Real-Time With Brian Gleason On New 'Xaxis TV' Platform

GroupM's Xaxis unit this morning launched Xaxis TV, a new platform meant to bring traditional TV-like measurement to "broadcast quality" online video inventory. The company seems to have cleverly jumped on the TV-going-programmatic bandwagon with its naming of the platform, but all of the inventory on the platform will be digital. Essentially, Xaxis is creating a truly private premium exchange -- for GroupM clients only -- for digital video.

RTM Daily spoke with Brian Gleason, the company's managing director, North America, about the new platform, why it's called "Xaxis TV" when it's really dealing with digital inventory, and what the benefits of the platform are.

RTM Daily: What exactly is Xaxis TV?

Brian Gleason: It is broadcast quality inventory bought in a similar fashion to how broadcast is bought today. Everyone is trying to disrupt broadcast, but our philosophy is that you don't have to disrupt it, you have to enhance it. In order to do that, you need to:

1) Make sure you're using the same measurement standards as TV. 2) Make sure you're speaking in the same language in terms of measurement. And 3) Make sure it's in an environment that's well-lit and is broadcast quality.

All of those things in conjunction define Xaxis TV. It's taking the tools and technologies currently available to enhance the space, not disrupt it.

RTMD: What's something unique about the new platform?

Gleason: At our core we are data-driven. We have our data management platform (DMP) that sits at the foundation of everything Xaxis does. Cross-channel attribution is what it's really all about. Now we're finally in a place that allows you to do that -- there has been so much trepidation. Looking at that, it takes a common platform to analyze [data from two different channels]. Having a DMP at the center helps us there.

RTMD: Where exactly is money trading hands with Xaxis TV? On an exchange? Private or open? Through direct deals?

Gleason: It starts with the inventory. Our first mission is to reach out to top-tier partners and try to figure out [the inventory]. The inventory [on Xaxis TV] is not available on any open exchange. Even though we believe in programmatic trading, we don't want to do it on the open market. We'd much rather trade with relationships that have been predefined and predetermined to give our clients an advantage. It's pre-negotiated inventory that we have with a data layer on top that's being traded.

The inventory is strictly for the use of GroupM clients. It's above the open market and not available in any other capacity. [The inventory will be available via real-time bidding (RTB) and other programmatic trading methods].

RTMD: Why call it "Xaxis TV" when the platform is dealing with digital inventory?

Gleason: It goes back to us not trying to disrupt the TV market [because] it's extremely successful. We're trying to enhance it rather than change what it is. We're saying it's an enhancement of the traditional broadcast vehicle.

RTMD: This seems to open the door for Xaxis to move into programmatic TV like some other companies have done. Is that a plan at all?

Gleason: I think that negates the efforts/thought process/buying leverage that goes into the traditional model. I think that's why we say we want to enhance it. What we have in broadcast today is well-proven, extremely efficient, and it works well. All we're trying to do it bring an additional layer while others are trying to disrupt and change it.

RTMD: Speaking as Brian Gleason and not as Xaxis, do you think programmatic has a place in TV?

Gleason: I think the challenge you have with trying to disrupt that model…what people are trying to do is change, almost move, a battleship. It's a model that's working well. To simply change that to programmatic doesn't make sense. We can utilize technology to make it better, not to completely change the model. I think sometimes people get too grandiose with their efforts to change the entire model.

RTMD: Who are the Xaxis TV competitors?

Gleason: I think we're unique in the fact…that we're part of GroupM. We're looking at the overall ecosystem, so there's not one company that we look at as a competitor. All we're trying to do is enhance the experience for our clients and agencies.

RTMD: You previously mentioned cross-channel attribution. Do you think the video channel is leading the next charge? It's been the most active space recently. Do you think it's the next display in programmatic, so to speak?

Gleason: I don't think it's the next display, but it's an evolution of what has happened. We went from 20,000 Websites to over 650 million today. We add 50-plus million every year. If you look at digital as a platform, the first thing people found was that it was a better way to get the news. The next trend was that it was a great way to be social, and that's where we saw digital move. The next one was sharing images and getting into the experience.

Now you look at video -- people are comfortable using digital to go longer than brief interactions, like watching full episodes. I think as people engage in technology, attitudes change, behavior changes, and I think all of those things lead to why we have to be in a position to extend our audiences and participate in that marketplace.

RTMD: I think I watched football, or something football related, on four different screens all at the same time yesterday.

Gleason: The environment is changing, but it doesn't negate that broadcast is at the center. It just changes how you are engaging. The cool thing is…think about the data that we can pool together and think about you engaging with different content If the way you engage is different on each of those [four devices you used to watch football], we have the DMP/the brain that can say, 'Here's how you are looking at different media on different devices.'

RTMD: Thanks for your time.

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