How’s this for a game plan? As the audience for digital video surges and marketers pump more ad dollars in that direction, Turner Sports contends that advertising across its marquee live sports streaming online will be a winner for brands. The company recently launched a new ad platform, Turner Sports Live, allowing marketers to buy inventory across its stable of premium live digital video offerings including the NBA, MLB, NCAA college basketball, PGA and UEFA soccer with a single buy.
With advertisers eager to engage with viewers in a trusted, transparent environment, Senior Vice President of Sales Seth Ladetsky (pictured below) believes the platform is the best possible play. “Sports stands out because of fan engagement," he says. Ladetsky spoke to MediaVillage about why live sports video is so valuable for advertisers, how it soothes clients’ concerns and how online sports viewers differ from TV audiences.
Alli Romano: What was missing in the market that motivated Turner to build this platform?
Seth Ladetsky: It’s what our clients were talking to us about. They want live sports, and we deliver that. On the linear side of the business, live sports has been an amazing vehicle with great audiences, client interest and demand, and great engagement. The digital side was a more decentralized and a more complicated way of buying across the entire landscape. We have an unprecedented combination of live sports content on TV and online, and now we can combine them as an option for clients. Each one has its own amazing engagement and, adding them up, you can achieve massive scale. It’s very easy to buy and you know exactly what you're running.
Romano: Of all the video online for advertisers to choose from, what makes sports so attractive to brands?
Ladetsky: Sports stands out because of fan engagement. When people are watching digital sports, it’s long-form. Usually in digital, most clips are two or three minutes. Sports is an anomaly because you’re spending a half hour or hour per session. You’re engaged with the content and you're staying with it just like you would on a television, but now it's on another screen.
The other benefit is sports ads on digital can be big, beautiful 15- or 30-second ads. Usually, digital ads are pre-roll with mixed results. But with sports they can be mid-roll because there are natural breaks in the action, like between innings and time-outs. They are the perfect times to run really great commercials and have a user who's passionately engaged watch [them]. If you’re watching Duke vs UNC, you're not going to close the browser; you're going to watch the commercial. You're getting a very deep, passionate fan base that's sticking with our content. And there’s other content surrounding the video that’s compelling, too, and keeping people engaged.
Romano: Why are you launching this now? Has the technology caught up, or is demand at a tipping point?
Ladetsky: We’ve had these assets like March Madness, the NBA and the MLB for five years or longer, and some newer ones, like UEFA or Bleacher Report Live. What’s changed is the demand side. There’s a real need for live sports video with scale and the transparency of knowing where you’re running and the confidence of having brand safety. This has gotten more and more important. To know with 100% certainty that you have brand safety around great audiences and mass scale makes live sports pretty compelling. Also, there have been increasing budgets for live video. With all that happening, we have a pretty good solution.
Romano: How are brands going to use your live sports video? Do you anticipate it will bring in new advertisers or mainly offer existing clients a new asset?
Ladetsky: We see three distinct ways it'll be used. The first one is incremental. These are people who are existing clients and maybe they have sponsorship-led or content-led programs. This offers them a way to engage in video as well at scale. The second would be efficiency, which brings in deals with clients on the fence. The third is standalone or new business. That’s for clients who maybe aren’t in sports but want to be, and they want to dip their toe in or experiment just a little. Then, if they have a great experience, they may look at more on the sponsorship side or a little deeper into a specific sport.
Romano: How do the audiences and consumption patterns differ between digital video and linear TV?
Ladetsky: A few years back digital would have skewed a little younger, a little more tech savvy. Now, with the advent of smart TVs and the changing digital usage, that difference is getting smaller. We actually see it as more of a difference in dayparting vs. different audience segments. We are seeing massive digital consumption during the day, whereas TV sports is still a primetime experience on the couch with your big screen TV – which we love, too. For example, March Madness Live is really a great daytime product, and UEFA, which is coming in August, will be at 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. ET in mid-week. That’s where we see the at-work and on-the-go audience as a digital daypart. When you’re at home on the couch, in the evenings, that’s a strong place for TV sports. So it is very complimentary.
Photo credits: Turner Sports
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