Fox Inventory Viewed Through Comcast Set-Top Boxes Is Now Programmatic And Addressable

Fox said on Thursday that it’s struck a deal with Comcast-owned FreeWheel to enable programmatic sales of its set-top box inventory.

That inventory can now be purchased through, guess who: The Trade Desk.

However, Comcast VP and GM of addressable Larry Allen said the company does have the other “big five” DSPs on the roadmap for immediate activation, although he didn’t specify further.

So, what inventory can advertisers transact programmatically?

If you’re an advertiser, you can use The Trade Desk’s DSP – with more buying platforms set to plug in soon – to find Comcast Xfinity households watching Fox VOD content. If the audiences that the advertiser wants to reach are available, The Trade Desk will make the buy and reserve the inventory. And yes, this inventory includes Tubi, the AVOD platform Fox bought in March 2020.

Fox typically tries to sell the bulk of its inventory in the upfront or the scatter marketplace. But as viewership increases or exceeds projections, it will make more audience-based buying available programmatically – and that inventory can now be reserved through a DSP.

How are these capabilities different from what Fox previously enabled?

Fox did facilitate addressable advertising in the past, but it had to be purchased directly through an insertion order, said Dan Callahan SVP of data and sales innovation at Fox. Separately, Fox also had biddable programmatic inventory available through a private marketplace.

The deal between Fox and FreeWheel makes this inventory both biddable and addressable within Comcast households.

Does that mean the inventory is now available in an open exchange?

Sorry, no.

“It's a private guaranteed sale,” said Comcast’s Allen. This nuance is important – there are specific policies and processes that need to happen with TV inventory that’s meant to be viewed on the big glass. This precludes that inventory from being transacted as run-of-the-mill digital inventory.

For instance, because the ads run against high-quality TV content, the advertising needs to be high resolution. And sending a high-quality video file is different from sending creative that will be viewed on a laptop or mobile device.

The FreeWheel exchange will also exclusively host NBCU inventory, and The Trade Desk is plugged into that as well. With that in mind, will advertisers be able to buy a single audience across different content owners if it’s in the same exchange? 

That’s the idea, Allen said.

“We want to make it as simple as possible for the marketer to basically share a single audience, across multiple programmers on multiple footprints, so that they can get maximum scale and reach of the desired audience,” he said.

Why does it seem like The Trade Desk is everywhere in TV these days? 

For those keeping track, The Trade Desk was part of both NBCU’s and Disney’s big tech showcases recently. Is The Trade Desk’s tech better for TV, does it just have a great biz dev team – or both? Fox’s Callahan credits the DSP’s success with its focus on the buy side as well as “the plumbing.”

“All they're doing is servicing the demand side of the business, and they've been investing in the kind of underlying capability to connect to the supply side for four years now,” he said. “I think others are a little more distracted.”

Another key factor is that a lot of brands have specifically requested the ability to purchase TV inventory through The Trade Desk. Callahan hopes The Trade Desk connection opens up more demand and ups the volume of advertisers buying Fox advertising.

But what about Beeswax, the DSP recently purchased by FreeWheel? Comcast’s Allen says integration is coming, but everyone was preoccupied closing the deal first.

Why now, though? And is it tough to avail set-top box inventory on a DSP?

Set-top box inventory and digital-first buying platforms don’t always speak the same language, and broadcasters have “talked for years” about what has to be done in order to get set-top box inventory to “behave digitally,” Callahan said.

“How do we get it to make sense to The Trade Desk’s buying algorithms or, you know, represent it to a digital VAST tag?” he said.

Availing set-top box inventory in an exchange is one key step toward making it easier to buy.

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