Sky Media in Germany believes it offers advertisers the best of TV and digital in one place (like improved targeting on the big screen, in lean back mode and with 100% brand safety) with its connected TV inventory on Sky Q set-top boxes. Advertisers can buy into on-demand content that is being served as IP streams into the STBs. Thus VOD, catch-up TV and boxset viewing sessions feature IP advertising. This streaming to the television set via Pay TV operator set-top boxes is an increasingly important subset of connected TV, especially given the popularity of on-demand content and the increasingly VOD-centric user interfaces seen in Pay TV today. The Sky connected TV inventory in Germany is available on Sky-owned content and some third-party channel owner programming.
Every digital video advertising impression served by Sky in Germany, including into the Sky Q set-top boxes, runs through a Freewheel ad-tech stack in a partnership that stretches back to 2015. This technology includes ad decisioning and ad serving. The FreeWheel solution supports both direct (IO) and programmatic sales and a key feature of the Sky Germany connected TV advertising set up is unified demand, with the direct and programmatic offers both understood and compared against each other and referenced to complex campaign parameters.
Stefan Beckmann, Director, Sales & Account Management, Commercial Strategy, Northern Europe at FreeWheel, views the unification of demand as a major step forward in a market that has been discussing this advanced paradigm for some years. But he warns: “Unified auctions essentially mean ensuring the highest possible yield for every publisher, but there are technical complications, and it is not the same thing as making sure that every ad request is filled by the highest paid ad impression.
“You take many factors into account for quality publishers like Sky, like competitive separation so you do not see Coke and Pepsi ads together, and rules about what can be shown in kids content. Sometimes there are IO campaigns that might have a lower CPM but need to be delivered within a certain timeframe. All this delivery logic has to be part of the unified decisioning. At Sky, the complete inventory is auctioned in one process.”
Sky provides two main forms of targeting against Sky Q on-demand content in Germany, the first being pre-packaged audience segments that combine demographics and interests, harnessing a mixture of programme metadata, household consumption data and panel-based survey information. Thus, a buyer could ask for males with a football affinity and an interest in cars. AdSmart is option two – a more bespoke targeting model with endless audience segmentation possibilities that draws on first-party (Sky customer and advertiser) data and third-party data like Acxiom.
Besides buying direct and programmatically via Sky, advertisers have another route into the Sky Germany inventory, with some of it being packaged into an aggregated audience buy alongside inventory from other premium TV providers by the FreeWheel Media unit. This is an important source of incremental advertising revenue. As Rainer Grosch, Director, Digital Business Development at Sky Media, explains: “We are working with the FreeWheel demand team and this is not a case of ‘either/or’ but ‘and’. We have two sales forces educating the the buy-side, which is important when talking about connected TV and especially set-top box [connected TV] inventory, which has some special considerations.
“Sky Media does keep some unique selling points for inventory we sell ourselves, like bespoke targeting criteria on AdSmart,” Grosch reveals. “But our collaboration with the FreeWheel demand team on how we approach the market is highly beneficial.”
Beckmann adds: “Our FreeWheel Media unit gives advertisers an opportunity to tap into aggregated, multi-publisher inventory. We bundle our top connected TV publishers into one offering that the buyside can access programmatically or through a traditional IO with contextual targeting and targeting that uses the first-party data that some of these publishers are offering.
“Connected TV does not offer you the scale of the linear [broadcast] TV world yet, and FreeWheel Media helps to deal with that scarcity and gives media buyers an opportunity to tap into a really significant reach offering across connected TV publishers.”
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Sky Media and FreeWheel were discussing this implementation of set-top box connected TV at Connected TV World Summit in June. You can see the full interview here.
Connected TV is streaming video displayed on a television set, whether directly on a Smart TV or via any intermediary device like a streaming stick, games console or STB. Many Pay TV operators, and especially those with a satellite TV heritage, have been streaming their on-demand content to set-top boxes as ABR video for years, making this an important (if little talked about) subset of connected TV. The advertising served into this IP content therefore uses digital video advertising infrastructure, which can include programmatic as well as targeting.
The more people watch VOD, including boxsets, the more connected TV and CTV advertising inventory Pay TV operators will serve. What Sky Media and FreeWheel are doing in Germany with the on-demand Sky Q inventory is a good example of current best practice in connected TV advertising.