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Roku explains OTT audience surge as its OneView ad product comes to market

Brands are adopting a more OTT-heavy ad strategy to reach audiences in lockdown according to Sam Bloom, chief executive officer at Camelot. OTT firm Roku has been unlocking this data to help migrate brands into the channel.

“The biggest challenge going forward is how we think about the TV business,” Bloom said, explaining how TV viewing habits have changed under lockdown. Speaking with Roku’s head of west and central ad sales, Julian Mintz in a fireside chat moderated by The Drum senior journalist John McCarthy, he noted that video streaming platforms have started dominating viewership. US streaming giant. Roku, swiftly responded to the lockdown climate, particularly with the launch of its OneView Ad Platform. It adapted in participation of brands adopting OTT as part of their strategy.

Mintz said: “We were seeing an acceleration of OTT before COVID-19 hit. There’s been a shift away from linear TV as we move towards streaming. Nielsen recorded that, since January, streaming hours have been up in the US over 40%, whereas linear is actually down 3%. The switch towards ease, value and choice is inherent in streaming – which is only continuing as people are staying home and consuming more TV.”

With live sports events also temporarily halted on linear schedules, Mintz said that there are fewer reasons for people to continue watching it in the same way. He branded sports as the “last bastion” of linear TV and isn’t surprised by the sudden surge in viewers on streaming devices. “We're seeing many people who were on the fence [with linear TV] about cutting the cord now jumping that fence,” said Mintz.

“Users that cut the cord and move towards streaming as their only source for TV usually don't go back. That's a trend we expect to continue growing.” Mintz cited Roku as a “gateway to streaming; it’s a platform for all of these channels and for all consumers.” He heralded the company’s direct relationship with its consumer base, and spoke up how its access to insights on viewership habits can help brands form their strategies in the space.

Besides appealing to consumers, Roku also benefits brands and content providers looking to break into the streaming space, according to Mintz. “On the content side, we provide a distribution mechanism,” he says. “And on the on the consumer side, we really focus around three key pillars; ease of use, the best content, and value. For brands, the TV screen is as powerful as ever, but there are key benefits that OTT offers, such as deep targeting and measurement.

Roku tracks viewer consumption, finding that consumers are now tuning into TV more throughout the day, even surpassing primetime viewership, according to Mintz. With brands still formulating their strategies on reaching viewers during the stay-at-home-period, Roku is using their unique insights to help inform brands, the leveraging data targeting, interactivity and different high impact content programs to make advertising options more impactful and efficient.

Roku’s self-serve, demand-side platform, OneView, launched during the pandemic in May 2020. It was designed to lower the bar of entry for companies seeking to enter the streaming TV space. “It’s a single platform rooted in TV data from Roku that allows brands to plan, activate and measure media not just across OTT, but on mobile and desktop as well,” said Mintz. “It’s an omni-channel solution.” OneView utilises Roku’s assets, enabling brands to plan and holistically measure across media while better connecting with consumers. “Our consumers are logged in the entire time they use Roku and so, our ability to understand identity is unparalleled in this space,” says Mintz.

Bloom thinks OneView would best suit clients with large advertisers and large customer bases. The software allows companies to gain detailed insights into anonymised consumer data so that they can then create customer segments that are of most value and determine the advertising metrics as necessary. These can be tracked on desktop and/or in-app, using various combined datasets, such as geolocation, to understand control and exposure.” This method allows advertisers to access different groups through a range of messages and removes the pain from campaign tracking.

Again, reflecting on the media buyers’ angle, Bloom added: “We've all had to pivot. With a platform like Roku, you can pivot much faster, with more specificity and granularity. We’ve been very impressed.” The data being gathered in mass consumption during lockdowns will come in handy when it comes to forecasting future impressions and consumption trends going forward, he added.

With viewership shifting into streaming platforms, with many leaning into the Roku ecosystem, and that of its partners, Mintz suggested that brands consider how OTT could tie into the rest of their media activity and how it could sit next to their linear TV offering. “That's really what OneView is able to help solve,” he said. OneView offers a more holistic look at a brand’s entire media activity, while providing a simplistic breakdown of OTT.

The future is uncertain, especially as other streaming services continue to emerge, but Roku’s position as an alternative to the expensive set-top box and a funnel for top SVOD and AVOD apps could serve it well.

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