Roku Acquires Video Ad Tech From Nielsen – And Nielsen Gets Insights On Roku Users

Two significant steps in advanced TV happened Monday – one around advancing dynamic ad insertion (DAI) on linear TV and the second around Nielsen’s attempt to overhaul the currency around which all TV ads are transacted.

Roku said it will acquire Nielsen’s Advanced Video Advertising business, inheriting capabilities in automatic content recognition (ACR) and dynamic ad insertion (DAI). The deal is expected to close Q2 2021.

DAI lets advertisers show different ads to different households. ACR first identifies content being watched on a TV, and then DAI powers the swapping of ad creatives.

In return, Nielsen will get a much fuller look at Roku’s audience, necessary to prove out its updated currency, called Nielsen ONE. This access is a big help for Nielsen, as it gains insight into nearly 100 million smart TVs and OTT devices. Nielsen expects the new currency to go live Q4 2022.

FYI on Roku’s DAI

So why is Roku getting into DAI for the first time now? According to VP of product management Louqman Parampath, Roku now has the scale, the direct relationships with consumers, and the programmer relationships and ad tech stack to make DAI feasible.

Parampath also points out that Roku will finally be able to enable scaled DAI in real time on linear TV. Previously, DAI only existed in beta implementations. In expanding the reach of DAI, Roku hopes that it might entice traditional TV advertisers to finally buy into the format.

Here’s how it works: The Roku TV operating system, coupled with its new ACR from Nielsen, will know what content is running through its pipes. It can then offer its DAI technology to programmers like NBCU or ABC for example, allowing those traditional networks to swap out an ad for one that’s more precisely targeted – and that advertisers will pay more for.

Advertisers will gain better understanding of reach and frequency across their entire buy – which will help them figure out how all the different aspects of an ad campaign fit together, said Alison Levin, Roku’s VP of ad sales and strategy.

So the programmers get more money, advertisers get more precision and insight and Roku gets a cut of inventory it doesn't actually own.

Essentially, Roku is situating itself as DAI infrastructure, such that any and every ad that travels through its operating system can be replaced - as long as both the advertiser and the programmer want to make it happen.

Nice for Nielsen

Good news for Nielsen: it now has a front row seat into the Roku audience ecosystem.

Following partnerships with DISH, DirecTV and VIZIO, the deal with Roku is the next major addition to Nielsen’s measurement footprint, said Scott Brown, the company’s GM of audience measurement.

First, the advanced video advertising tech Nielsen is selling to Roku will feed measurement insights into Nielsen’s system. Second, Roku will incorporate a battery of Nielsen measurement products into its platform, the data from which Nielsen will also bake into its rebuilt ONE currency.

Ready for a dive into the weeds?

Roku’s ad buying platform OneView (nee dataxu) will natively integrate Nielsen’s Digital Ad Ratings (DAR) – which is cross-platform measurement for digital media. DAR has been a part of Roku since 2015, but what’s different now is that Roku advertisers can implement it with one click, and it will be always on, providing the better understanding of reach and frequency that Levin previously mentioned.

Also, publishers with their content on Roku can implement Nielsen’s census-based metric Digital Content Ratings, which shows how people are consuming digital media across…well, everywhere: OTT, video, audio, digital.

Finally, some trivia for the ad tech geeks: the ACR and DAI tech Roku is buying from Nielsen are buildouts from Nielsen’s acquisitions of Gracenote and Sorenson Media, respectively.

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