I’ve been selling video supply for ten years, and I’ve never been as excited about a product or medium as I am today with regard to live streaming connected TV (CTV) for sports and events. There are numerous incredible broadcasters and media owners, vMVPDs, and device manufacturers that have created an environment for buyers to tap into unlike ever before. Today, however, we face an epidemic with regard to user acquisition in CTV, syndication, and the non-disclosed ad network model.
So, how does user acquisition in connected TV work? Some major ad-supported video on demand (AVOD) apps and many vMVPDs drive incremental traffic through display installs on a device homepage and other environments on various CTV devices. Ultimately, this pads their volume statistics by growing their user base and showing higher impression counts. It also translates to larger reported revenue numbers and profits for their companies. It comes down to simple math; if it costs X CPM for CTV display and the pub install rate is Y, then I’m making great margins since the eCPMs are strong and the fill rate is high in CTV environments. Some DSPs have made it a requirement for new CTV supplier they meet with to have inventory that lives outside of a digital media player, however, it doesn’t suffice since this issue will soon be a capability on other devices with time.
I want to be very clear, user acquisition on CTV is real traffic and real users. It’s not fraud, it’s purchased and there is a massive difference between the two. Since technically it is purchased media, should the industry classify it the same way? While it consists of audiences watching on the big screen in the living room, the most premium of all environments with tremendous value, the buyers are unaware of exactly what they are buying. There is a tremendous amount of inventory education needed for CTV across the industry.
What’s the lesson here? The most important thing a buyer can do is be informed on the major digital CTV AVOD apps. So many Linear teams taking on CTV execution are too embarrassed to ask the questions about pubs they aren’t familiar with or simply don’t have the time for homework. If linear teams truly knew the long-tail, short-form supply where their ads were running the walls would come crashing down. What portions of the CTV is made up of driven installs? We need to be searching for these answers and not just taking presented inventory volumes for granted. Let’s debunk a few things that will help immediately a buyer’s understanding when it comes to CTV.
- Make sure you are running on FEP. While one would assume CTV is synonymous with FEP, it doesn’t always work out that way. There is plenty of media on CTV in short form and recap clips. Make sure to always specify.
- Know when to say no to syndication. Ensure you are running on owned and operated inventory whenever possible and not on any low-quality syndication. This is not always a given, prior to 2015, syndication networks were a tremendous profit outlet for major media brands. Premium digital properties would build out their own audience extension networks under their own premium umbrella, consisting of long-tail supply with massive margin opportunity. TV buyers for both national and local video investment teams aren’t as familiar with this model.
- No more representative lists. Ladies and Gentlemen, we deserve better, so be better. Require whitelists and mandate transparency with CTV supply. Many companies are monetarily incentivized to run your inventory on low-cost supply. That then provides them the greatest return for that campaign which isn’t necessarily the best option for the buyer. So much goes under the radar so don’t get suckered in and pop the hood!
- Go ask the pubs! Relationship is such a broad term and gets thrown around casually way too much. For all the tens and hundreds of vendors claiming these ‘relationships’ with long premium publisher lists can back up the claims. Always reach out to the publishers for confirmation.
User acquisition in CTV exists and spans across the board. It exists in top tier supply and is also very common in long tail apps trying to make a margin. For the long tail apps claiming strong levels or recurring users, the only verification today is checking the content quality. After all, if the content is poor the organic user-ship certainly can’t be as high as what is being reported or reflected in the numbers. SpotX’s in-house brand safety team monitors suspicious behavior and CTV app verification, and audience volume validation. When traffic volumes seem too high, then it is usually too good to be true.
Mobile passing as CTV? I certainly hope not! CTV is a VAST only environment, meaning it’s easy to spoof. It’s quite simple to pass the inventory on as something it most certainly is not, misrepresenting the name of the app or the device type its running on. This is something SpotX has done a remarkable job at, filtering CTV supply, which is hands down, the hardest thing to verify for brand safety in digital media today.
Where does CTV user acquisition go to die? Well, I’ll tell you one thing, it goes off SpotX, and quick. Only a handful of vendors have the right protection in place to properly support CTV. Many different apps and companies claiming CTV capabilities never even make it through our rigorous publisher onboarding process for a multitude of reasons, they take their business elsewhere to platforms and buyers who don’t ask such tough and direct questions. For this very reason I recommend as an industry that we start asking the right questions, and finally put on the guardrails for CTV.
This article was written by Dovid Katz, regional vice president of agency development at SpotX.