Written By: Mike Wall, VP of Affiliate Partnerships, Effectv

Advertising is not a static concept. It has evolved alongside TV’s own evolution from broadcast, to cable, to on demand and to streaming, to ensure it has remained efficient and effective. Historically, right with these changes, advertising sellers have adapted as well, including how cable, telco and satellite companies meet the needs of agencies and advertisers. However, as we now accelerate toward a world where audience-based, multi-screen executions powered by data are the norm, another transition is required in order for these companies to keep pace with the needs of the buy-side.

More than 20 years ago, in response to the demand from advertisers to simplify their ability to reach viewers, cable operators worked on aggregating audiences across television DMAs through interconnects. This enabled cable ad sales groups, who previously were not able to compete for regional and national advertising budgets, to compete with local broadcast stations. The result was a period of rapid growth that changed the local advertising marketplace. Later, the growth of satellite providers, along with the entry of telcos into the linear video space, created audience fragmentation. The industry answered that challenge by enabling advertisers to reach homes across wide areas of a DMA including traditional cable, satellite and telco homes through one buy.

Now, about a decade later, the industry is at another inflection point. In the face of arguably the biggest shift in viewing consumption and distribution in the industry’s history, it’s time to act again. We need to evolve the current linear-based interconnect model to an audience-based model to answer the call of advertisers and ensure our industry continues to meet their needs.

Where do we need to go?

Today, there are seemingly endless ways for viewers to consume content creating a much more fragmented landscape for media sellers and agencies alike. For a TV distributor, the need is to ensure the value proposition of enabling a simplified reach across multiple distributor footprints through a single buy can be maintained in an audience, multi-screen, impression-based future. This change has implications not just in terms of IP infrastructure investments, but a rethink of the interconnect model itself.

Here’s why. Up to now, advertisers and agencies looking to reach DMA level audiences had the same buying experience across most markets and operators in the U.S. Today, that experience is growing more complicated, fueled by the differences between linear and digital, audience-driven versus content-based, and siloed versus unified data. These trends are making TV buying more complex for advertisers.

The bottom line: content distributors need to expand the current interconnect model to one that is audience-based and provides access to digital inventory for campaign delivery at all geographies the same way it is done today for linear inventory. This is fundamental for delivering scalable addressability, multi-screen impressions and ultimately, for meeting the evolving needs of advertisers and audiences.

How do we get there?

So how does our evolution become a reality? How will an audience-based interconnect work?

Data, unified multi-platform delivery and interoperability will play a more pronounced and important role in reaching specific audiences at scale, while also providing a great customer experience for both the end viewer and the advertiser:

  • Secure Data Enablement—First, enable a safe, secure and privacy compliant way to activate first-party audience data across operators and affiliate partners. In today’s advertising world, sharing insights from data is needed to create audience segments and deliver more effective campaigns. If we want to target audiences more efficiently, we need to understand the attributes of the audience, and to achieve adequate scale in market, we need to understand these audience attributes across MVPDs and affiliates.
  • Unified, Cross-Platform Inventory—In the past, when primarily selling on large demographics, it wasn’t as important to have broad audience segments, but now, as audience segments are becoming more targeted, a unified inventory pool is needed to achieve proper scale. To do so, we need data that can be applied across operators and affiliate partners for all campaign types—data-driven linear, addressable, multi-screen—and across all aspects of the campaign process—from planning to reporting.
  • Interoperability—Finally, technology must work across various vendors and solutions. We must acknowledge that different distributors will choose different technology partners. But at the same time, we need to simplify the process of buying TV for advertisers to remain competitive. Execution of a multi-operator, cross-screen campaign must be seamless, and this requires a bias to interoperability both for distributors and the technology partners they choose.

Making the transition from a linear-only to an IP-inclusive, audience-based interconnect will take investment, collaboration and execution excellence on part of the operators and cannot be done in a silo. It is the future of the industry; and it is here.

— Mike Wall is VP of Affiliate Partnerships for Effectv, the advertising sales division of Comcast Cable

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