Inside TV’s Power Play to Target Audiences

Rival TV titans including A&E, CBS and Turner are considering banding together for a project, dramatically code-named Thor, to prove to marketers their commercials worked no matter where they ran on air. One goal is to break a stalemate that’s delaying TV’s crucial move into precision marketing.

It’s been about four years since TV networks set their sights on revamping commercials to compete better against digital by letting brands target audiences with more specific criteria than the traditional age and gender. This spring, several networks made some bold statements and took some big swings in the name of advancing audience buying on TV. But a power stuggle is holding back progress: TV networks are eager to sell targeted audiences, which allow them to raise prices on inventory, while buyers don’t want to pay more or risk their place at the table.

“We are the agents of our clients, not the networks, and we have to make sure we are not giving clients’ info away to them,” says Catherine Sullivan, president of U.S. investment at Omnicom Media Group.

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