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Understanding Traditional Media – Television

As the marketing and advertising landscape changes with the advent of exciting new technologies and capabilities in the digital media world, more traditional media can still be an effective part of your advertising strategy. One of those traditional media that can be effective adding to your marketing mix is television. Television advertising can complement your digital and other marketing initiatives well but can also be a daunting task trying to buy it effectively. In this blog, I want to take some time and break down the basics of television advertising. 

Types of Television Advertising

First, there are two types of traditional television media: Broadcast and Cable television. Broadcast is your networks like NBC, ABC, CBS or FOX. Cable are the networks provided through your cable television provider such as HGTV, ESPN, CNN or Fox News. Below, I’ll break down some of the differences. 

Audience Reach

Broadcast television is aired DMA wide. When you purchase broadcast television advertising, your commercial will be aired simultaneously to every viewer watching the network in your designated market area. Cable advertising on the other hand can be purchased DMA wide (so still simultaneously reaching every viewer watching the network in your DMA) or it can be purchased on a zone level. Broadcast television stations use large broadcast signals that send the same feed out to everyone in a DMA, whereas cable uses the cable line in viewers’ home. This allows the cable to segment geographies into smaller geographic areas known as zones. This geographic targeting capability makes cable an attractive option for smaller businesses that want to advertise in only certain geographies.


Broadcast television is more widely available to viewers, all you need is an antenna to watch, whereas cable requires you to pay through a cable service provider to access their networks. This means that typically, there are more viewers with broadcast and it has a wider reach than cable (especially with the cord-cutting happening with cable providers). While cable has less of a reach, it can be more targeted geographically as we mentioned. 

As a result of having more viewers, broadcast television advertising is more expensive than cable advertising. However, because it is more expensive and you are limited in your network selection (whereas cable has many networks to choose from), you get much less frequency in the number of commercials you get with broadcast. Cable advertising being less expensive with a wider variety of network availability is a great option if you are trying to increase the frequency of your advertising message. 

Implementing A Television Buy

Both broadcast and cable can be effective parts of your advertising strategy but making sure you are effectively and efficiently buying television advertising is important. Deciding which traditional television advertising type is right for your business depends on your goals, objectives, and needs. Those are some of the basic differences between the two main types of traditional television media advertising but effectively buying a traditional television campaign is much more complex, but with our years of experience in the field, that is why we are here!      

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