WideOrbit Unveils Programmatic Digital Radio Beta Program

dddThe Spanish Broadcasting System (SBS) will be the inaugural media company to trial WideOrbit’s programmatic radio beta program, released Friday.

SBS is the largest publicly traded, Hispanic-controlled media company in the US. Through the alliance with WideOrbit, a broadcast technology provider and a cross-channel SSP, the SBS will make its digital radio inventory available to brands, agencies and DSPs.

The program aims to help marketers reach Hispanic audiences via programmatic channels for digital radio, in the same ways they reach that demographic via digital display or digital video.

WideOrbit’s heritage is in broadcasting, but the company acquired four companies last year in order to bridge its offerings into digital. The acquisitions, dating back to April 2014, include Fivia for premium order management, Abacast for its streaming audio capabilities, CastFire for podcasting and dynamic ad insertion and Admeta, a digital SSP that was rebranded as WO Programmatic.

“This solution directly integrates into our dynamic ad insertion and premium streaming audio solution, WO Streaming,” said Brian Burdick, EVP of digital and programmatic at WideOrbit. “You get the ability to plan and book your premium audio ads, and you get the ability to push your unsold inventory to programmatic, where its bought by companies like The Trade Desk.”

WO Streaming is an arm of WideOrbit that can take a radio stream, transcode it, put it on the air and make all of the ad inventory contained within available for purchase. That inventory can then be booked and targeted, as in digital display advertising. WO Streaming also does audio on demand (think: podcasting). When a subscriber downloads a podcast, for example, WO Streaming will draw on audience metrics to dynamically inject ads at the time of download.

WO Streaming competitors include Triton Digital, AdsWizz and Jelli in the terrestrial programmatic radio.

Through the beta program, WideOrbit will aggregate and provide metrics such as geolocation, device and listening figures. WideOrbit has also integrated Nielsen’s recently released audio measurement SDK, which works similarly to Nielsen Digital Ad Ratings.

Mike Davis, GM of digital audio and radio at The Trade Desk – which is in the early phases of integrated WideOrbit through an exchange partner – sees its expansion into digital audio as a natural progression for programmatic, and one that gives rise to new questions.

Davis said one challenge is category blocking around ad placements to ensure that competing brand ads don’t run back to back.

A larger challenge is cross-device. “It’s really easy when you’re on a mobile device streaming audio, but it gets more interesting when you start to talk about some of the devices that are built into cars,” he said.

WideOrbit’s Burdick has to convince buyers that digital audio matters.

“One of the biggest challenges moving into this space is that digital audio has largely been purchased by radio buyers and not digital buyers,” Burdick said. “As a result, it’s just not on the menu for digital.”

He’s pushing audio’s low CPMs –it costs 20% as much as digital video to get 50% of the effectiveness according to Burdick – making it a relative bargain.

“There is a liquidity problem,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to make it look exactly like digital video programmatic, so that it’s very easy for any programmatic vendor to plug in and buy.”

It wasn’t a hard sell for the SBS. The beta program marks the broadcaster’s first foray into digital audio programmatic advertising and will run on 13 of the SBS’s owned and operated radio stations, notably the top Spanish-language station in the US, WSKQ-FM New York.

Jesus Lara, EVP of digital media at Spanish Broadcasting System, said the company was excited to get out ahead of the pack.

“Audio is the last format to be brought into the programmatic world, and we’re really excited to be at the forefront,” Lara told AdExchanger. “This could solve a lot of the challenges that many buyers face when they’re trying to reach highly qualified Hispanic audiences. Programmatic will streamline the ability of some of the major players to target our audience on digital platforms. It’s an opportunity we see as incremental.”

The beta program won’t initially transact on a large volume of inventory. But it’s still early days, and with the IAB’s Digital Audio Buyer’s Guide released Thursday, buyers are more outfitted to plunge into digital audio programmatic channels.

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