• CTV’s Measured Embrace of Programmatic Is a Long-Term Win for Advertisers

    Within today’s AI-drenched industry conversations, it would seem that a lot of channels are on an accelerated path to an automated future. In many cases, that means a rapid shift of inventory into data-targeted, biddable buying. However, as eager as many digital media buyers are to get their hands on more connected TV inventory, this channel stands apart from others when it comes to its comparatively metered pace in moving away from upfronts and direct-sold inventory.

    That’s good. It’s intentional. And it has nothing to do with stubbornness or legacy thinking on behalf of media executives. Ultimately, it’s about building sustainability into the most important advertising channel of the future. Let’s explore the reasons for CTV’s measured embrace of programmatic and how savvy content owners are deepening their embrace of automation.
    Strong and Strategic
    Despite its digital and data-driven nature, CTV is unlike any channel that’s come before it for the most obvious reason of all: It’s TV. Regardless of how many headlines we read about the “decline of linear,” we should never underestimate the continued strength of even the more-legacy notions of TV. In 2024, $30 billion in U.S. ad spending will go to CTV, but twice that will go to traditional TV. Those proportions will shift in the coming years, yes—but gradually. Traditional TV, still projected to be bringing in $55 billion in 2027, will remain a powerhouse advertising channel for the foreseeable future.
    In the TV space, content is still king. The control rests with the sell side, and these players are seasoned, strategic executives who are taking the long view when it comes to the future of their businesses, including how inventory is monetized and how buyers access it. Unlike many digital channels, inventory in CTV is still catching up to demand, meaning a different and exceptionally deliberate playbook is warranted.
    CTV is not an area where split-second decisions will be made based on short-term revenue hiccups or shiny new tech capabilities. Above all, leaders in the TV space are going to protect ad rates within their industry, even if that comes at the expense of overall yield at times. This is a long game, and they’re playing it like one. For advertisers, that’s a good thing. CTV publishers are building a stronger marketplace—one that’s designed to deliver results for everyone for the long haul.
    Automation, with Control
    To be clear, playing the long game doesn’t mean resistance to change. It means strategic change, and that’s what we’re seeing when it comes to CTV’s shift toward programmatic. Content owners are looking to facilitate greater and more-nimble access to their CTV inventory via programmatic pipes, but they’re doing it on their terms.
    As media companies gradually move more inventory into programmatic pipes, they’re not going to sacrifice transparency or quality in the name of automation. They’re going to implement tech stacks that enable more control and interoperability among solutions, not less. These media owners will decide how they talk to their consumers and sell their advertising products; they’re not going to hand this power over to their tech providers.
    Publishers should not have to choose between the automation and real-time optimization of programmatic or the quality and control of direct IOs. Programmatic guaranteed and private marketplaces can provide the market with the benefits of automation and data while still allowing content owners to maintain control. For that reason, this is where the biggest programmatic opportunities in CTV are going to emerge in the coming years.
    The Right Play, at the Right Time
    When it comes to TV and CTV, programmatic is a piece of a much larger monetization picture. It will step forward into a bigger role—but only when the circumstances are right for content owners.
    It’s not reasonable to flip a switch and move from direct IOs to programmatic buying in CTV overnight, but media executives know they have an opportunity to build a stronger and more reliable revenue pipeline if they continue this shift over time. By gradually making premium inventory available in unified auctions, media companies are discovering what advertisers will truly pay for it—and for the most part, they’ve been pleasantly surprised.
    There will be no “trading analog dollars for digital pennies” in the TV space. As an industry, media executives know CTV ad buying needs to become more automated—but they needn’t forcibly smash everything they’ve already built in order to rebuild for the future. Rather, they will keep putting one foot in front of the other while keeping their eyes on the path to long-term viability and success—and our entire industry will become stronger because of it.