Debate: Is a viewer of catch-up TV less valuable?

The topic: A viewer of catch-up TV is less valuable to advertisers than a viewer of a live-to-air broadcast of the same content.


Helen KellieHelen Kellie

Marketing director


Neutral – Oh, the tyranny of TV – yes, no and maybe!

In commercial terms, at SBS they’re equal. As a broadcaster we make the same revenue per viewer per hour in each. For advertisers the maths is slightly different: the cost per time in catch-up is three times that of TV but there are one-third of the ads. They are equally valuable.

But we all know that’s not quite the whole story is it? Live TV must be more  valuable to an advertiser – a live TV viewer can’t skip the ads, so they must engage in more of my advertising message, mustn’t they? Except that the latest industry data shows that only 29 percent of us are just watching TV when we’re watching TV – down 10 percent versus a year ago. And what does ‘live’ mean, as most advertisers buy an ‘overnight’ or a ‘weekly consolidated’ rather than a true ‘live’ rating.

Having said all that, I’m a real believer in the power of catch-up or online viewing. There’s a real value in audiences choosing to watch something. They’re more likely to be watching it, instead of doing something else at the same time. It’s also more likely to be what they individually have chosen to watch, rather than what the other inhabitants of the sofa might have selected. So I have a more engaged viewer and that’s good for an advertising message that needs more of my attention.

The next stage of this is really exciting. We’re starting to see the power of a ‘signed-in’ on-demand viewer – that means we’re not just scaling up from an OzTam sample – accurate and good as that is – but we actually know how many people watched, what demographic group they’re from, where they live and maybe even some of their other behavioural habits. That’s huge additional advertiser value.

So what can you do as an advertiser? Make sure you follow the age-old ad basics. It’s about the right message to the right person at the right time and in the right place. Overall, be a savvy advertiser and fit your brand into its best environment if you want the best value. Good luck!


Murray LoveMurray Love

Insights and analytics director


Neutral – A catch-up TV viewer is as valuable to advertisers as live broadcast viewers – the viewer’s value is just measured against a different set of criteria. Consumers watching content via some form of catch-up technology, whether it’s through Foxtel Go, an IP download through Foxtel Catch-up, playback recorded to iQ or online, are actually highly- engaged viewers.

They are making the choice to intently go out of their way go out of their way, go back and watch the content, rather than just watch the least objectionable program that’s playing at the time. For advertisers, this means committed viewers and, most importantly, a segmented audience that relates directly to specific content. With advertising now becoming more and more targeted, brands can use this behaviour to their advantage and connect with viewers who are interested in particular content.

Live television, on the other hand, provides advertisers with the opportunity to connect with consumers in real time, especially since social TV is becoming increasingly active. When watching a program or event (in particular sport) live, viewers can engage immediately with that content’s community, whether local or global. For example, texting a mate whose team is struggling during Friday night’s footy game or participating on a program’s social media channels during live broadcasting. Social networks can create more buzz and engagement for live content and allow sponsors of particular programs to use social platforms to synchronise with events happening on the program in present time and further interact with their target audience. MCN studies have also shown that there is a halo effect for brands advertising on live TV, where viewers associate the benefits of live content with the brand.

No matter with which platform viewers engage television content, the value for the advertiser is always vital and the debate about live versus catch-up will always continue.


Bryan MageeBryan Magee

Group investment director


Negative – It is very rare that any media channel is planned in isolation and catch-up TV is no different. When used properly a viewer of catch-up content can be as valuable as a viewer of broadcast TV. Both have pros and cons – it is the combination of the two that provides the most effective communication. Why?

First, an ad placed in front of a piece of catch-up TV content enjoys less clutter than a broadcast placement (you are one of one or two ads as opposed to one of eight to 10 in a broadcast environment).

Second, you have the ability to be more targeted (and interactive) as catch-up TV is generally viewed on a connected device meaning less wastage than TV.

Broadcast TV’s main strength is building reach quickly and efficiently. If planned correctly, combining catch-up with your TV plan will also deliver cost efficiencies by extending the reach of your campaign. Catch-up TV will never replace that shared viewing experience that TV delivers. How good is that feeling of watching live content on the big screen with your family or friends, in or out of the home! There is an emotional connection to associating yourself with this kind of live content that only broadcast TV can deliver.

However, as the world becomes more connected and content gets even more personalised we can’t rely on that one broadcast spot in X Factor. If I’m a fan of the show I want to watch the show live, but I also want to vote, see the behind- the-scenes content and read articles about my favourite act. All of these different touch points make for a more engaged viewer, which is great for advertisers.

Catch-up TV offers advertisers another opportunity to have a conversation with an increasingly fragmented audience. The key is using it in the right way. When integrated with the rest of the media plan, particularly TV, it becomes a very valuable channel.


Jimmy StorrierJimmy Storrier

General manager

Zeebox Australia

Negative – Catch-up TV may not be aggregating the same overall volume of audience in the one place at the one time as live-to- air broadcast television is, but a catch-up TV viewer is as active and committed a viewer as you can get.

For the purposes of advertising, TV of any type – catch-up or live-to-air – is in the business of capturing viewer attention in the hope some or most of that attention can be diverted to advertisements. At the end of the day, advertisers are paying for perceived viewer attention.

Given the scheduled, linear basis of free-to-air TV, part of the live-to-air audience is bound to be passive. By no means does passivity apply to all viewers, but it’s easy to go along for the ride with live-to-air television.

We also know today that second screening is rife during advertisements on live-to-air TV. The vast majority of smartphone and tablet owners use a second screen while watching TV, and recent research we’ve completed in the US suggests the majority of that second-screen activity happens during advertisements.

A viewer’s attention on the first screen during advertisements is becoming more and more difficult to capture.

A catch-up TV viewer, on the other hand, has carved out a period of their attention at a time that suits them, and has deliberately selected a piece of content from what is arguably a wider and deeper choice at any given point in time on live-to- air. That doesn’t mean passivity is non-existent in a catch-up TV user’s viewing, but is less likely overall.

The fact that most online catch-up TV experiences contain less advertising than the standard 16 minutes per hour means viewers are happy to remain engaged for one or two ad rolls in a break rather than five or six, plus a few top-and-tail promos.

However, in saying that, live-to-air TV will, for the foreseeable future, be more valuable in terms of total value to the networks, because of its higher levels of viewership.