Commentary

Has OTT Advertising's Time Arrived?

  • by , Featured Contributor, September 20, 2018
Yes, it’s time. Vincent Letang of Magna just released a new report projecting over-the-top (OTT) video advertising to hit $2 billion in the U.S this year.

While it’s a long way from the $63 billion he projects for U.S. linear TV, it’s a big number and is up 40% year over year. (Important to note: Magna’s total spend numbers are lower than some analysts publish, since Magna only reports actual media owner revenues, not total advertising monies paid by advertisers, which might include associated costs like agency fees, commissions and rebates.)

Why so much growth this year in OTT advertising? Simple. It’s all about achieving scale. Ad spend on OTT advertising is growing so much because OTT ad inventory is growing so much.

For the past couple of years, the biggest knock on OTT advertising has been a lack of scale, driven by the fact that the vast majority of OTT viewing is on ad-free programming — Netflix, Amazon Prime — or programming with ad loads well below linear TV, like Hulu’s.

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Clearly, we now have enough scale in OTT ad viewing that the sector can absorb meaningful amounts of ads with the explosion of services like Sling, DirecTV Now, Vudu’s Movies on Us, Crackle and the host of programmer-owned services like CBS All Access and Turner’s Boomerang.

Not all media find that their monetization truly tracks usage — just look at Mary Meeker’s annual slides shows. However, OTT is different. It can absorb ad spend easier and faster than other media channels because it can be substituted for, and compared directly with, inventory on our largest media channel, linear TV.

Five or six years ago, most OTT viewing in the U.S. occurred on small screens: desktops, laptops or tablets. Today, the vast majority is streamed onto the big screen, the TV, just like the rest of “TV.” Plus, so much of OTT programming today is not only similar to the programming on linear TV, it is exactly the same programming.

Finally, a big byproduct of the scale that ad-supported OTT is achieving is a stabilization of its pricing — read, softening. When it was more scarce, and viewed by many as a “sexy” buy that their clients had to have to look smart, pricing didn’t matter as much. Now that it is being viewed more comparably to linear TV, its pricing will have to become more comparable. Fortunately for media owners, inventory growth is so strong most of them won’t notice the slight softening in pricing.

What’s next? Critical for OTT advertising to keep growing in line with its usage will be a maturing of the data, analytics and measurements that it can provide.

Roku has been an early leader here, but the fact that NBCU had to create its own C-Flight measurements cobbled together with numbers from Nielsen, comScore and log files says it all.

OTT vendors today can’t deliver very accurate cross-service reach and frequency numbers by viewer, let alone granular data about those viewers — and certainly, nothing like advertisers receive regularly relative to their linear TV ad buys.

Fortunately, lots of folks are now focusing on this lack. Nothing like a $2 billion market growing at 40% year-over-year to attract investment.

What do you think? Has OTT advertising’s time arrived?

6 comments about "Has OTT Advertising's Time Arrived?".
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  1. Bob Coyne from Tribune Media, September 20, 2018 at 2:59 p.m.

    Yes.  Its Google Analytics or God?  Take your pick?  OTT offer's proof your video ads were seen.  And some OTT, FEP = Full Episode Player for one, offer's a click through rate on the video action data.  Data that Linear TV does not have.  So ask your self as a buyer, do you want proof your ad was seen with a click through rate, leading to Google Analytics?  Or, do you want to pray your ad was seen, people respond, your brand lifts and soles go up?  Its up to you?

  2. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, September 20, 2018 at 4:03 p.m.

    Nicely said Bob!

  3. Jason Burke from clypd, Inc, September 20, 2018 at 4:05 p.m.

    Bob...Umm, clicks? We should be beyond using that as a measuring stick of effectiveness.

    Anyway, nice piece Dave.

    Rationalizing pricing across OTT and Linear is not going to happen overnight for media companies and media buyers, but if we all do this right, then the audience should be of near-equal cost whether it's linear or OTT.

    But, as you mention the measurement piece is going to be the real challenge. Being able to understand a viewership for Females 25-54 (nevermind high-income coffee-drinking Moms) is necessary for this dream to come true and will take some innovations. Luckily, that work is underway...

  4. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 20, 2018 at 5:20 p.m.

    Exactly, Jason. Clicks indeed!

  5. Tom Cunniff from Tom Cunniff, September 23, 2018 at 11:36 a.m.

    Its time (and appropriate pricing) has indeed arrived.


    Lots of challenges around data (how do we aggregate ever-tinier program audiences into meaningful-sized buys?), consumer attention (TV spots remain far too long for 2018 attention spans), and availability of ad-free options for the viewers with the highest HH incomes, and more.


    Those are all opportunities for the companies that have the courage to tackle them. IMHO too many brand marketers are still treating all of digital as if it's direct marketing when that should not always be its function in the mix. This, too, is an opportunity.

  6. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, September 23, 2018 at 4:36 p.m.

    Spot on Tom. Lots of opportunities out there in TV's transition to OTT to solve, from fragmentataion to user-acceptable ad loads to automated buying and selling with balanced yield managemed (for both sellers and buyers). It will be fun to watch!

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