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Programmatic TV – Are we there yet?

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Last month BARB released the 2019 viewing report which highlighted that subscription video on demand (SVOD) viewing now makes up c.20% of time spent with the TV set.  Not a particularly ground-breaking statistic in and of itself, but one that has resurfaced the perennial discussion around ‘the future of TV’. This article touches on a couple of elements of that question and specifically ‘programmatic TV’.

Firstly, whilst 20% of the time watching TV may be SVOD it’s important to reiterate that the majority of this is Amazon Prime or Netflix, neither of which have an ad-supported subscription tier…yet.

Secondly, Sky has offered an ‘addressable’ solution for years in the form of Sky AdSmart. The pros and cons of Sky AdSmart being regularly interrogated and debated. But ‘Addressable TV’ is not the same as ‘Programmatic TV’.

‘Programmatic TV’ is effectively airtime traded through online buying platforms. Think about buying TV through the same platforms as PPC, Facebook etc. Theoretically loads of benefits: real-time trading, 121 targeting, individual frequency capping etc. The challenge, however, is supply, whilst a handful of stations make their inventory available programmatically, these stations make up a fractional share of commercial impacts (SOCI). 

All Response Media viewpoint
So, the question is do we see big broadcasters making their inventory available to buy programmatically? In short no. You can’t just scrap the established trading models and organisational structure of a multi-billion pound a year industry and rebuild them overnight! Also, the technology gap is just too big right now; for example, programmatic TV is delivered via a broadband connection…if you paid for a Sky subscription I don’t think you would accept any buffering! Long story short whilst TV and ‘digital’ will continue to converge this will be a gradual evolution.

We, of course, keep a keen eye on the convergence between traditional TV and ‘digital’ and welcome all innovation in this space, but the reality is ‘what will be will be’ when it comes to technology, infrastructure and revenue models. What’s important here is acknowledging that the lines are getting increasingly blurred so therefore not compartmentalising TV and digital. Advertising effectiveness is the aim of the game here, and that’s delivered through integrated media planning and rigorous optimisation. The nuances of what mechanic is being used by the industry to trade the media isn’t actually that important.

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