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Television Update Fall 2020

Why TV Measurement Must Change

About This Report
The pandemic led to lower TV ad spend and increased connected TV viewing this year. The shift in TV viewing means TV audience measurement gaps must be addressed to keep pace with how, what, and where consumers are watching TV.
Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Shifting consumer viewing behavior and the pandemic-driven hit to broadcast and cable TV programming have upended this year’s TV ad spending. As marketers negotiated this new landscape, deficiencies with current measurement systems have become increasingly scrutinized.

How has the pandemic affected TV ad spending this year?

The re-emergence of live sports is bolstering H2 2020 TV spend but not enough to stem a year-over-year (YoY) decline versus 2019. Magna Global expects Q1 2021 TV ad spend to exceed Q1 2020, largely because March 2020 was precipitously down when the pandemic reached the US. This outlook depends, however, on when the virus is contained.

How is TV audience measurement currently being challenged?

The steady expansion of TV content viewing across multiple video platforms continues to test the limits of TV audience reporting with small samples, particularly for high-growth, albeit fragmented, connected TV (CTV) audiences.

How have big data TV viewing sources addressed this challenge?

Larger, more granular viewing data sets sourced from set-top box and automatic content recognition in smart TV devices, paired with consumer data, have enabled significant advances in targeting precision and outcome measurement. They’re also bridging the audience measurement gap between linear and CTV platforms considered critical for marketers seeking to reach cord-cutters.

What are some limitations of big data TV sets?

Set-top boxes and automatic content recognition capture household tuning but not how many people are viewing. There may also be challenges to adequately represent viewing in pay TV, broadband-only, and over-the-air homes. Data processes and metric definitions often vary across big data providers.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report provides an update on the pandemic’s impact on TV ad spend and accelerated shift to CTV viewing. Gaps for measuring rapidly changing viewing habits are detailed as well as possible solutions.

KEY STAT: US TV spending will drop 15.0% this year to $60.00 billion. TV ad dollars are expected to recover in 2021 through 2024 but will remain below the $70 billion threshold.

Here’s what’s in the full report


Exportable files for easy reading, analysis and sharing.


Reliable data in simple displays for presentations and quick decision making.

16expert perspectives

Insights from industry and company leaders.

Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. A Year of Dramatic Shifts in Viewing and Ad Spending
  3. TV Audience Measurement: Recent Evolution
  4. Audience Measurement Pain Points
  1. Plugging Audience Measurement Gaps
  2. A Future Vision for TV Audience Measurement
  3. Key Takeaways
  4. eMarketer Interviews
  1. Read Next
  2. Sources
  3. Media Gallery

Interviewed for This Report

Michael Bologna
President and Chief Revenue Officer
Interviewed October 19, 2020
Scott Brown
General Manager, Audience Measurement
Interviewed October 20, 2020
Josh Chasin
Chief Measurement Officer
Interviewed September 28, 2020
Jane Clarke
Coalition of Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM)
CEO and Managing Director
Interviewed October 26, 2020
Joanna Drews
Interviewed October 19, 2020
Margaret Firalio
Senior Vice President and Director, Media
Interviewed September 30, 2020
Caroline Horner
Senior Vice President, Product Management
Interviewed October 6, 2020
TS Kelly
Senior Vice President and Head of Impact
Interviewed September 30, 2020
Michael Law
Interviewed October 1, 2020
Vincent Letang
Magna Global
Executive Vice President, Global Market Intelligence
Interviewed October 7, 2020
Cara Lewis
Executive Vice President, Video Investment
Interviewed October 1, 2020
Claudio Marcus
Comcast Advertising
Vice President, Strategy
Interviewed October 29, 2020
John Nuding
Publicis Media
Senior Vice President, Research
Interviewed September 29, 2020
Betsy Rella
New York Interconnect (NYI)
Vice President, Research and Data
Interviewed September 30, 2020
Beth Rockwood
Senior Vice President, Ad Sales Research
Interviewed September 25, 2020
Howard Shimmel
Janus Strategy and Insights
Interviewed October 21, 2020


Gerard Broussard


Ross Benes
Chuck Rawlings
Audrey Schomer
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