In an interview this morning at the Paley Center, Turner Chairman and CEO John Martin hit on several key themes he believes will be critical to the company’s future success. Specifically, Martin cited business flexibility, the power of data, the shift to audience-based ad sales and mobile. Following are some of the details of the interview, which was conducted by the Guardian’s Matthew Garrahan.
Business flexibility - This was really Martin’s over-riding theme - that he’s positioning the company to succeed regardless of how the media landscape evolves. He highlighted numerous initiatives including FilmStruck, the SVOD movie service being launched this week, investments in Hulu, Mashable and Refinery29, new distribution with “skinny bundles” and acquisitions of companies like iStreamPlanet and Bleacher Report. Regarding skinny bundles, Martin sounded a cautious note, saying “it’s not easy to construct portfolio of networks that would be valuable to consumers.”
Martin clarified that the company “is not thinking about launching $5/month or $10/month OTT services” with its core content and emphasized the value of its pay-TV partners. Still, Turner is looking to experiment with new ways of packaging content and wants to have internal capabilities “to pivot to whatever direction consumers want” down the road. Martin cited the benefits of learning from sister company HBO’s experience with direct-to-consumer offering HBO Now.
Data and Audience-Based Ad Sales - Martin noted that 2 years ago the company had “29 different data systems and no strategy for how to gather data.” Now it has consolidated data onto one platform dubbed the “Turner Data Cloud,” which is one repository for all viewer data which all the networks are plugged into.
For Martin, the data is all about helping make ads more relevant, reducing ad loads and telling better stories. Martin called on David Levy, Turner president David Levy, who said the company’s goal is to be using data to sell 50% of its inventory on an audience basis by 2020, echoing what Turner Ad Sales president Donna Speciale said at our SHIFT // 2015 conference. Levy cited a 150% increase in audience targeted ads that were daypart-agnostic, in the recent upfront.
Martin joked a number of times about how audience-based selling gives the company the ability to monetize all impressions for the first time, including those of 54-year olds.
Mobile - Martin also said, “One of biggest transformations in the industry is brands that are being created mobile-first.” He highlighted CNN MoneyStream, a new personalized business news experience modeled on what the Bleacher Report team has done for sports and suggested more mobile apps are coming.
One final point I thought was interesting was that Martin said he wants the company to not only offer great content and be a great place to work, but also “be a leading technology company in the business we’re in.” There has been a lot written about how much media companies should invest in technology vs. outsourcing it. Martin seemed to come down on the side of investing directly, in order for the company to have its own internal capabilities as a differentiator.
(Note: Larry Allen, Turner Ad Sales VP, Ad Innovation and Programmatic Solutions, will be participating in our SHIFT // 2016 Programmatic Video & TV Ad Summit on Wed, Nov. 30th in NYC. Save now with early bird tickets)