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Not Your Father’s Tune-In

October 12 th 2015

In recent weeks, I’ve been probing into the best practices around tune-in advertising and delving into those practices that have arisen rapidly since analysts began to study set top box data to know what really works and what doesn’t. It’s all part of a series published on Media Village, which you can read here.

The first parts were about the extraordinarily powerful synergy among media, and how a single medium strategy can bomb. In the second part, I reported practically an entire tune-in best practices guide from an interview with Charlie Fiordalis, the Chief Digital Officer of Mediastorm, an innovative and leading tune-in agency.

In this guest post, I’ve used SMI’s data to study the actual year-to-year latest trends in tune-in spending.

In an industry whose total spending records have always been clouded by the use of rate card data rather than actuals, SMI is definitely part of the data revolution being experienced by all sectors.

First the only qualifier to my analysis: this data refers to paid media spends, and do not include the equivalent value of a network running a tune-in spot for one of its own programs for free, which is estimated to be larger than the entire paid spend category reported here. In other words most of the tune-in GRP are judged to be in the unpaid category, and virtually all of that TV advertising, plus a bit of unpaid digital using the network’s own (and sister networks’) digital inventory.

Here then are the trends for how networks have been spending their actual green tune-in money, first half 2015 vs. first half 2014, in the U.S.

Total spending is up +17% year over year for paid tune-in. The biggest increase, +31%, is in television itself. The other increase is in digital, up +25%. Magazines are down -24%, radio down -11%, newspapers down -6%, and out of home down -4%. Despite the value of synergy and positive ratings lift results seen in virtually all of these media categories, TV and digital are being found to be the most impactful per dollar on TV ratings for network programs. However because of synergy the amounts in the other media types are not expected to ever disappear entirely. The need for ad dollars, not just from this category, are expected to drive print-centric and outdoor-centric media owners to launch and expand their own screen media ventures in order to continue to ride the gravy train.

Within TV paid tune-in, every single subcategory is up:


  • +341% Broadcast Network TV
  • +47% Ad Sales House (e.g. Simulmedia)
  • +22% Cable Network TV
  • +13% Local MSO Cable
  • +8% Broadcast Spot TV
  • +1% Syndication Source: SMI

Possibly the reason that broadcast network is up so much has something to do with the fast reach factor I have examined in recent blogposts. Higher rated fare tends to get reach higher and faster and this tends to improve a campaign’s recency i.e. amount of exposure soon before the shopping trip/promoted program’s airing. The reduction in rules limiting the extent to which networks are willing to mention day/date and time period in airing a competitor’s tune-in advertising must also have had something to do with these gains. MSO inventory used to offer the only competitive airtime that would accept day/time mention and now it is beginning to be more widely accepted.

Within digital, just as in TV, every subcategory is up in spending on paid tune-in for network TV programs:


  • +156% Pure Play – Social
  • +34% Pure Play – Internet Radio
  • +28% Pure Play – Video
  • +14% TV Network – Digital
  • +11% Pure Play – Content/Search
  • +10% Ad Network/Ad Exchange
  • +5% Print – Digital

Please share your comments and questions that shed light on these trends.

SMI Team

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