FreeWheel Concerned That YouTube Restricts Ads For Its TV-Media Clients

Almost all traditional TV networks have full control over the selling of their ad inventory on their platforms. But in the digital world, much has changed. TV content owners and digital platforms, where that content appears, share and now vie for advertising control.

One of the biggest digital advertising servers, Comcast’s FreeWheel, is now complaining that its TV content clients are getting the short end when their content appears on some big video platforms -- like Google’s YouTube.

One report says Comcast’s FreeWheel is concerned that Google is using privacy issues to limit its ability to sell and place ads on YouTube on behalf of its clients. That limitation is focused on key consumer data.

Privacy concerns continue to climb. A Reuters report says Google cut off FreeWheel in Europe last year, due to the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation that placed restrictions on sharing consumer data.



Ten years ago, Google struck a deal with FreeWheel, allowing major programmers like NBCUniversal, Turner and Viacom to sell ads on YouTube using FreeWheel instead of Google’s own ad server.

In the U.S., FreeWheel can still sell ads on YouTube, but content owners won’t get deeper consumer data because of some privacy issues. Still, that data insight could be gained if those content companies use Comcast’s video ad server.

In part, there is concern when TV networks allow more traditional TV inventory -- national, local or other -- to be sold by third-party companies, including future programmatic, addressable and other advanced advertising platforms.

For decades, traditional networks have worried about “commoditization” of their advertising commercial inventory. Read that to mean lower price commercials without regard to “quality” or other inherent value of that commercial inventory.

At the same time, a growing number of large, medium and small-sized ad clients are looking for more automated platforms to buy and manage their media schedules.

In part, you can see why WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal, Walt Disney’s Disney-ABC Television, and soon, ViacomCBS look to wholly owning D2C (direct to consumer) businesses.

The bottom line will be TV networks struggling to maintain “premium” pricing on ad inventory in an increasing decentralized media-buying industry.

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