Comcast Technology Solutions, which provides a delivery and monetisation platform for media companies (among other things), and ad-tech leader FreeWheel, have unveiled a solution for programmatic trading and execution of set-top box VOD advertising. The on-demand STB inventory can become part of a unified pot that also includes inventory across connected TV and other digital video endpoints, all sold programmatically.
The new innovation uses the ad targeting capabilities of FreeWheel’s ad decision engine and FreeWheel becomes one of the first technology providers to offer targeted, STB VOD inventory to agencies and advertisers via programmatic demand-side platforms.
Set-top box VOD has always had very demanding requirements when conditioning ads for use in that environment, and this has been a barrier to using programmatic. Comcast Technology Solutions (CTS) has simplified and accelerated the process using its Ad Store product. The result is real-time, broadcast quality creative conditioning and distribution to set-top boxes. That means automated bidding within FreeWheel’s unified auction structure is now possible.
“The importance of VOD content has skyrocketed as consumers flock to the engaged, big-screen viewing environment in their own living rooms, but until now it has not been possible to effectively monetize this content in the same programmatic fashion as other video inventory,” says Richard Nunn, Vice President and General Manager of Advertiser Solutions at Comcast Technology Solutions. “By enabling unified programmatic auctions and seamless distribution of ad assets across all inventories, including STB VOD, we are helping programmers and distributors open up new opportunities for advertisers.”
Jason Kanefsky, Chief Investment Officer at the media agency Havas Media (a major advertising buyer), comments: “Programmatic advertising is becoming a more important part of our premium video buying strategies. Advances that allow us to get greater scale, more consistent targeting and a unified view of the total viewing audience are needed.
“As viewers, and particularly younger demographics, continue to shift their consumption across platforms, it is critical that we extend reach in new ways. The addition of STB VOD inventory to our programmatic arsenal will be an important step in this direction.”
Dave Clark, General Manager at FreeWheel adds: “Our key goal is to ensure buyers and sellers can seamlessly transact across all content types and allow for our robust data and decisioning capabilities to work wherever viewers are watching premium video. Working with Comcast Technology Solutions to bring set-top box VOD into the mix is an enormous step forward.
“Allowing programmatic, marketplace access to this growing viewership segment will open new sources of growth to our supply-side clients and, just as importantly, it will allow advertisers to tap into this premium, living room quality content as part of their unified video strategy.”
Programmatic trading of STB VOD inventory is in its infancy. One of the pioneers is DISH Media, which announced in April that dynamically inserted ads can be bought programmatically and in real-time in the STB VOD environment. The company, which sells advertising for the DISH satellite Pay TV platform and the DISH-owned SLING TV streamed virtual Pay TV service, has enabled unified programmatic access into both services (albeit only VOD for the satellite service).
At DISH Media, advertisers can buy ads in VOD content from over 60 major TV networks. The solution woks with broadband-connected STBs that reach millions of viewers. Advertisers can bid on this premium inventory through private, real-time auctions set up with demand-side platforms like The Trade Desk, and deliver ads and receive impressions immediately.
Speaking in April, Tim Sims, Senior Vice President of Inventory Partnerships at The Trade Desk, said: “Advertisers innately want to create bridges across the entire television ecosystem so they can reach their desired audience in every environment. DISH Media’s VOD capability gives advertisers a new set of inventory to buy in real-time and a way to scale their audience. This is a major milestone.”
One of the ambitions at DISH Media is to open up what it describes as ‘traditional linear households’, meaning those still watching lots of broadcast TV on managed networks (like through a Pay TV operator STB). The company says this is a “previously untapped audience for digital buyers, attracting digital ad budgets that weren’t traditionally spent on TV.”