TV Media Buying 101: The Complete Guide to TV Buys

Have you ever wondered what makes a perfect ad campaign? If you ask around, you may find various departments that like to lay claim to being responsible for a campaign’s success. But it really comes down to creating the right ads, then getting them in front of the right audience at the perfect time. Media buying plays an essential role in making sure everything goes as planned. Modern ad campaigns run like a finely-tuned machine, and media buying is crucial.

laptop with hands pointing at the screen for article what is media buying

What is Media Buying?

Media buying is a process used to purchase advertising space on online and offline platforms, including TV, radio, YouTube, and websites. A media buyer is responsible for getting brands in front of a target audience by strategically using ad space. A buyer has to negotiate for the space, manage budgets, and optimize ads for maximum performance. While crafting a strong message that resonates with the right audience is essential, a successful campaign also involves purchasing ad space on channels relevant to the intended audience and airing it at the optimal time. These need to be done using the least amount of money possible.   

TV Media Buying 101

There are many parts to an active media buying campaign. The first consideration is who you are targeting with your ads. If you run ads for a local business, you’ll want to air the ads on channels in the specific area. If your ads are for a national chain with locations across the US, national channels are the best choice. The first step of determining your target audience is crucial to a successful ad campaign. You don’t want to waste your money advertising to viewers who don’t see the relevancy of your message.

Once you understand who your target audience is for an ad campaign, you’ll need to discover which TV networks are available and which ones are best for your marketing purposes. This is one of the most difficult parts of media buying since there are many ways to buy TV ad space. When TV advertising first started in the early 1940s, it was simple. Today, both the buying process and prices are much more complex. For example, here’s a brief look at the different TV formats you’ll need to choose from.

Television Formats for Media Buying

First, you’ll want to consider traditional TV. Advertising is still alive and well on “regular TV.” However it is presented to consumers in various formats that include:

Traditional Television Formats

  • Terrestrial TV: Terrestrial television is traditional TV, and it is viewed by use of an outdoor antenna. It used to be referred to as analog, but in 2012, it switched to digital TV.
  • Cable TV: Antennas present problems with viewing, especially in areas with wild weather changes. Since a roof-mounted outdoor antenna presented many challenges, community antennas were installed. The purpose was to supply TV signals via cable.
  • Satellite TV: Users’ TV signals are received from a satellite dish which is orbiting the globe. The signal is sent to a receiver by use of an outdoor satellite dish. The satellite receiver is used to decode the signal and display the program on a TV. 

Advanced Television Formats

  • CTV (Connected TV): Programs are watched by use of a Smart TV or a television set that is connected to the Internet. It may also be viewed using OTT devices.
  • OTT (Over-the-Top TV): Over-the-top is a term used to refer to services or devices that stream digital content to a household. Some common examples include streaming boxes or sticks, gaming consoles, and blu-ray players.
  • VOD (Video-On-Demand): On-demand content is always available and ready to watch whenever the user wants to watch. Video-on-demand includes content that is watched via OTT devices, video-streaming services, and mobile apps.

Media buyers and media planners often work together to determine which networks are available and which are best for each ad campaign. It’s essential for ads to be placed when and where they will be seen by your potential customers. 

TV Media Buying Terms to Know

Paid media has its own vocabulary. To help clarify some of the media buying terms, here are a few of the ones that are essential to know to launch a successful campaign.

Fixed Position Spots

A spot with a “fixed position” is a guaranteed position for a TV ad that cannot be moved by the provider. 


The frequency measures how many viewers see a spot after initial contact.

Media Mix

The Media Mix refers to all the different channels a company uses to communicate with its audience. It outlines how much of the advertising budget is spent on each channel. Determining the best media mix for a campaign will depend on the demographics of the target audience.


The reach refers to the number of different households (or people) exposed to a spot during at least one run of the ad.

Why TV Media Buying is Necessary

Media buying is important because how media is strategically purchased and placed impacts the success of a campaign. Even if you have exceptional, engaging copy and stellar visual elements, if it’s not placed at the right time and the right frequency, the right audience will not see your ad. Media buying involves purchasing ad space across a blend of media and using both digital and traditional sources together to craft a campaign. An experienced media buyer may negotiate with a variety of media outlets or channels to maximize ad performance and reach campaign goals. The goals of successful media buying include:

  • Get the most views of an ad inside a budget.
  • Secure the best ad placements possible for the target audience.

What TV Media Buying Includes

There is a lot involved in media buying, since it is the act of purchasing inventory or real estate for ads to be placed. Numerous factors are considered in the process such as rates, space, time, lead demand, and more. Prices for TV media vary based on the advertising campaign specifics. For instance, where will the ads appear, in just one city, across a region, or nationally? Media buys on a website, however, depend on several elements, such as:

  • The size of the ad
  • How many days the ad will run
  • Where the ad is placed on the page
  • How many visitors the site has
  • The website’s user demographics

The price of the media buy becomes more expensive based on how much exposure the ad is expected to receive. 

How TV Media Buying Works

A media buyer works with a media planner to deliver effective campaigns. From start to finish, the media buying process works basically like this:

  • Identify Target Audience

Before anything, it’s essential to determine who you want the ad campaign to reach. Media planners usually work with a client to identify the target audience. Once the planner has it worked out, he briefs the media buyer.

  • Market Research

Quite a lot of research goes into the media buying process. It’s important to know where the target audience shops, eats, exercises, lives, etc. Knowing what time of day they typically watch TV and what websites they visit is essential. This information helps determine where the ads are placed to ensure your desired audience actually sees the ads designed for them.

  • Set Campaign Goals

Next, the campaign goals and objectives are set. Is the goal to increase brand exposure and awareness? Drive sales? Or bring back repeat business? Once the goals are known, benchmarks are set so it will be easy to measure the campaign’s success.

  • Campaign Strategy

Once the objectives are in place, strategizing begins. A strategy will include a budget, channels to be used, and the overall message behind the campaign creation.

  • Purchase Ad Space

Once the specifics are nailed down, the actual media buying will be done. This involves buying space across the chosen channels. A media buyer may negotiate for time and space so they get the placements needed to reach their goals and objectives. 

  • Launch the Campaign

Once you’ve purchased the ad space, it’s ready to launch.

  • Measure and Analyze

Finally, after the campaign has been launched, it needs to be monitored so the results can be tracked. If the campaign does well early on, more ad space may be purchased, or the campaign may be extended.

Do You Need a Media Buyer?

Done correctly, media buying will mean profitability. The key to a successful campaign is to focus on acquiring optimal ad space for bigger conversions. Choosing reputable media buying partners and in-depth research on the current trends can help offer a variety of services that will help you make the most of your time as well as resources.

Ultimately, you want your ad campaign to reach the largest number of potential customers in the shortest amount of time, for the least amount of money. TVIQ can help you reach these goals. Schedule your free consultation to learn how we can help your ad campaign meet or exceed your goals.