Can the TV industry stay free of the walled gardens in the digital era with the emergence of programmatic?

Broadcasters are offering advertisers a 'bring your own data' offering with addressable TV

Walled gardens (and the negative connotations around them) is a term more commonly associated with the digital media industry, but it is growing increasingly common in discussions among industry leaders, especially as it moves to include ‘addressability’.

However, Panelists today (November 17) at the Beet Retreat conference hosted by Beet.TV in Miami, Florida, from Disney ABC, Fox Networks, NBCUniversal and Turner, argued that unlike the internet, walled gardens (plus the domination of media budgets by a select few) are not an inevitability on set top box.

Panelists: (L-R) Michael Dean, Disney ABC Television Group, VP programmatic & data-driven sales; Ben Tatta, 605 president; Nick Johnson, Turners, SVP digital ad sales strategy; Denise Colella, NBCUniversal, SVP advanced advertising products & strategy; Noah Levine, Fox Networks group; Matt Spiegel, MediaLink, SVP

The entire media industry is at an inflection point, and if TV is to remain at the pinnacle of the ‘media summit’, then broadcasters must work hard to remain there, as advertisers increasingly demand improved targeting capabilities, lower price-points and evidence of return-on-investment.

These are demands advertisers have grown used to from the targeting and measurement capabilities supplied in abundance in the digital media landscape. Thus they are means of doing business that broadcasters must embrace in order to stay on the media plans of their traditional clients, particularly as interlopers from the digital world make their own in-roads.

A clash of cultures

Firstly the fusion of digital with ‘traditional’ media raises questions around whether or not it brings with it a clash of cultures, with the question(s) often asked: ‘What is the breakdown between between digital and linear thinking?’; ‘What is the impact of building a digital business having on the traditional business?’

However, for Denise Colella, NBCUniversal, SVP advanced advertising products and strategy, such thoughts are counterproductive as “over time we’re starting to see those lines blur and the beginning of that is addressable”, ie where advertising technologies enable brands to selectively segment TV audiences and serve different ads within a common program.

Almost universally this involves a process of assimilating all of the requisite ‘pipes’ (think sources of data and audience insight) and making this actionable via way of a suite of products.

“Obviously data sales are newer to our organization,” said Colella, adding that this is a logistical challenge in itself, but that additionally sales and marketing teams in such organizations have to build awareness in the market.

Fellow panelist Michael Dean, Disney ABC Television Group, VP programmatic and data-driven sales agreed, pointing out that his business looks at the “future-state of linear TV”, and that rather than existing in isolation “we try to work out how the programmatic platforms we roll out will ultimately evolve into something else”, as well as more near-term monetization and the fundamental steps we need to take towards addressability.

High value equals great opportunity for marketers

For Nick Johnson, Turner, SVP, digital ad sales strategy, the television media business “need[s] to evolve out of the fact that programmatic is really remnant”, as the “high end premium offering [ie programming]” of the panelists assembled “is the opposite of what programmatic has been about” he argued. “I think that when we have programs like CNN where we have high value audiences the right stuff happens, and that’s a great opportunity for marketers.”

Meanwhile, Noah Levine, Fox Networks Group, SVP revenue, posed the issues of the TV industry’s development, especially in the era of Amazon Prime and Netflix.

“We have to ask ourselves whether or not the television ecosystem is valuing human attention in the most effective way?,” he opined. “We also have to ask ourselves how we can compete [for audience attention] against paid-for media without advertising?”

Right now Fox, along with most other traditional media owners, is in the process of figuring which data segments – or targeting capabilities – it is able to offer advertisers across screens, this includes the on screens that have historically been seen as solely digital domains (ie where the walled gardens would normally appear on an advertiser’s media plan).

“The most useful type of data is unfortunately not very sexy, and that’s basic demographic data right now, and that’s because we as an industry are so entrenched in age and gender guarantees, and being able to get that on every single platform is significantly helps our ability to meet their goals,” he said. “Beyond that, we’re trying to figure out whether we go to full-on, first party data, and high precision segments, or do we want to take baby steps, such as adding income, or education level [on top of demographic data].”

Facebook and Google 'mark their own homework'

As mentioned, it is the cross-screen targeting capabilities of the digital media industry’s walled garden players such as Facebook and Google. This accusation is often laid at their doorstep that they ‘mark their own homework’, as they often deny advertisers the capability third party measurement of campaigns on their site – one that has landed Facebook in much controversy earlier this week.

However, despite current technology limitations, broadcasters on this morning’s panel believe the TV industry’s historical tradition of open data and currencies are confident these walled gardens won’t consume TV.

“A consumer identity [which Facebook and Google have via way of their single sign-in IDs] is what we’re all chasing here,” commented panel moderator Matt Spiegel, MediaLink, SVP. “But if everyone has their own ID, how do we then work together? That’s the big challenge we’re all facing.”

All panelists maintained that offering interoperable targeting capabilities on addressable TV platforms would be key to prevent themselves from being enveloped within walled gardens from the digital realm, as long as work continues on open tech development.

“That’s a big consideration for us, and for a while we have had a bring your own data capability, for our data products,” said Colella, explaining that it is now offering advertisers the capability to take their own first party data, and then cross-reference it with its own audience insights to better target consumers (something walled garden providers effectively ask advertisers to trust them on). “Last year we had a handful of advertisers take us up on that opportunity, but this year, we’re seeing close to 50% of our advertisers or agencies brining their own data,” she added.

A state of fragmentation hurts the industry

Although no technology has emerged that can offer advertisers a universal ID to target users across different networks and screens, Colella, along with ABC’s Dean said they were both confident their ‘BYOD’ offering towards ‘data matching’ with advertisers, would keep them outside the walled garden environment, albeit some work to improve the technology is needed.

“We’re realizing that we need to get data from [content] distributors and that is slowly becoming a point of negotiation, as we all realize that we don’t succeed in getting that data, then we’re going to find ourselves (maybe not in walled gardens) but in such a state of fragmentation that it will be hard for the industry to prosper,” added Dean.

The Drum is the official media partner of Beet Retreat 2016, and will be report live from the event. See here for highlights of the agenda

The Drum's Programmatic Punch conference hosted in London on December 8 will address the disruption to traditional media models posed by the emergence of automated marketing technologies

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