A joint solution announced by two Comcast companies, FreeWheel and Comcast Technology Solutions, will enable programmatic advertising for set-top box video-on-demand (VOD) inventory. TV networks, content providers and pay-TV operators will be able to use the solution, which taps FreeWheel’s ad targeting and decisioning along with CTS’s Ad Store for real-time creative distribution.
The companies said in a release that “creative conditioning of advertisers’ video creative requires special considerations in the STB VOD advertising environment” have hindered programmatic approaches that are common in connected TV and OTT. Richard Nunn, VP/GM of Advertiser Solutions at CTS said “until today, it has not been possible to effectively monetize this content in the same programmatic fashion as other video inventory.”
The joint solution aims to unify STB VOD inventory with other video inventory sources so that advertisers can bid programmatically using the same data across all viewership.
Bringing programmatic to STB VOD is a smart move and especially benefits Comcast itself, which is one of the biggest sources of VOD viewership, via the company’s X1 platform. But more VOD viewing - both free, ad-supported and subscription - is happening through connected TVs. According to FreeWheel’s Q4 2019 Video Marketplace Report, CTVs’ share of video ad impressions was 47%, up 53% year-over-year. FreeWheel noted that programmatic accounted for just 24% of premium video ad impressions, but was up 50% year-over-year.
But both Roku and Amazon are heavily investing in their own demand side platforms (DSPs) which should drive more ad spending on CTV into automated, data-driven approaches. Approximately 400 million CTVs are already deployed in the U.S., in 80% of TV households. In the wake of Covid, advertisers are going to be under even more pressure to measure the effectiveness of their ad spend, making targeting more important. Covid dynamics are continuing to drive up CTV ad impressions. All of this means CTV is going to become an even more critical focus for advertisers.
So it makes a ton of sense for Comcast to bring STB VOD into the programmatic era, and make its inventory available alongside CTV and other inventory as the new FreeWheel-CTS joint solution does. Ad buyers can focus more on reaching specific viewers, irrespective of STB or CTV, than on worrying about legacy STB friction points.