The growing tension of OTT: key takeaways from InFronts 2019

Ahead of Upfronts and NewFronts, what do advertisers need to know about OTT

With no shiny new solutions to push, this year’s InFronts from Tru Optik focused on educating an industry that’s sprinting toward OTT with its elbows out.

The OTT landscape is already at scale, and it's still growing. Digital-first direct-to-consumer streaming services like Pluto are now under the wing of Viacom. Device manufacturers like Roku are looking to quash problems like frequency capping as more ad dollars come in. Traditional broadcasters are officially making their mark on the streaming world.

Eventually, though, all of this growth will come to a head. Sean Buckley, chief revenue officer of SpotX, said the crowded playing field will spark tension over inventory rights.

“You have the virtual MVPDs that control a chunk of the inventory, but the programmers themselves, at the end of the day as things are figured out technically, actually control the majority of that inventory regardless of what streaming service it's carried through, so there's a lot of interaction between the players on inventory rights,” said Buckley.

He noted that as recently as 2015, OTT accounted for only a single-digit percentage of SpotX’s revenue. By December 2018, OTT accounted for 60% of the company’s business.

The streaming world may look wholly different in five years’ time, but OTT is certainly here to stay, meaning media buyers have to adapt for a medium that ideally promises the best linear and digital have to offer.

Aleck Schleider, senior vice-president of client and data strategy at Amobee, said he’s noticing a “mind shift” at agencies, as more TV buyers are scooping up inventory because they see how OTT has grown.

Amobee recently partnered with the UK's ITV to develop an addressable TV network. It also partnered with American Spanish-language network Univision to boost its cross-platform targeting efforts.

“It's a different mindset in terms of who's looking to access this premium supply on the TV. Four or five years ago we could barely sell it...and now it's coming from a TV perspective [of] highly valuable, high CPMs.

“How are the agencies solving for that, for the reach curves that are declining on traditional linear and moving to digital,” said Schleider.

‘Yes and’ measurement

Solving that reach question means settling on a measurement currency for OTT. A recent report from eMarketer found that most industry professionals value traditional TV measurements more than OTT metrics.

Matt Spiegel, executive vice-president of digital marketing solutions at TransUnion, expects to have a ‘yes and’ measurement space for a long time – one that combines demographic targeting of linear TV and the deeper household, IP-based measurement and attribution models of OTT.

TransUnion announced a partnership with Tru Optik on 3 April to bring its consumer data to the world of advanced television to hopefully offer more precise targeting strategies by integrating its database with Tru Optik’s household based identity graph.

Even with these advancements, local advertisers may struggle migrating to OTT. Rachel Williamson, general manager of Gamut, said local advertisers are “trying to understand how to model out a household type of targeting when [they] are used to having a one-to-one device type of targeting”.

Both Spiegel and Williamson agreed that there will be a split between awareness- and performance-based measurement, with Spiegel saying he doesn’t expect performance-based pricing to work at scale because there are too many factors.

“As you start trying to parse it out by every media contract you do, you're going to end up spending [five times] what you would otherwise spend if you just bought actual reach to the right target audience,” said Spiegel.

Williamson said brands looking to drive awareness need to figure out how to make it “more targetable and more efficient”.

"It may not be that tool that you're trying to put a cost per acquisition with a one-week lookback window on. We've got to remember what the strategy is for, so I think that's where our buyers are trying to understand," said Williamson.

Privacy as a ‘first-class citizen’

The promise of targetability and addressability that makes OTT so appealing relies on a strong base of consumer data. With GDPR and the looming federal regulations in the US, that means privacy is on everybody’s mind.

Robin Opie, general vice-president of data science at Oracle Data Cloud, said as businesses grew during the internet age, they prioritized revenue growth and new product offerings over data privacy. It was important, he said, but it wasn’t “a first-class citizen in the debate”.

Much of the privacy concerns revolve around untrusted third-parties misusing data. But, as Spiegel said, “What’s bad is bad data.”

“I think it's incumbent on all of us to understand how data is used to really make sure that we stop the idea that third-party data is bad or dead or dying… I challenge anyone to go ahead and use only your own customer data and see how big of a business you have in a few years,” said Spiegel.

“You can't scale that way... You have your own customer data, of course it's the best thing you have, of course you should maximize it, leverage as much as you possibly can, but the idea that you're not going to look for other signals from outside sources is nuts.”

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