“For advertisers, ad-supported Connected TV (CTV) offers a highly valuable proposition: a brand-safe and fraud-free
environment to reach desired audiences across a broad or niche demo range.”
-Jim Wilson, President of Premion, Tegna
2019 is shaping up to be a monumental year for ad-supported streaming over-the-top (OTT) services with Viacom’s acquisition of Pluto TV, Amazon’s IMDb Freedive and NBCUniversal entering the fray. Pure-play OTT networks, such as MLB.TV, Xumo and Tubi TV, are already gaining significant traction with attracting growing audiences in the booming ad-supported OTT market. This beckons the question: how much of the streaming TV future will be ad-supported versus subscription-based?
The expansion in ad-supported streaming services comes amid concerns of subscription fatigue among consumers. In fact, research from Magid indicates that U.S. subscription streaming growth is slowing.
In contrast, consumers that watch ad-supported streaming services are largely incremental to those that watch linear TV, they represent a high-value audience, and they are highly receptive to ads, according to an IAB study. With rising subscription costs and the fact that there’s a limit to how many streaming services consumers are willing to pay for, it’s inevitable that the ad-supported model will prevail.
For advertisers, ad-supported Connected TV (CTV) offers a highly valuable proposition: a brand-safe and fraud-free environment to reach desired audiences across a broad or niche demo range. As such, brands and agencies are moving bigger budgets to this medium. A SteelHouse Survey finds that 78% of marketers plan to buy ad inventory on streaming TV within the next 12 months.
Here are key developments to watch with the growing opportunities in ad-supported streaming:
Convergence of Linear and Connected TV
Since CTV delivers the same highly engaged, lean-back and big screen experience as linear TV, savvy marketers are combining ad-supported CTV with linear TV in their media buys. In fact, a VAB report highlights that viewing an ad on both linear TV and OTT platforms resulted in a two-fold increase in brand favorability and validate that combining linear TV and ad-supported OTT inventory can deliver even stronger campaign results and increased business outcomes for marketers by extending both reach and engagement. This converged CTV and linear media strategy will accelerate as many TV advertisers now consider connected TV as a way to add incremental reach to their linear TV buy.
Furthermore, the proliferation of video experiences across different platforms and devices is triggering broadcasters to review and consider new business models for monetizing their inventory. With broadcasters embracing OTT, we can expect bigger investments in live streaming services, particularly in the world of sports and local news.
With the heightened focus on consumer privacy in the current GDPR era, advertisers come to expect greater transparency across the advertising supply chain. Given the increasing sophistication of brand safety, ad fraud and viewability issues, marketers are moving from the use of third-party data in favor of first-and-second party partnerships.
Trust and transparency are now considered a competitive advantage. Brands and marketers demand accountability in their partnerships and verifiable transparency has become table stakes for doing business. Companies must be held accountable and choosing ethical, trustworthy people aligned with your core values is mission-critical when considering any business relationship.
When it comes to CTV advertising, given the increasing fragmentation and wide disparity in capabilities among advertising providers and video content, it’s imperative that marketers thoroughly vet their partners to ensure that they are buying the highest quality premium video inventory. Defining and setting clear metrics from the onset and having transparent and detailed reporting on campaign results is key for a successful partnership.
Furthermore, the advancement in blockchain and cryptography technologies offers opportunities to bring independently verifiable transparency to the media supply chain, which in turn drives greater trust, as advertisers can be assured that they are getting what they pay for. The AdLedger Consortium is paving the way in driving and implementing global standards to build greater advertising transparency in this area.
This month, I spoke at Parks Associates’ inaugural Future of Video Conference on the ‘Distribution Opportunities and Challenges for Content Producers’ panel.
We had a lively exchange of ideas centered around the complexities facing content producers, ways to balance established and new video distribution avenues, and strategies for companies to drive growth in the changing video landscape.
The skyrocketing growth of streaming audiences demands content producers embrace new formats and types of video. According to Nielsen’s latest OTT TV report, Americans collectively spend nearly 8 billion hours per month consuming content on connected TV devices.
With the advent of new distribution channels and direct-to-consumer options upturning established windowing strategies and partnerships, content producers must evolve and remove their legacy mindset to capitalize on the new opportunities for distributing and monetizing content.
Here are key takeaways from our panel:
Should programmers create niche versus general market content?
Our panelists agreed that OTT services need to fall into either niche or general market content categories. But without the deep-pocketed resources of the streaming giants (Amazon, Netflix and soon to launch Disney and AT&T’s WarnerMedia), content companies will have a difficult time competing in the general market space. Instead, there are tremendous growth opportunities for niche players in the booming ad-supported OTT market. Pure-play and niche OTT networks, such as MLB.TV, Newsy and Tubi TV, are gaining significant traction with attracting growing audiences. Cutting through the competition is one of the big challenges for niche OTT services, so picking the right genre, focusing on the right audiences and have a clear brand proposition will be the key to success.
Where do programmers invest their resources?
The fundamental question content producers should be asking is: In what screen and in what transmission do we invest in? The easy answer is all screens, all the time, but that is an expensive gamble. With the increasing fragmentation of the OTT landscape, content owners are spending exorbitant amounts on app development. Only certain platforms have been able to recuperate that investment. Furthermore, ATSC 3.0 and 5G threaten today’s dominance of traditional cable, satellite, and internet delivery of high-quality video. The winner will likely be determined by proximity to the user (i.e. the device manufacturer like Apple) or the success of bundled services (e.g. AT&T pairing content with a 5G plan).
