Amazon's Next Frontier: Selling OTT Ads Outside Of Fire TV

Even for those covering advanced TV developments, it has been tough to keep up with all of the news this week. Most, but not all, announcements were part of the deluge coming out of CES 2020. 

So before I get into the news alluded to in the headline, it seems worth briefly mentioning a few of the more notable developments from these past five jam-packed days (and providing links to our coverage of same, in case you missed some of it). 

The week’s first big ATV news was Tremor International’s acquisition of programmatic video marketplace Unruly, from News Corp.

Video ad-tech company Tremor says the deal will expand its connected TV as well as video and data initiatives, which already reach some 1.2 billion unique monthly users through publisher partnerships across the U.S., Europe and APAC. 

That was quickly overshadowed by Nielsen’s announced expansion of its addressable TV platform’s beta test to include A+E Networks, AMC Networks, CBS, Discovery, Fox, NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia, among others, with a commercial debut of the platform set for this year’s second half.



The platform promises TV networks the ability to review decisions about ad inventory and campaign management, audience targeting, dynamic ad replacement, and C3/C7, as well as gain viewer insights ahead of the coming TV season. Moreover, it will be in position to play a role in this year’s upfronts, according to the participants.

Hours later, we learned more about NBC Universal’s integrated TV and digital buying platform — including its name: One Platform.

A first-iteration version of the platform — said to be capable of offering ad buys spanning linear and digital inventory across all of NBCU’s platforms on local, national and global levels — will also be available in time for the upfronts.

There was also news of what is said to be the first shoppable integration by a major television maker. Video commerce tech company TheTake revealed that it has partnered with LG Electronics and media players including WarnerMedia, NBC Universal, A+E Networks and Crown Media Family Networks to enable owners of LG’s 2020 webOS smart TVs to use their smartphones to buy products featured in shows and movies playing on participating networks.

Again, I emphasize that this is just a partial list.

Moving on to today’s big news: Amazon is pursuing deals to start selling streaming video advertising outside of its own Fire TV ecosystem, on platforms such as Apple TV, Xbox, PlayStation and Android TV, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Specifically, Amazon Publisher Services is attempting to forge new relationships with TV app owners to integrate technology that would let it sell some of their ad inventory on other streaming services.

Content providers including CNN, Discovery and A&E, as well as streamers including Pluto TV and Tubi, are already working with Amazon to sell ads, reports WSJ.

While major media companies may not be tempted to give Amazon more of their ad inventories, the proposition might be welcomed by video publishers with fewer resources to maximize their inventory sales, the report points out.

Indeed, in addition to extending its powerful ad-targeting capabilities — driven by its massive first-party shopping and browser data — to other platforms, Amazon is said to be promising prospective partners it can sell ads at substantially higher prices than other third-party platforms (at CPMs of up to $40).

Roku has captured some 60% of the frustratingly fragmented CTV programmatic ad business. That’s been due largely to its ability, through a partnership with Innovid, to offer advertisers in-depth campaign performance reports that combine CTV and cable TV viewership data, according to Motley Fool’s James Brumley.

But while Amazon has some catching up to do on the OTT ad-learning curve, Brumley points out that on the OTT devices front, Amazon has already managed to whittle Roku’s market share down from nearly 50% in 2016 to 39%, by growing its Fire TV share from 16% to 39%.

“Amazon brings two other upsides to the table that could eventually prove disruptive, too,” he adds. One is that “mountain” of transactional and other data on Prime members and other Amazon ecommerce customers. The other is “deeper pockets to develop or acquire whatever measurement tool advertisers want.”

Advertisers are already increasingly addicted to Amazon’s digital advertising DSP, which is making gains on Google and Facebook. And it looks like Amazon won’t be satisfied until it’s the go-to source for OTT/CTV ad buys, as well.

Not surprising, given this megalith's genius for attaching itself to money pots, wherever they may appear. eMarketer estimates that CTV ad spending will rise from $6.9 billion in 2019 to $8.9 billion this year.

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