CBS Research Guru David Poltrack Sees “Bright Future Ahead” For Broadcast TV

Making the same bullish case he and other network executives have been making for years even as headwinds have picked up speed, CBS research guru David Poltrack added some new wrinkles to it, pointing to ad spending by tech giants and embrace of TV by millennials.

In a 40-minute presentation at the 45th annual UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York, Poltrack proclaimed, “The broadcast business is entering a period of growth and prosperity.”


Until 1992, he noted, broadcasters had a single revenue stream, but now enjoy billions in retransmission revenue and are also exploring direct-to-consumer opportunities. While the universe of vMVPD subscribers (i.e. people paying for “skinny bundle” services like Sling or YouTube TV or PlayStation Vue) is estimated by Nielsen at 1.6 million, the number is growing.

CBS’ direct-to-consumer OTT service, CBS All Access, is ahead of the company’s expectations, Poltrack noted. “If it were in isolation, you’d say, ‘Wow, this is one of the hottest businesses out there.’ But people tend to focus on the other side, which is advertising.”

While there is a great deal of pessimism about traditional TV’s prospects to keep ad rates up as ratings keep eroding, Poltrack said the networks have a vast number of impressions that are not monetized. Counting both the network and CBS affiliates, Poltrack said the company has 1.2 trillion total impressions. “We are not even close to monetizing that,” he said.

He predicted mid-term elections, Olympics and World Cup coverage would drive a 5% gain in ad revenue for 2018, contradicting forecasts from media buyers for a 2% decline.

Poltrack took pains to differentiate the ad environments on broadcast TV and in the digital realm. He cited a Nielsen study of 868 ad campaigns TV reach 58%, digital reach 2% and said 90% of network ads are bought by just 200 companies, compared with the million-plus brands buying space on Facebook and Google.


And speaking of digital giants, Poltrack noted increases in spending on broadcast ads by the “FAANG” companies–Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, up 23% in 2016 versus 2015 and up 27% this year to date. “Perhaps the best testimony to the power of network television is that the FAANG forces–with all of their sophisticated data capabilities …. are putting their money into network television advertising.”

Poltrack also addressed a lonstanding knock against broadcasters, that free-spending millennials are not regular viewers due to cord-cutting and the array of digital entertainment options. “As they are aging, millennials are watching more television,” he said. People between 35 and 39, the oldest of the millennial population, are watching 71% more network TV than when they were in their early 20s, he said.

“This is the delayed generation,” he said. “They’re doing everything later.”


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