Streaming. Mobile. Machine learning. When it comes to digital, DISH Media's Dave Antonelli (pictured above) has driven change across the ever-evolving ad landscape.
Antonelli, Sling TV's new-ish Head of Ad Strategy and Revenue, worked at Viacom when the potential of streaming video was still being explored. He then joined a mobile data platform and, most recently, was Chief Revenue Officer for Cognitiv, an advanced machine learning company. He has only been at Sling since April but already sees that the world of over-the-top (OTT) streaming is at an inflection point.
The appeal of Sling, for Antonelli, was that it has the backing of a more traditional TV distributor, with the culture of a start-up. Their OTT success using this model has been well-documented: Sling was the first OTT provider to offer its ad inventory programmatically. The product is constantly offering new channel packages and subscribership is still growing steadily, with 2.42 million as of February.
These are all good things, but Antonelli and his team are ready to push even further. "We're at this moment where Sling has led the way in the space, but it continues to evolve and that presents a ton of new opportunities," he says. Those new opportunities include, among many other initiatives, expanding live dynamic ad insertion (DAI), the process by which software places specific ads in different programming based on customizable factors, like location or time of day. This is not as simple as flipping some kind of switch. "There's a lot of technical heavy lifting that goes into building that kind of functionality," Antonelli says. But Sling's early efforts have put it in good stead and it now has more than 90 channels that support this kind of functionality, maintaining its leadership position.
Sling has also led the way with audience targeting and measurement and currently works with over 20 data vendors, enabling both targeting and campaign measurement based on its first-party data. Sling offers myriad attribution solutions to advertising clients -- who each may have very different measurements of success. (Think: "the person who saw the ad visited the store" versus "the person watched all of the ad.") Ultimately, this also leads to what every ad buyer clamors for: transparent and actionable results, as well as attribution -- the Holy Grail of ad sales.
OTT and DAI are new territories for the entire industry, which is why Antonelli believes education is crucial at this particular inflection point. Some of the conversations Antonelli has with clients remind him of the earliest days of digital when buyers were trying to understand the unique benefits of a then-new medium and how to incorporate it into their larger buys.
One of the points of education Antonelli likes to talk about is the term "OTT" itself. "It's important to be precise when talking about the space," he says. "There are different types, all acronyms, of course: AVOD, SVOD, TVOD, live TV (like Sling), etc., but they're very different from each other and each with unique benefits to consumers and brands." He believes "the future isn't going to go in only one direction," which is why each brand should have a comprehensive TV strategy that encompasses all types of opportunities.
Flexibility is key in this dynamic and fast-changing industry. Antonelli believes that this is perhaps the biggest key to Sling's continued success. The team has adopted an extremely flexible approach to meeting advertisers' needs as they develop their ad offerings and platforms. That flexibility, Antonelli says, goes hand-in-hand with curiosity. In ad sales, in order to be flexible you need to know what exactly your clients and partners are looking for -- what they need.
"In our industry, you have to keep adapting to client needs and challenging assumptions," Antonelli says. "You have to continue to evolve."
Stay tuned for the next installment of Dave's Sling Shots Series to learn more about the world of OTT!
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