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Roku: Bringing Brands, Publishers Onboard In a Cookieless, Connected TV Environment


ScottRosenbergRoku, the first streaming player to translate Netflix to TV, has reached the 10 million-device mark. With 1,000-plus channels ranging from free to subscription (Hulu Plus, Netflix) and on-demand services (HBOGo and WatchESPN), Roku is scaling up its ad-supported vertical.

Bringing publishers and brand partners onboard in a cookieless, connected TV environment comes with its own unique challenges, but as streaming content moves mainstream, buy- and sell-side conversations are increasing.

Programmatic media platform Xaxis, for instance, is actively building a connected TV marketplace that includes early inventory partners such as Roku and Xbox. Broadcast network A&E, too, is building private marketplaces that span desktop, mobile and connected TV supply sources like Roku, Amazon Fire, Xbox and Apple TV.

Scott Rosenberg, VP of business development, content and services at Roku, said it’s early days in connecting ad sales with audience data in CTV, but the ecosystem is growing up.

He spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: Describe your role at Roku.

SCOTT ROSENBERG: I run ad sales and partner promotions at Roku. One of our big focuses is how to make publishers successful on our platform. My team stewards a partner once they’re on the platform and we run all the promotional tools to help the partner get downloads, subscriptions, transactions, stream counts and one vertical we’ve really started to lean in on is the ad-supported vertical.

We want to help our ad-supported publishers be successful with monetization and part of why we’re sponsoring an Ad Week panel next week. The way we’re helping ad-supported partners succeed is investment in the platform so that the raw nuts and bolts of, “How do you serve an ad into your Roku app?”, “How do you get high fill rates?” and “How do you have the targeting and interactivity and analytics to monetize it effectively?” [A&E] is an example of a publisher ad sales team we interact with and we’re really focused on in multiple levels to help them succeed.

What about brands?

In many cases, we’re also working to bring demand to our publishers. There are a lot of brands that have a focused thesis, a focused interest in connected TV and they’re searching around for scale. They want to augment their buys with audience data, they’re interested in interactivity and as a platform, we’re able to in many cases orchestrate that scale by gathering that inventory across publishers. Our first priority is guarding consumer privacy and we want to give consumers the tools they need to control their own experience. The folks like Nielsen and comScore have different methodologies characterizing connected TV audiences, so buyers who want to buy on a Nielsen demo, or on a vCE attribute, can. There are lots of things we can do as a platform to help bridge those insights. Mobile’s just gotten there and it’s still early days there.

Are publishers at a point where they’re actively attributing users to the Roku app?


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It’s an always-connected platform, so the stuff you might be used to from any cable analysis – not knowing if an impression was served, for instance – is a nonissue for us. Every Roku app is heavily instrumented with beacons, Omniture, Google analytics, comScore. It’s all wired up. We’re still in the early stages of augmenting ad sales with audience data that buyers want to see and a lot of that is about the maturity of the ecosystem. It’s an area we’re working hard to help publishers. Like iOS, Android, we’re a cookieless, embedded device platform and so helping publishers understand [and] characterize those audiences is a key area we’re working on.

How about Roku’s future in programmatic? Xaxis mentioned working with you.

As we heard in the [LiveRail Video Publisher Forum] panel from Xaxis, that comment about brands telling the agency they need help getting into connected TV. We’ve had lots of interesting discussions with trading desks about wiring up the platform and it’s nothing we can really announce right now, but what we’re observing on the buy side is connected TV and over-the-top devices have hit the mainstream. Increasingly if you’re going into ad agencies, you’re calling upon 20- or 30-somethings who many times don’t have a pay TV package, but certainly streaming is a dominant part of their lifestyle. It’s happening at the brand marketer level as well. People are saying, “When I’m buying over some time frame, match how my habits are evolving,” so brands are putting pressure on the agencies and the sell side to stand up the tools necessary to be able to buy on connected TV. Of course we’re also scaling the business and it’s not at the scale of TV, desktop or mobile just yet, in volume, tonnage.

In many ways, you’re the distributor. Straddling the buy and sell side, what’s the biggest challenge?

There are still gaps in all connected TV platforms. We’re uniquely positioned to help close those gaps, and there’s an opportunity to reinvent how TV is bought and sold. I think we believe very strongly that all TV will eventually be streamed and with that, all TV advertising will eventually be inserted dynamically. And this middle game we’re in now where some TV through some cable operators is going to addressable, addressable at this point is like faux dynamic. Faux programmatic. Directionally, it’s correct, but where we’re headed is fully programmatic, fully addressable ad buying on TV and Roku is a third of all connected TV ad impressions, more than Apple, Xbox and PS3 combined, according to a report FreeWheel published.


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