Unifying direct-sold and programmatic demand sources, and bridging the gap between linear broadcast and digital simulcast ad management, are important steps on the FreeWheel roadmap as the company weaves together its heritage in multiscreen ad decisioning, direct sales, compliance and yield optimisation and the programmatic (private exchange, SSP) capabilities it acquired with StickyADS.tv in 2016. But as Thomas Bremond, General Manager, International at Comcast (which owns Freewheel) revealed recently, holistic advertising management is not the full vision, even for commercial broadcasters. His company is beginning to work more closely with another Comcast division, Comcast Technology Solutions, and that has opened the way to a more holistic approach to content monetisation in total.
Comcast Technology Solutions includes what used to be called thePlatform and provides the technology to manage, publish, distribute and monetise multiscreen content. It also takes care of commerce, offering the means to manage and fully exploit transactional (e.g. TVOD and PPV) and subscription (e.g. Pay TV and SVOD) business models. Bremond gave the first clues about how Freewheel advertising solutions could become one part of a larger jigsaw at Future TV Advertising Forum last December. Recently he revealed more detail about what this looks like in practice.
Bremond believes the content monetisation lifecycle can be managed more holistically, especially for media companies who are both content owners and distributors. On the channels and assets they own, these companies can decide which business model to apply and, if it is desirable, change it seamlessly.
If you are covering a tennis tournament, you could put the sport behind your usual subscription pay wall but spend two weeks building up to the tournament with related content that is ad-funded, for example. The idea is to create an appetite for the event. The event itself could be covered on a ‘freemium’ basis – with some coverage for subscribers only and some ad-funded and free.
A new drama series could be launched with two ad-funded episodes that are available freely before the rest of the season becomes exclusive to subscribers. Premium content could be sold in a TVOD window, then as SVOD before it becomes ‘long-tail ’AVOD (Ad-supported VOD).
“It is not a big bridge between advertising and commerce. Looking at the two more closely can lead to better decisions about how you expose content to customers and the way it is packaged,” says Bremond, who talks about the ‘choreography’ of monetisation windows. He expects commerce or advertising teams to justify why they should have the opportunity to monetise content via payments or with ad sales, with the decision made at a business portfolio level.
“Until now these groups have operated in siloes,” says Bremond. He thinks there is already a precedent for the kind of mindset and organisational changes needed. The TV sales group and digital sales group used to be different but are being converged at some companies.
This approach will make a broadcaster more adaptable, potentially, if its market is hit by a fall in ad revenues (as happened in multiple markets after the financial crash). “Every broadcaster and operator will be interested in this idea,” Bremond argues.
Some content will have the audience ratings to deliver an easy ROI justification on advertising. In other instances, SVOD or TVOD may be better. “You could make the decision based on the device that content is consumed on, the type of content, the style of consumption – like bingeing versus snacking,” Bremond suggests. “The broadcaster can choreograph this.”
He adds: “People will say that this is difficult to do. You need to forget the ‘how’ and think about the logic behind it. Is there anything about this that does not make sense, fundamentally?” His answer is obviously ‘no’ so we can expect to hear more from FreeWheel about this more ‘converged’ view of content monetisation in future.