CTV, is the juice worth the squeeze?
A recap on my recent conversation with Ben Antier
I recently sat down and recorded a podcast with Ben Antier, the co-founder and CEO of Publica – a publisher ad-server for CTV that was acquired in August 2021 for $220m by Integral Ad Science. Ben dropped so much knowledge in the podcast, but I appreciate that not everyone has the time to listen, so I wanted to pull out some of my favorite quotes and add some of my own thoughts.
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Quote 1 – “I'm absolutely 100% convinced that Connected TV in the next couple of years in Europe is going to be just as mainstream as it is here in the US.”
This is *the* elephant in the room. As someone who lives primarily in the US, I see a tonne of CTV ads (whether that’s BVOD, SVOD, FAST or Linear) through the multitude of apps on my TV, but in the UK and other European markets this is less of a phenomenon – primarily because of scale. Content creators can access ad or subscription revenue at serious scale in the US and quickly, it’s much more difficult in smaller markets (+ there may be some regulatory hurdles), which is why it’s less fragmented in those markets.
However, the cost to globalize ads on CTV devices is reducing by the day. Users want excellent content and that is increasingly appearing on TV through many means. I don’t think the lack of CTV supply (relative to the US) in UK and other markets is a user or economic issue in adopting subscription or ad funded TV content outside of broadcasters, it’s an entry to market issue which will ultimately be solved in the same way US led with cable and other markets caught up/adopted their own methods.
Example being the Peacock and Sky TV partnership - https://www.msn.com/en-us/tv/news/peacock-is-now-available-for-sky-tv-customers-in-the-uk-e2-80-93-at-no-extra-cost/ar-AAQLtOm
Quote 2 – “There are things that work incredibly well in TV and that have been working well for decades, right. So, it's not about ripping it all apart and saying, 'Oh, we know better from the digital side'. Not at all. I think the viewership experience, is actually much nicer than on most websites.”
I felt my heart flutter with this quote. TV, by and large, is such a great advertising experience. Higher quality ads due to higher creation costs, restricted frequency & cadence (mandated in some markets) and users generally know when an ad is going to appear and in what format. It’s about learning what works and adopting in the best way, it’s not about looking forwards or backwards, but adjusting to the here and now. Truly enjoying the way content providers are thinking about the balancing of experience and income.
Quote 3 - “One of the features I really liked in it (Open RTB 2.6) was the ability to create floors per second as well. One of the things we've really try to also educate the industry about is, in CTV, you have to think on a time - on a duration basis, right. Because, a 30-second ad slot is not worth the same as a 15-second slot. And although you could call them one impression or one slot, I think it's very important for the publishers to start thinking, 'Okay, what's my fill per second and how can a buyer also integrate that in their bidding logic?'“
CTV is mostly programmatic and relies on Open RTB to send buyers information about the ad that’s available. Historically the Open RTB spec was made for desktop display banners and over time has evolve to include objects that can be used for audio, DOOH, mobile app, CTV etc.
Previously buyers couldn’t determine the difference between a 15s and 30s ad in CTV opportunities, but the newer spec supports this. This will be great for buyers to better determine price and also for content providers to determine what to sell at. Greater transparency provides more accurate buy and sell prices.
Quote 4 - We're going to see more open auction transactions, right. Here's a bid request. Here's a bid response. I don't have to first go in and agree on a PMP, a floor site list. I'm going to have all of that in my bidding algorithm on one side and in my selling algorithm on the other. So, I do think, you know, that's how you get to the most efficient setup for both sides. And I think that, you know, just from a marketplace perspective, that's what's going to create the most value.
I will live and die by this (2016 article here!). Legacy ways of trading media is sub-optimal from a theoretical perspective, the only reason upfronts exist is for guaranteed revenue for pubs and guaranteed ad spots for advertisers. It’s a truly archaic method of pricing that is steeped in legacy, technical inefficiency, cash flow challenges and steak lunches.
Open Auctions (i.e non fixed prices) competing with one another is the best way to reach supply/demand equilibrium which is where you truly understand what the market should be buying and selling at. There are issues in achieving this when information is sparse, but as you can see with the above, transparency is increasing so sellers and buyers can better price - if all demand has this and competes simultaneously then the industry is in a better place.
I hope you enjoyed the recap and do follow Ben on LinkedIn, he’s wonderfully smart but also very generous in giving up his time to educate.