Why we need to re-define peak time

Why we need to re-define peak time
Opinion: Strategy Leaders

If advertisers do not redefine what ‘peak’ is in the changing media landscape, they risk missing opportunities to reach engaged audiences. Underinvested new media will fall into no-man’s land.


Viewer fragmentation is not a novelty in the media space. Agencies and advertisers have long sought to establish the most effective way to reach their audience across content and platforms, adapting their strategies to the ever-evolving viewing behaviour.

It is now well-accepted that there are audiences across platforms, a crossover of audiences and incrementality. Some themes, however, from measurement to audience size and content quality, need to be further explored.

Recently, I’ve found myself re-looking at my own changing viewing behaviour and realised the way we have historically categorised media has lost relevance. What was previously accepted and comfortably defined, today is no longer fit for purpose.

The age of linear TV: a simpler time

When linear TV was dominant, peak airtime was generally categorised as between 5.30pm and 10.59pm. It was, indeed, a defined window of time.

In a linear TV world, peak time includes the ‘best programming’ the broadcaster has to offer to capture the largest possible audience.

According to Thinkbox, peak airtime is also conceived as the space where the most valuable audiences are locked in by the content and fully engaged. Advertisers value peak time accordingly, which raises the price for it.

We’ve continued to witness the fragmentation of the TV viewing ecosystem and we’re now comfortable, to some extent, with how our definition of TV has shifted. This has been the first leaf to fall.

We no longer think about TV as accessible only via a defined ‘box’. Broadcast-quality content can now be consumed via on-demand platforms, browsers, mobile applications and internet as well as via a ‘new box’, which, although similar in shape to its previous version, is now connected.

The shift has happened

This means we’ve already broadened our definition of TV, shifting the focus from the delivery platform to the content type. There is widespread agreement on what broadcast quality is and what is not (a topic worthy of further consideration!).

Linear TV alone is no longer the most efficient option. Advertisers should leverage multiple access points through on-demand services and a growing set of video streaming platforms to maximise engagement with their target audience.

At GroupM, we’ve seen the benefits of those who do think ‘video first’, or those who consider video as a key part of their media plan. With BVOD/CTV expected to grow by 19% in the UK in 2023, investments in video and streaming will only continue to increase.

A broader definition of TV means we need to revisit some ideas, such as the one of peak discussed above. When viewers consume content on a platform other than linear TV, opting into content has an increased value to the viewer through the act of actually choosing or opting in.

A second shift is coming

The definition of peak needs to be adjusted as the sector is about to undergo a second shift, with the re-definition of macro media labels such as TV, Radio, Digital and Social.

The importance of this shift cannot be understated. Content creators keep blurring the lines, as we, at times, still apply those partly outdated media labels to new kinds of content.

Food for thought: we may well define a peak when someone listens to their favourite podcast on their selected video streaming destination. But in which media category would this fit?

Some may say Radio, TV and Digital. From an investment point of view, defining the category is key. If we don’t agree on a new set of media categories, certain types of content, including video streaming and digital audio, will fall into ‘no man’s land’.

This, in turn, would lead to an underinvestment in these areas and therefore a missed opportunity for advertisers.

The new challenge for advertisers

The recently released 2023 Growth Trends report by Wavemaker encourages brands to ‘stop thinking channel and start thinking encounter’.

Targeting content that is selected or curated regardless of platform is far more aligned to a definition of peak that takes into consideration the significant growth of addressable audiences.

Targeting encounters is irrespective of media silo or content label and advertisers should consider carefully how they can value this content environment.

They should target areas where traditional silos are being challenged, thus creating new opportunities to reach highly engaged users. In other words, they need to look at these environments as critical peak opportunities.

Navigating the ‘second shift’ that is taking place, in the broader sense of the term, may be challenging. By being flexible and able to modify their media strategies, advertisers will reap the benefits of change.

Carl Nawagamuwa is investment managing director at GroupM.


Strategy Leaders features on the Thursday edition of The Media Leader‘s daily bulletin with thought leadership, news and analysis dedicated to excellence in commercial media strategy.
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