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Ampersand introduces ad buying platform to 'protect and grow' TV

Ampersand's new And platform is meant to streamline TV buying across screens

Ampersand, a TV ad sales group owned by Comcast, Charter and Cox, has introduced a buying platform it hopes will protect the hurting TV market.

The And platform allows advertisers to plan, buy and measure their addressable campaigns for both local and national TV across linear, on demand, digital video and over-the-top.

Ampersand pulls viewership data for the platform from its parent company’s roughly 40m total set-top boxes, a number that’s been in steep decline as pay-TV providers continue to bleed subscribers.

In Thursday’s (23 January) earnings report, Comcast, the largest of Ampersand’s owners, lost around 149,000 pay-TV customers in the fourth quarter of 2019 – the 11th straight quarter it’s shown a loss in cable subscribers.

To offset this, Ampersand has struck affiliate deals with other pay-TV providers and media companies. The group represents inventory from companies such as Pluto TV, Fubo TV, Dish and Tubi to cover 85 million households and 120 networks.

Andrew Ward, president of Ampersand, said the company’s overall business strategy is to “protect and grow the TV ecosystem” by connecting different viewing environments and providing advertisers more data, more precise targeting and more robust measurement.

“There's an opportunity for us to compete for advertising dollars more holistically and effectively than we had in the past,” said Ward. “I think the digital marketplace has clawed TV budgets, and I think you're starting to see the pendulum swing back where TV is now competing for digital budgets.”

That pendulum seems to be swinging rather slowly. GroupM forecasts that digital ad spend will jump from 50% to 60% of total ad spend by 2024. Meanwhile total TV spend, including dollars going to ad-supported streaming services, will decline from a quarter of total ad spend to roughly 21%.

However, digital-first brands are starting to invest more in TV. Through the And platform, Ampersand wants to combine the scale and reach of TV with audience data brands are used to getting online to win back even more dollars.

“In total, the TV marketplace is extremely healthy,” said Ward. “So the And platform is designed in part to stitch those disparate pieces together, such that And can reach meaningful scale across the portfolio of content that we sell.”

Advertisers can plan against roughly 80 premade audience segments within the And platform. Ward said the goal is to allow for advertisers to integrate the platform into their existing planning tools, letting them use their own data to create audience segments, by around mid-year.

Ampersand also partners with a range of third-party measurement companies to provide brands their desired metrics, such as upper funnel awareness data or lower-funnel attribution data.

The company still uses Nielsen metrics and doesn’t see that changing anytime soon. Ward said the “vast majority” of Ampersand’s revenue is measured by Nielsen.

“We will continue to guarantee and post on Nielsen currency, but we think there are opportunities to introduce richer data and measurement as a complement, not as a replacement,” said Ward.

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