Ask a Samba TV Expert: Seven 2021 Predictions from Samba TV Co-Founder and CEO Ashwin Navin

Samba TV
4 min readJan 21, 2021

2020 was a year that dramatically changed our world and saw the entire globe collectively sheltering at home to escape the pandemic. As a result, viewership and the industries it touches nimbly navigated these changes throughout the year and have brought about lasting impact into 2021.

I sat down with Samba TV’s Co-founder and CEO Ashwin Navin to capture some of his predictions for 2021 and what consumers and brands can expect in this new year.

Let’s take a look.

  1. Post-COVID life will be euphoric, but the new TV viewership behaviors are mostly irreversible. Just in time for the Olympics in Summer of 2021, the world is expected to be able to go out and about. But streaming and on-demand TV viewership, which accelerated during the pandemic, will have permanence. The abundance of time at home has given consumers the time to bake more, craft more, and watch more TV, with daytime viewership higher than we have ever seen. While daypart viewership will revert to the mean, we don’t believe consumers will revert to appointment television. This will put significant pressure on scripted entertainment outside of the on-demand / over-the-top (OTT) platforms.
  2. Netflix will lose its dominance. In 2020, Disney+ catapulted itself into the spotlight as the most valuable streaming service to families in every country it is available following the rise of Prime Video before that. In 2021, we are expecting very strong performance from streaming video-on-demand providers HBO Max, Apple TV+, and Peacock, as well as others in the ad-supported (AVOD) arena.
  3. Live sports will reinvent itself. The return of televised sporting events in the second half of 2020 spiked viewership for a short stint followed by rapid declines due to competition for scarce consumer attention. With COVID shutdowns extending into Q1 2021, it’s imperative for each of the leagues to appropriately time their seasons to get a larger share of viewership. Compounded by the Olympics in the summer, a congested sports TV calendar is only going to lead to unnecessary competition. We believe leagues will begin to innovate in the format and platforms they use to reach consumers and expect some experimentation in the duration of games and seasons — which was already at peak saturation in recent years.
  4. Privacy finally takes center stage in the Smart TV space. Consumers want more data protection, validated by the broad appeal of CPRA in California’s recent election. Privacy will become a bigger priority for marketers and advertisers who will have to rigorously investigate their vendor ecosystem for potential liability. Privacy will enter national focus in 2021, and around the world, creating a difficult balancing act to protect consumers while not empowering walled gardens with even bigger monopolies. We believe 2021 will be a big year for first-party data owners and a bad year for data brokers and ad tech platforms lacking privacy-compliant identity solutions.
  5. Traditional brands will move $5 billion of linear TV ads to connected TV. As linear clings to its main pillars of live sports, tent poles and news, connected TV (CTV) consumption will continue to draw viewers throughout 2021 with the abundance of OTT services expanding their catalogs of top-tier entertainment choices. Beginning in 2021, we’ll see billions of ad dollars shift from linear to CTV where these audiences are forming at massive scale, especially as scripted entertainment loses its economic engine from ratings declines across linear.
  6. DTC brands will turn to linear TV for cheap reach. Direct to consumer (DTC) brands built on digital media channels over the past five years have priced out the ROI from low-cost digital ads and will turn to traditional media for growth in 2021. Drawn by the appeal of low CPMs and extensive reach, we expect to see a lot of DTC brands bring the sophistication of data and measurement to linear TV which will offer them relatively strong return on ad spend (ROAS).
  7. AI and ML will bring the next generation of TV measurement. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are about to usher in the next generation of viewer experiences, as well as TV data. AI not only has the potential to further safeguard consumer privacy and improve advertisers’ understanding of viewers, but drastically improve the picture quality for consumers. It is the connective tissue between millions of consumers and millions of choices with the potential to replace human editorial with algorithms that provide content recommendations, personalized user interfaces, and ads that actually benefit the consumer. TV ads won’t go away with AI, they will become much more valuable and personal — just like the ads we engage with on social platforms. We believe the next year will see the potential of AI really begin to take shape and the next phase for ACR solidify.

As we embark on a new year, it’s imperative to take stock in the lasting changes that took shape in 2020. While the world takes steps to restore normal, daily life, many of the habits developed over the last 12 months are unlikely to fully dissipate once this takes place. These impactful predictions are fascinating and are necessary to consider for brands leveraging linear, OTT, and CTVs to reach audiences as we enter the new year with the lessons learned from 2020.



Samba TV

We place data at the heart of TV to enable a more scientific approach to advertising and a better viewing experience for everyone.