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Broadcasters and DTT market must control their own addressable advertising destiny, or face serious risks

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The DVB, the standards creation body that drove Europe towards digital TV with its various DVB-T, DVB-S and DVB-C standards, and which helps the broadcast industry innovate on multiple fronts including UHD, is concerned that without household-level addressable TV advertising the ‘classic’ commercial broadcasting market will be endangered. Vincent Grivet, VP for Broadcast Development at TDF Group and Co-Chair for the DVB’s CM-TA-SMG (Commercial Module – Targeted Advertising – Study Mission Group) has declared: “This represents high strategic stakes for broadcasters. It would probably be a high-risk outcome, and a negative thing, if targeted advertising is not made possible in classical television.”

This is the first time that anyone representing the ‘traditional’ broadcast industry, including the free-to-air (‘terrestrial’) broadcasters across Europe, has been so frank. Grivet and the DVB are particularly focused on broadcasters using digital terrestrial (DTT) for distribution.

His comments reflect the fact that born-online digital media uses targeting as a way to tempt media budget out of television and that the Pay TV industry, in isolated pockets, has already deployed addressable advertising for linear broadcast TV. Major media buyers, led vocally by GroupM, are encouraging the TV industry to make addressable available across a wider footprint. The DVB is right to conclude that no significant platform or commercial broadcaster can afford to be left behind in this new tech race.

Grivet explained why the advertising industry will not want to pursue addressable advertising without having the terrestrial broadcast market onboard. Speaking at Future TV Advertising Forum recently, he pointed out that DTT is the No.1 platform (in terms of homes that rely on it for their television) in the UK, France, Spain and Italy – four of the biggest markets in Europe.

Grivet made the case for why DTT still matters after years of OTT evangelists predicting its irrelevance. He pointed out that in France (where his own company, TDF, runs the DTT transmission network and provides other video services), digital terrestrial is as popular in Paris as in the remote countryside. A survey showed that in France, 64% of people said it would be a problem if they moved to a home that did not have a terrestrial antenna and a wall socket to receive DTT.

“The age group that was most sensitive about this was the under-35s,” he added. “This is associated with cord-cutting. Young people who go to Netflix and Amazon realise that they might rely on them for movies and series but they will miss ‘normal’ TV, and broadcast is a good way to get that.” Grivet said the rapid growth in over-the-air viewing in the U.S. is also largely driven by cord-cutting – with digital terrestrial viewed as a necessary complement to SVOD services to provide sport and breaking news that is otherwise lost.

An important part of the initial work that the DVB conducted in addressable/targeted advertising was to decide if the DTT market needs it. The firm conclusion is that it does – and that it will be very important to this sector. The DVB is now committed to deciding the detailed commercial requirements and then the technical specifications that will evolve into a standards-based framework for the delivery of addressable advertising.

Although DVB is focused on the ‘horizontal’ DTT market, which encompasses both broadcasters, DTT platform owners and the device (television set and set-top box) makers who sell DTT receivers through retail, Grivet said the organisation would welcome participation from the ‘vertical’ (Pay TV) market. Indeed, he is hopeful that satellite or IPTV providers might join the process.

“It would be very attractive for advertisers and broadcasters if there was a single technical framework covering more than one platform,” he suggested. Grivet believes this could be realistic for IPTV and DTT in France, as an example.

The DVB-TA (Targeted Advertising) specification will be built on the back of the HbbTV standards, which are also driven by the European terrestrial/free-to-air broadcast market. The HbbTV standards provide the means to gather instant data about what someone is watching, and they also support the insertion of IP-delivered ads (which are streamed over broadband) into a broadcast signal. However, the existing HbbTV technology does not provide the perfect frame accurate and bullet-proof ad insertion that is considered ‘broadcast-grade’, and the DVB specification work aims to remedy that.

Grivet declared: “HbbTV is an excellent start but it does not provide a fully satisfactory solution.” Besides dynamic ad substitution, some of the other issues it is tackling are end-to-end in-band signalling, buffering in receive devices, reporting, and interfaces with existing ad workflows.

The DVB is putting broadcaster control high on its agenda. “They should have a similar level of control as they have today on non-targeted classical advertising,” Grivet told the FTVA audience. “I am optimistic that the HbbTV-based solution will enable that, as HbbTV was itself created with that purpose.”

The DVB’s CM-TA-SMG co-chair was adamant that day-to-day control of the addressable advertising process is mission-critical and part of the wider need to ensure the broadcast industry determines its own destiny. “If they [broadcasters] do not have control, there is a high risk that they will lose value. Broadcasters need to rely on broadcaster-friendly solutions,” he declared.

This was not aimed at Pay TV operators but was a reference to the threat from “well-known digital players who have captured a very high proportion of all forms of other advertising”. Grivet did not elaborate, but if broadcasters rely on a company like YouTube as a distribution platform where they can offer targeting, for example, then it is YouTube that holds all the tech-cards and gets to evolve its processes. Arguably, that moves the balance of power towards the ‘platform’ (in this example YouTube) over time.

Grivet emphasised: “Our ambition is to create the standardisation for that broadcaster-friendly solution. We want the full potential value of addressable advertising to be unlocked for the benefit of classical broadcasters.” He then suggested that harnessing the work of HbbTV and putting that into a broader DVB framework “is the safe way for broadcasters to go”, adding: “They can take advantage of addressable without the risk of losing everything.”

As well as encouraging ‘vertical’ operators to get involved with the standards work, the DVB wants ‘digital experts’ who have already deployed their targeting systems to participate in DVB-TA. “We want the spec to easily interconnect with existing trading and ad-decisioning platforms,” Grivet explained.

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The rise of IP-into-broadcast ‘hybrid’ linear addressable advertising

A round-up of some of the work in Europe to harness IP-into-broadcast solutions for household-level addressable TV advertising, including with HbbTV standards, and more detail about the priority list for the new DVB-TA specification.

 

Photo shows Vincent Grivet at Future TV Advertising Forum


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