Contrary to popular belief, digital advances and online options are not killing linear TV, they can even make it stronger, as long as the content is right and the consumer comes first, writes OMD’s Nitu Surendran.


Changing consumer behaviour and advances in technology  are paving the way for a new TV landscape.

Back in the day, watching TV meant scheduling your day around your favourite show, but thanks to technology you can now watch it anytime, anywhere. A few years ago, watching content on your mobile was considered a trend that wouldn’t pick up due to the small screen size of phones, but for the consumers of today – be they millennials or Gen Zs – convenience trumps it all.

Unsurprisingly, streaming dominates with younger viewers. This pace of change has created a consumer with increased expectations. Today, people watch TV on their own terms and the steady growth of over-the-top (OTT) content consumption is a clear indicator of this. If that wasn’t enough, viewers can even create their own grid thanks to on-demand platforms, resulting in increased competition with traditional broadcasters. In order to keep up with the latest consumer expectations and to stay relevant, it has become imperative to understand audience behaviour, create a unique content proposition and become more accountable in terms of measurability.

Despite many challenges, TV still dominates in our region, and the broadcast industry is both an exciting and an unsettling place to be. From future-proofing equipment to monetising content, the future holds a unique blend of the creative and the pragmatic. One of the great challenges is the exponential rate at which content is consumed and produced, and this requires the broadcasters to ramp up their investments in content and juggle between consumer demands and transporting bandwidth-hungry video data. Online viewing has a distinct advantage here with its anytime, anywhere access and its vast content library. We’ve seen the rise of partnerships such as Anghami’s deal with OSN streaming service Wavo to stream the latest episodes of Game of Thrones. With these platforms taking changing consumer expectations and behaviours into consideration, it’s not difficult to see why the linear format of traditional TV may struggle to serve those requirements. This has resulted in broadcasters introducing their own on-demand or catch-up services to stay relevant. MBC’s Shahid.net is already ahead of the pack on this front, and OSN revamped its OTT offering with Wavo. Zee Entertainment launched Weyyak, with its USP being Bollywood content dubbed into Arabic.

Not just the traditional broadcasters but also tech companies and start-ups such at as Netflix, Starplay and Icflix are disrupting the entertainment industry by competing in this space. Netflix, which was the original disruptor, faces competition as YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook look to join the ranks of original streaming content producers.

The shift to TV over the internet is having a profound impact on television delivery, advertising and the viewer experience. As traditional TV and internet video converge, television ads can be more relevant, engaging and effective, but slow progress on people meters makes this approach challenging in our market.

The popular belief amongst advertisers is that time spent on digital exceeds time spent on TV and therefore brands believe that it is important to shift budgets from TV to digital. But consumers have higher attention on TV than on digital as 35 per cent of TV viewers spend at least 1.5 hours watching TV continuously, demonstrating they are receptive audiences, whereas digital time spent per session averages 8 minutes, making the audience less receptive.

The industry also thrives on the pricing perception that TV is more expensive than digital and that it’s more efficient to reach people on digital platforms. Given that TV in this region is Pan-Arab, the reach that it delivers is across multiple markets and across multiple segments, and therefore to compare the CPM, we need to take into consideration the total reach and exposure that TV delivers. When taking all these factors into consideration, TV is more efficient than digital from a multi-market perspective and also reaches an audience seven times faster than digital. TV ads consistently appear in the top three sources of brand discovery among consumers, regardless of their age group. This is one of the most powerful examples of why linear TV will continue to be a central pillar in the media landscape in this region. One of the biggest challenges for advertising on TV today is accountability and a growing need for addressable audiences, which is resulting in conglomerates like Choueiri Group adopting and working closely with tools to measure attribution of TV
to online: Brand4mance.

If the trends of today are any indicators, technology will remain at the core of this transformation. Over time, enabling addressable audiences, data-driven TV advertising and sophisticated targeting platforms such as Google’s AdWords and Facebook’s Business Manager will bring the promise of programmatic TV to life. One thing is certain: great content and convenience will continue to dominate, and it is on the programmers and agencies to improve measurability of the medium, keeping the consumer at the heart of any decision.