The Secret Society’s Challenge to Programmatic TV

By Media Insights Archives
Cover image for  article: The Secret Society’s Challenge to Programmatic TV

US International Media’s Secret Society, presided over by Mitch Oscar, held its third meeting on Programmatic TV on February 29 -- Leap Day. With his usual aplomb, Oscar noted cryptically that the reasoning behind the once-every-four-year scheduling date was because, “Leap Day is perfect for a Secret Society clandestine meet.”

This meeting, which included a record 60-plus attendees, focused on four presenters: Rob Weisbord, Chief Operating Officer, Sinclair Digital Group, Sinclair Broadcasting; Frank Foster, Principal of Carlyle Partners; and Harvey Kent, Vice President, Strategy and Judd Rubin, Vice President, Revenue Development, both of Strata. (Follow this link to learn more about the Secret Society.)

My Take: I didn’t attend the Secret Society meeting, but several of the presenters provided details to me during later conversations. The crux of the discussion at previous Secret Society meetings has been on data duplication in advanced TV platforms such as programmatic TV and addressable TV when the same datasets are licensed across several data vendor services. This is not an easy issue to fix. But efforts are underway to utilize datasets in a way that answers questions and solves redundancy issues. Weisbord’s use of single source smart TV data, Foster’s data linkage and Strata’s investment in developing workflow processes to enable the advertising community to seamlessly purchase inventory across all data-infused platforms are interesting approaches to help solve these issues so that they can be integrated into our media community. In my opinion, the next step is the creation of an industry standard.

Sinclair Broadcasting, which owns 164 TV stations covering 40% of the U.S., is currently in partnership with Videology and maintains a cross-platform data warehouse for consumer matching with computer, mobile and connected TVs. Further, their joint venture with Visible World is focused on a solution to evolve programmatic TV platforms to better serve media constituencies. Their latest venture involves addressable TV using the ACR software integrated in smart TVs. This is set to deploy this year.

”We are focused in the short term on addressable, pulling data from Smart TVs,” Weisbord explained.  “Videology accesses data from 20 different sources and Sorenson will deploy decoder boxes that reach 40% of U.S. smart TV data. We want to learn what content is resonating with the viewer. Do our promos result in tune in or not? All TVs sold today are smart TVs with the ACR built in. This is unique data that will enable us to see true consumer behavior.”

The challenges in rolling out programmatic TV include data origination, compilation and developing historical trends. “Data collected from different providers and devices is not the same,” Foster said. “One device might collect data from every box in the house and another only from the main device. Some providers collect from every household while others only a rolling sample. Satellite providers have data from every DMA while cable operators are limited to the geographies associated with their franchise agreements.” Additionally, there are differences in how much data is collected. “Some systems collect data associated with every channel change, while others require that the set top box be tuned to a channel for a set amount of time -- called dwell time -- before the data is deemed important enough to save,” Foster noted. “When you begin to compile data with such different parameters, the resulting dataset may be similar to a low resolution photograph -- a fuzzy picture that may or may not accurately represent the truth and may or may not allow you to generate reliable trends.”

There is also a desire to enhance the value of data by linking it to other datasets and tracking viewership across devices.  “Watching television on your mobile device and matching across media platforms is becoming more important,” Foster noted. “How are you linking viewership? Are you using cookies, billing addresses, IP addresses, zip codes or some other common feature? To understand the errors, assumptions and biases associated with cross-platform viewership you must know how the various data sources are linked.”

Harvey Kent and Judd Rubin presented an overview of Strata, which offers a range of services that shepherd data through the sell-cycle workflow from order management, trafficking and invoicing. “Approximately 25% of total US media spend goes through Strata systems,” Judd explained. “We provide media workflow, research analytics and campaign management tools to media agencies who are in our platform all day deciding how, what and when to consider inventory offerings.”

It’s gotten more complicated for buyers. “There are an overwhelming number of inventory options and it’s not making a buyer’s job any easier,” Rubin continued. “Strata’s customers are interested in all sorts of offerings, including programmatic TV, but if they are not connected to their normal workflow, they cannot use them at scale.  Makes sense, right? If they have to jump through hoops they’re less likely to buy or buy at scale.”

There are two phases of next steps. Phase one is working to unify workflows. “Right now, if an agency interested in buying from two programmatic TV vendors the agency has to accept two different processes and measurements,” Rubin said. “Well, there are at least six major programmatic TV vendors, so it’s unlikely an agency or DSP will engage with all of them if it’s an operational headache. This is the critical role Strata plays.” Phase 2 and beyond Strata says it will concentrate efforts in making it progressively easier to consider and buy newer offerings with data-enabled decision making throughout the workflow.

Attend the next Secret Society in June by contacting MitchOscar@gmail.com.

Image at top courtesy of Corbis. The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage/MyersBizNet management or associated bloggers.

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