The Ad-Supported Streaming Market Just Got Real

The following was previously published in an earlier edition of Marketing Insider.

By the end of 2025, it will be practically mandatory for marketers to buy video advertising from Netflix, Amazon and Walmart.

You might be thinking, huh?

And with good reason. While each of these companies are behemoths in their own right, their video ad businesses have been afterthoughts at best.

And let’s be honest: the ad-supported streaming market itself had hardly been worth a second thought. Even as the hours that Americans spent watching streaming services surpassed the time they spent with linear TV last year, and the number of pay TV households in the U.S. fell below 50%, streaming ad inventory had been mostly relegated to B-tier services like Peacock and Paramount+ and obscure players like Pluto TV and Roku Channel.

That ended in January, when Amazon started running ads in its Prime Video streaming service, joining a race that Netflix and Disney+ had recently entered. With its 115 million pre-subscribed members, Amazon brings immediate scale and legitimacy to this market.



It also brings the kind of sophisticated targeting and sales data that should grab your attention.

Not only does Amazon have the strongest shopping signals in the world, it has signals on how consumers interact with Alexa, which it can use to retarget those behaviors on TV. Amazon also owns Fire TV, which gives it access to ad real estate, and viewing data for retargeting.

Amazon is still figuring out the inventory thing, but once it picks up more sports rights and worthwhile content, the sky will be the limit.

Walmart is on a similar path, except it just got even bigger. The retailer recently purchased Vizio for $2 billion, giving it access to unparalleled viewing data it can use for targeting, as well as a humming ad product. The ability to own the biggest screen in the house and capture more eyeballs to upsell Walmart products should appeal to anyone looking to close the loop between advertising exposure and action.

Then there is Netflix. Having introduced an ad-supported tier in 2022, the original streaming service is now dabbling in sports rights, acquiring “Raw” from the WWE and trying out various one-off sports events before making a bigger league commitment.

And not only does Netflix have the capital to plow money into original content, it is once again emerging as the home to every media company’s licensed hits (see:“Suits”). That inventory, paired with strong first-party data, will make Netflix a must-buy.

What should marketers be doing now?

First, get into these platforms today. Netflix and Amazon are currently hungry for early adopters to test out the kinks, and are willing to cut sweetheart deals to get them.

Second, trim your existing CTV mix. Ditch most of the services that you’ve been buying from. Instead, focus your investments on those players positioned for the long haul.

Finally, develop your own marketing and measurement methodology for a new CTV world. We are about to see the rise of even more black boxes in the streaming space, like we’ve seen in social from Meta and search from Google. It won’t be perfect, but it never is.

All in all, this is the dawn of a new era, one where sophisticated targeting can be leveraged in quality video inventory. It’s an exciting development that should be top of mind as you prepare for the upfronts this year -- and many years to come.

1 comment about "The Ad-Supported Streaming Market Just Got Real".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 26, 2024 at 9:37 a.m.

    Interesting that you suggest "ditching" the other ad-supported services--- Peacock, Paramount+, Pluto, Disney+, Roku, Tubi, etc.---and, I assume, YouTube and Hulu---- in favor of Amazon, Walmart and Netflix---just because of the promise of better targeting. But what about reach? If you go with a limited number of services you may miss a large part of the streaming sudience. At best, the troika you advocate accounts for about 3% of all ad-supported  TV viewing and even less of its advertising GRPs.

    Also, what about upfront TV buys---which are not based on targeting as they involve multiple brands all melded together---which defies targeting---even if you know in advance who was watching TV shows and movies 18 months from now.  We estimate that upfront streaming ad buys in the upcoming 2024-25 transactions will amount to $10 billion. That money is largely off the table for what you are suggesting. So are the many "must buys" that advertisers insist on making---like sports, news, specials, etc. -----regardless of what the "data" tells them.

    Of course it makes sense for individual brands to explore the added benefits that Amazon, Netflix and Walmart may offer---but these do not apply to every product class or every brand. Nor do they preclude using other services.

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