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Virgin Media joins the AdSmart roster, ITV partners with Amobee – is addressable TV now ready for mass rollout?

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In the past couple of weeks, we have seen two developments that could further the rise of addressable TV in the UK. Firstly, Virgin Media confirmed it was due to launch Sky’s AdSmart technology throughout its UK footprint from July, and in Ireland later this year. Once fully rolled out, the deal will increase the potential base from 7 million to 11 million households.

In case anyone needed reminding, AdSmart is Sky’s addressable advertising platform that allows different adverts to be shown to different households. It enables advertisers to combine 1st party data (from advertisers and Sky) with 3rd party data (from the likes of Experian etc.) along with area or postcode overlays to their targeting.

Just days after this news broke, ITV confirmed they had signed an exclusive UK and Ireland licensing agreement with Amobee, a global digital advertising technology company, for end-to-end programmatic buying and selling of premium video inventory on the ITV Hub.

Partnering with Amobee will enable ITV to launch a new, fully programmatic advertising platform. It will also enable advertisers to login and directly plan and buy their own programmatic video on demand (VOD) campaigns – a nod to Google and Facebook’s self-serve model. So, have we reached the tipping point towards mass rollout for addressable and programmatic activity across the UK’s main broadcasters

First, to concentrate on the AdSmart news, this should be observed as a positive development. Although Sky may disagree, the growth of AdSmart has been slower than some would have expected when the tech was first launched in 2014. The majority of take up has been from larger brands within sectors such as FMCG, banks and retail. With the increased scale offered by Virgin and potential for other partners to jump on board, the hope would be that increased supply may lead to some flexibility on price and increased scope for reach.

The ITV/Amobee link up will be smaller in scale as it only encompasses ITV Hub inventory. At present, The Hub accounts for 10 million monthly views (not unique, but someone logging into the portal once) – not an insignificant number, but one that pales when compared to ITV’s linear channels which regularly get 4 million+ viewers per programme in peak.

So, will our clients be seeing a raft of addressable options added to their audio/visual plans? As always, planning teams will consider utilisation of these opportunities on a case by case basis. If an advertiser has a requirement to be particularly targeted to a specific audience/region then broadcast VOD (BVOD) or AdSmart can be a useful option, but due to the increased cost per thousand (CPTs) associated, we often find that utilising regionally-focused terrestrial can be more cost-effective.

Another challenge is the measurability and trackability of these channels. With Linear TV we get precise spot times along with audience size, but with addressable/VOD, similar data is not currently shared by broadcasters and the proportion of users utilising clickable video formats is negligible. So, our planning teams will weigh up the benefits, costs and drawbacks before recommending any addressable opportunity.

Whilst the capabilities of addressable TV are extremely exciting, it is worth stating that at present the landscape is relatively fragmented and only holds a small percentage of viewing time as a potential audience. Even among 16-34 year olds, Touchpoints shows that of the average time spent per day in front of ‘video’ advertising, 73% is via live TV (a

nd only a small percentage of this is accessible via AdSmart) with only 16% is potentially open to addressable (via YouTube or BVOD).

The future will undoubtedly see Linear TV eventually merged into programmatic buying and addressable capabilities, but that future is at least several years away.