• Publishers: Prepare for Connected TV

    There’s been a lot of hype over the past few years how TV broadcasters need to be cognizant of second screens like smartphones and tablets that can distract viewers. Now the first screen is getting revenge.

    Facebook, for one, is said to be developing a video-centric app for TV set-top boxes that would bring its content to TV. The move comes as the digital video ad market is projected to double by 2019 and publishers have been strongly pushing video ad inventory.

    For younger consumers in particular, the distinction between screens is irrelevant. About half of consumers watch movies and TV over the Internet daily. Some 63% of Americans own an Internet-connected TV.

    While consumers are becoming more promiscuous with their screens, for web-based publishers flitting back and forth isn’t so easy. There are a number of obstacles to conquering the first screen including the lack of standardization, legal limitations and a focus on longer content.

    No standards

    The web was designed to be open-source. Mobile apps had two gatekeepers -- Apple and Google. Connected TV is neither open-sourced nor controlled by a duopoly. By comparison, there are several competing standards for device-to-TV video streaming, including Apple’s HTTP Live Streaming, Adobe’s HDS, Micorosoft’s Smooth Streaming and non-proprietary platforms like MPEG-DASH. Connected TVs often don’t support third-party SDKs the way that mobile does.

    This shouldn’t be a shock to anyone who has watched the slow progress the TV industry has made over the years. Even Apple couldn’t solve the problem of a smart TV set, and has offered its Apple TV as a workaround device.

    This lack of standardization presents a couple of issues to publishers. For one, it means that content must be up to the technical standards (and running time as we’ll see) of standard TV fare. But publishers also have to ensure that ads are HD-quality, 1080-pixel resolution so they can be viewed. That’s usually not the case.

    Legal limitations

    Web publishers benefit greatly from the fact that the underlying technology is standardized. If you launch a website in the U.S., for instance, someone in Italy will have no problem seeing it. The same doesn’t hold true for content on connected TVs.

    The reality is, different countries use different devices. Roku isn’t used everywhere; it’s just used in the U.S., the UK and Australia. There are also different legal constraints in each country. For example, in France, it’s illegal for a live TV broadcaster to employ addressable advertising.

    Longer Content

    Publishers have been trained over the past few years to create short, punchy content that plays well on mobile devices. Now, the market is pushing them in a completely different direction. TV is the format for long-form viewing, so it’s not surprising that Facebook, for one, is looking to offer more longish videos.

    Good for Publishers?

    Given all of these considerations, should web-based publishers be looking to bolster their presence on connected TVs? Yes — but with a few caveats. First, for a publisher coming from the web, there is a risk of losing money if a new product is built specifically for Connected TV. Focusing on the most successful platforms mitigates this risk.

    Publishers should get used to creating content that’s designed, conceptually and technically, for different devices.

    Above all, publishers can’t afford to wait too long. For advertisers, connected TV will offer a chance to show their messages on the big screen — even as web-based targeting and metrics to ensure that they’re seen by the right people. The combination will be irresistible.

    Because advertisers will like connected TV so much, the shift is bound to happen. Publishers, get ready.