The following article is written by Randy Cooke, VP of Programmatic TV, SpotX. Cooke's most recent piece for Found Remote examined recent FCC policy decisions.
Economics is a fascinating discipline. It is, at its core, the science of systems, providing instructive models for understanding nodes of value and centers of influence.
As it relates to the media landscape, economics helps us understand the relationships among true centers of value, which are growing more complex by the day. A proliferation of rich data streams, not only from an increasing array of connected devices, but also consumer and behavioral signals, are converging to establish the value of audience on a moment-to-moment basis.
The race is on between media giants and ‘big tech’ to create modern marketplaces of audience, void of intermediating influence. It’s a high-stakes game of capture the flag, with tens-of-billions of dollars chasing content on one end of the field, and the pursuit of seamless technology-driven fulfillment charging from the other.
To a person, everyone in this industry is in agreement that the business models of traditional media are due for modernization. A confluence of content, distribution and data portend a future of self-sustaining marketplaces where currencies are forsaken for rich, endemic, data-driven audience valuations.
The buying frenzy of platform solutions by legacy media companies like Verizon and Comcast is a necessary hedge against the likes of Google (Alphabet), Facebook and Apple who are in hot pursuit of their own catalogues of content to complement turnkey multiplatform distribution and frighteningly-deep data warehouses. It’s not beyond reason to assume any, or all of these technology firms have designs on owning studio content—the, ahem, Alphabet network, anyone?
Programmers and MVPDs, alike, fear ‘big tech’s’ move into traditional media, particularly given recent FCC positions challenging the established ecosystems of content distribution. On the other hand, media companies also recognize that advertisers are coming to expect a buying fluidity that has heretofore eluded traditional media sectors.
Technology itself is inert, a catalyst which does not represent a center of value within media. It can, however, unlock and maximize the value of content, distribution and data—the foundational elements of a sustainable marketplace. Ownership of all three, along with the necessary tech to seamlessly facilitate audience-based, data-informed, and insight-driven transactions provides significant dividends in monetization and yield.
Centers of Media Value
Content— Ownership of studios or MCNs means the media owner has exclusive rights in determining how and where content is made available to consumers.
Distribution— Devices, managed networks (MVPDs), platforms, spectrum or apps provide for highly-controlled distribution infrastructures of content that establish an exclusivity of inventory, which in turn facilitates the management of supply liquidity in balance with demand.
Data— Device-level viewership, user authentication, ISP traffic and consumer purchase data warehouses (which are exclusive to the content and distribution value centers) activate an endemic valuation system for inventory, offering deeper insights for decisioning ads beyond traditional currency metrics such as Nielsen or comScore.
The old adage is, “Content is king.” But owning all three is the king’s empire.
Historically, media buyers and sellers have licensed any number of third-party stewardship systems and e-business platforms to transact and manage campaigns. In many respects, the ad tech platforms of today are the next generation of those systems, providing richer planning tools and the ability to extract actionable insights in fractions of time offered by their technological ancestors.
But progress has its cost, giving media executives the newfound challenge of balancing increased executional sophistication with an inherent compression of margin.
If you are a media owner with content, distribution and data within your media stack, owning a DSP, an SSP, an ad server and a media rights management platform can virtually eliminate the operational costs of tech facilitation. That could represent as much as a 30% relative lift on yield!
Self-sustaining marketplaces are no doubt the future of big media. Whether media companies follow in the walled garden footsteps of Google and Facebook remains to be seen. But you can rest assured, that’s one business decision that won’t be dictated by Google or Facebook.