the best advertising opportunity I see it as a by-product of AdTech. Right now I have a television team and a digital team. Over time that will change as I see us having a team of people who are focused on delivering data and technology-led advertising solutions.”
“The most difficult challenge we have is the speed to execute. There are processes we need to go through as a business but we can move quicker. We’ve partnered with global technology partners and local ones as well, so we’re not beholden to global development queues.”
Stephenson’s advice to advertisers is to experiment and focus on the fundamentals. “My advice would be that there is a place in the marketing mix for all major channels, but the fundamentals haven’t changed. Digital allows us to do things in a new or different way but the fundamentals remain, putting the right message in front of the right person at the right time at scale.”
“If I have a conversation with Nine it should go like this – ‘how do I transact more efficiently for the seventy percent, how can I align my content initiatives to integrate my story and most importantly, if I want to challenge the status quo by being disruptive in my category or to make my brands famous then I need to engage with Nine.”
The domestic broadcasting industry offers great opportunities, “It builds brands, launches products and helps Australian businesses tell Australian stories. If we can do that with Adtech and a good data proposition then we’re in great shape.”