The Super Bowl was a snooze for fans, but there's still nothing like it for advertisers



Sunday was a letdown for us advertising and media reporters, and it wasn’t just the ads that felt lacklustre. It was the lowest-rated Super Bowl in 11 years, with 98.2 million viewers. It speaks to the ongoing erosion of live and linear TV.

To wit:

  • For the first time, more people used Netflix (76% of those surveyed) than a pay-TV account (67%) in 2018, according to a new PwC report.
  • The game was streamed across more platforms than ever, according to Super Bowl broadcaster CBS, up 20% from last year, with viewers watching 19% more minutes than last year.
  • TV companies aren’t helping themselves. Despite their stated efforts to cut commercial clutter, networks’ ad load actually crept up last year, to as high as 15 minutes an hour, a Pivotal Research analysis found.

But despite the falling ratings, the Super Bowl is still the biggest live TV event there is, and sold out with advertisers this year. Among them were none other than streaming services like Hulu, showing linear TV still is the workhorse of marketers needing to reach a huge audience.

— Lucia

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Here’s what else we’ve been following this week.

Hulu is testing a static ad experience with Charmin and Coca-Cola that appears when users press pause – and it is designed to be a less obtrusive experience than other annoying ads on the internetWhere TV networks have fallen short, Hulu sees itself stepping in, with a new ad format that pops up on the right side of the screen when the user hits the pause button. It’s pitching the format as a way to get people’s attention without being interruptive.

YouTube is changing how its priciest ad format is bought to work more like TV – and it could start a bidding war among brandsYouTube is bringing more competition to the way it sells its most prominent ad placement, called the masthead. Multiple advertisers can bid on and run in the spot on the same day; previously, only one advertiser could buy it per day. The change is meant to reflect how advertisers buy addressable TV, and shows how YouTube hopes to go after TV ad dollars. YouTube has tried to get a piece of TV ad budgets as cord-cutting grows. In April, YouTube said people were streaming 150 million hours a day of YouTube content globally on TV screens.

Unilever is finally getting Facebook, Google, and Twitter to bend on ad measurement – but it won’t have much impact unless other brands get on boardUnilever’s been pushing for Google and Facebook to make it easier to compare how its ads perform across the platforms, and now it says it’s making progress on that front with a new cross-measurement pilot. The No. 2 advertiser has a lot of clout with the platforms, but it’s unclear if Unilever’s efforts will translate into benefits for the rest of the ad industry.

Digital TV advertising may have a duopoly problem – and it could get worse as ad-supported streaming explodesOTT viewing is exploding, but there are only two main options for ad serving at scale, Google and FreeWheel. Some OTT publishers say they’d like more options that are better suited to their specific needs – demand that will likely only grow this year as OTT takes off.

Vice Media was once flying high with buzzy branded content and a lucrative millennial audience. Now it’s cutting 10% of employeesOnce one of the buzziest digital media companies, Vice has struggled to live up to its $US5.7 billion valuation in the face of a decline in its millennial audience, internal culture problems, and a reliance on branded content that’s become increasingly commoditized.

Feel free to send tips or thoughts to me at [email protected]

Here are other good stories from tech, media, and entertainment:

Former Snap chief strategy officer Imran Khan makes a key hire for his online shopping startup
Google’s stock sank after its latest earnings, and Wall Street is blaming it on Alphabet’s $US25 billion spending spree

Facebook is under fire from growing security and data concerns. Advertisers keep pumping in money anyway

People are fed up with TV ads. Here’s how NBCUniversal is trying to fix that.
Amazon had a record-setting $US46 million buying spree at Sundance. We break down all the big movie deals for Amazon, Netflix, and Apple

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