What Are the TV Industry’s Biggest Challenges in 2020? 18 Top Executives Tell Us

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With the arrival of new streaming services, new ad formats and a wealth of boundary-pushing programming, 2019 was a monumental year for the television industry. The new year is likely to be even more significant, as two additional television titans break into the streaming space, the shakeout from consolidation continues, and the TV world aims to adapt to an ever-changing business climate.

As part of Adweek’s annual Year in Review coverage, we asked 18 of the industry’s top programming and business execs: What is the industry’s biggest challenge to tackle in 2020? (Earlier in the month, they shared their No. 1 priorities for the new year.) Here’s what they told us.

Peter Olsen, evp, ad sales, A+E Networks

Even though all involved acknowledge the unparalleled power of TV to build businesses, there are considerable institutional challenges within the legacy TV advertiser ecosystem to move away from traditional demo guarantees. What will create this change is the continued growth of the DTC category and their willingness to value the power of TV differently.

Rob Sharenow, president of programming, A+E Networks

Despite all the noise about new platforms and modes of consumption, the biggest challenge remains as it always was: to make compelling content that is exciting to viewers. Successful new, original content is the lifeblood of the business.

Sarah Barnett, president, AMC Networks Entertainment Group and AMC Studios

You’re seeing and are going to see a lot of experimentation, a lot of new things being tried and new combinations of old things. Success will come from not ceding to conventional wisdom that says there is only one way.

Kim Kelleher, president of advertising sales and partnerships, AMC Networks

Regardless of the platform, and the platforms are ever-expanding right now, the audience’s appetite for great content (emphasis on great) is unending, and I am proud to have joined a company like AMC Networks, which continues to punch above its weight, having an outsized impact on popular culture. AMCN makes shows that matter to viewers, and we are working towards making those highly engaged and coveted viewer interactions available to brands wherever they occur. Together, we as an industry, we must shift from an impressions-based mindset to a more holistic commercial revenue approach, so we can continue to serve clients and audiences with the content that they need and want.

Marc DeBevoise, CEO, CBS Interactive

With a growing number of options available to consumers, the question for the industry is: Which services will consumers decide are worth the cost and their time? With that said, it’s not a zero-sum game. Consumers have already proven that they want to and will subscribe to multiple services, however that number isn’t infinite. I believe there will be a number of services that will be on the rocket ship, and feel strongly that we’re already one of them with even more potential to grow.

Rob Tuck, evp of national sales, The CW

No question, the biggest challenge facing the industry is the rapid growth in both AVOD and SVOD competition. At this rate, we foresee a surplus of inventory in the marketplace across multiple premium AVOD services. Plus, viewers will continue to sample the new SVOD platforms, further impacting and fracturing the available audience.

The advantage we have, especially for advertisers, is that for more than a decade we have created this unique, vibrant ecosystem—combining linear TV, our best in class AVOD service and our unparalleled reach on social media—all working together to connect with viewers. We first developed and introduced our convergence strategy for advertisers over 10 years ago, so we are making it our priority to continue to innovate… to ensure The CW’s digital platforms maintain their competitive edge.

Kathleen Finch, chief lifestyle brands officer, Discovery

It’s all about the consumer. Listening to what she wants—and as importantly, what she doesn’t want. It’s harder than ever for viewers to wade through the myriad choices, and for us as programmers, to navigate shifting viewer behavior, so we have to stay laser focused on bringing great story, great stars and great emotion through our shows to earn consumers’ share of mind and time.

Jon Steinlauf, chief U.S. advertising sales officer, Discovery

Increased competition for viewers amid a cacophony of noise. Not only is it an Olympic and election year, but viewers and advertisers are adjusting to the new world order brought on by the influx of streamers. It’s created incredible new choice for viewers but also increased confusion. As a market leader in female viewing, with five of the top networks (TLC, HGTV, Food Network, ID and OWN), we’re tackling the challenge head-on … super-serving upscale audiences who are devoted to our stars, programs and trusted brands.

Rita Ferro, president of advertising sales, Disney

Measurement and attribution as new currencies. Currently, there is not one scalable solution. We’re tackling the challenge by developing our own models and currencies. There won’t be one absolute solution, but we’re hopeful and looking forward to the development of solutions that the industry can transact upon.

Marianne Gambelli, president of advertising sales, Fox Corp



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