Why the coronavirus crisis won’t radically change the TV ad buying system

2020 is becoming a tipping point for the TV advertising industry in many respects. The annual upfront negotiations are in flux and appear poised for an overhaul. Audiences’ shift to streaming is accelerating and advertisers are likely to speed up in pursuit. But TV advertising’s move to audience-based buying has the potential to be more impactful and is therefore likely to remain slower going. With live sports on hold, show productions on hiatus and advertisers pressed to eliminate wasted dollars, TV ad buyers would appear to have more reason than ever to do away with the traditional approach of using a program as proxy for the audience an advertiser wants to reach. In fact, advertisers have already been trying to prioritize buying audiences instead of programs, in part because TV networks cancel so many of the programs they pitch during the upfronts.

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