Consolidation: Do you join forces and with whom?
The rise of mega-mergers is driving more competition with OTT streamers. According to Ampere Analysis, four of every $10 in the United States will be accounted for by Comcast/Sky and Disney/Fox. The growing consolidation will mean less competition for rights for small players and this inevitably impacts their ability to negotiate favorable deals. The cost of marketing services will continue to frustrate small to medium upstarts. As such, aggregators will serve an essential place in OTT’s future for both SVODs and AVODs.
In the end, personalization of both content and experience will be tantamount to success on all platforms. Consumers are the ultimate winners as competitive pressures will drive media companies to forego near-term profits to please users with fresh content on all screens at affordable costs. Someday in the future, consumers will need to shoulder the cost of their increased demands—limited to no-commercials and content delivery on every screen. But, let’s all enjoy the spoils of today’s content wars for now.
Last month, I spoke at NAB’s Small Market Television Exchange (SMTE) Conference on the Demystifying OTT panel to share insights on the challenges and growth opportunities for local broadcasters as viewers shift into the OTT space.
Consumers are embracing OTT viewing options, and the accelerating adoption is projected to put the premium OTT market in the US at $21 billion by 2020, according to a new MTM report. As such, content owners should move quickly to not only follow but also attract viewers.
To succeed today, TV and content providers need to woo audiences with enticing content, enhance the user experience with greater personalization, and be everywhere their viewers are.
Here are key takeaways from the session:
Partnerships are key for broadcasters to speed roll-out of OTT offerings – In many instances, local broadcasters are still playing catch up to their audience, which have shifted, at least a portion of their viewing, to streaming platforms. To overcome distribution challenges, broadcasters should leverage the right partners to get to market faster with new OTT offerings. These may include vMVPDs such as Sling and aggregators like Pluto and Xumo. While owned & operated (O&O) digital properties are crucial for your most loyal viewers, they may garner limited viewership due to difficult discoverability.
Broadcasters need to expand beyond limited shelf-life programming – Many local broadcasters produce content with a brief shelf-life. Any app or service with good content longevity provides time-shifting viewers something to consume at all hours of the day. Building a successful OTT programming strategy requires broadcasters to re-evaluate their programming strategy.
Address scale challenges with product extensions – Achieving scale in premium digital video in local markets remains a challenge. Nimble broadcasters should focus on building out audience extension offerings, which will enable them to sell more inventory and generate more ad dollars. There are premium offerings, like PREMION, which ensure that ads are running in a brand safe and fraud free environment, unlike open exchange products.
Keep pace with the speed of change – Our industry is filled with digital acronyms (SSP, DSP, CPM, eCPM, OTT to name a few) and it’s changing quickly. Beyond speaking the language, it’s important to stay abreast on new capabilities in targeting and measurement to win over advertisers by simply educating them. It’s a great time to be an advertiser as more TV advertising can be measured than ever before.
If you’re not capturing the vast (and growing) streaming audience, then you’re losing them to your competition. How effective is your OTT content and advertising strategy? Let’s have a conversation.
Best practices for OTT success
By every measure, OTT (aka Connected TV or CTV) viewing is the new normal. With three in four U.S. households now consuming content on streaming services, advertisers and brand marketers are shifting bigger budgets into this rapidly growing channel. In fact, 78 percent of marketers plan to buy ad inventory on streaming TV within the next 12 months, according to a SteelHouse survey.
But for some marketers, the complexity and fragmentation of the OTT ecosystem remain hurdles to widespread adoption. To reap the benefits of OTT, you’ll need a deeper understanding of the solutions available.
What are the key considerations for developing an effective OTT buying strategy? Here’s our playbook to simplify the media-buying process to reach the vast and highly engaged streaming audience.
Data is king for OTT targeting
Data is fueling the OTT landscape but targeting and execution capabilities vary significantly among OTT providers. When planning their media buy, marketers need to consider whether they’re buying audience or content. Or maybe both. And when you’re doing data-driven targeting, where is the data coming from and how accurate is the viewer profile?
The latest OTT advancements allow marketers to use audiences instead of content to plan their campaigns. Audience segmentation can be truly deterministic and addressable down to an individual level. Data can be collected based on viewership and matched back to the individual within a household. Using non-personally identifiable viewer data, marketers can analyze content and match it to channel, program and ad placement data to better understand what types of viewers are watching each type of programming and what is triggering their purchase decisions.
In addition, first-party data collection on some OTT platforms offers the capability for online and offline attribution. This can give marketers richer insights on desired actions taken by a viewer that has been served an ad.
Inventory quality matters
Brand safety remains a paramount concern and advertisers need to understand what they’re buying. Since not all OTT quality is the same, determining inventory quality is imperative for marketers. Many providers claim they have directly sourced inventory, but it is important for marketers to know exactly where the inventory is coming from to ensure that their ads are running in a brand-safe and fraud-free environment.
What questions should you ask? Is it a direct buy with a network or ad solution platform, or through programmatic channels that source inventory from open exchanges and non-guaranteed PMP deals? Which is the right combination to give marketers what they need to ensure brand safety and provide the greatest reach?