WideOrbit Aims To Build The DoubleClick Of Local Broadcast

woWideOrbit considers itself the DoubleClick of local broadcast TV.

“It’s the closest description to what we do,” said Eric Mathewson, WideOrbit’s CEO. “We’re the publisher ad server for TV stations.”

WideOrbit supplies tools to local TV stations and broadcasters like Telemundo, Scripps, Sinclair, Meredith and Cox Media Group to help monetize and manage their yield.

It also launched a local TV marketplace, which facilitates access to programmatic demand, and connects buyers with sellers in open, direct or private exchange deals.

Programmatic TV by and large doesn’t exist yet, except for the confines of spot marketplaces containing local inventory. Thus, local TV often spurs further discussion around additional automation and data in national broadcast.

WideOrbit traffics ads for 3,300 TV stations and networks and claims it manages about $30 billion per year in ad spend through its platforms not counting radio spend.

Mathewson spoke with AdExchanger about advancements in programmatic TV supply and attribution.

AdExchanger: Where and when will more pockets of programmatic TV supply open up?

ERIC MATHEWSON: We have [accessibility to] more than 85% of US households through [our] programmatic linear TV marketplace. We don’t have as much breadth or depth as we would like, but it’s not insignificant. In all liquid markets, inventory begets demand and demand begets inventory and that stair-step process is happening in real time within linear media.

How large are the orders you’re fulfilling in programmatic TV?

We have some clients that have received, since we started with all this, north of $80 million in orders for programmatic. In TV, $80 million is not insignificant, but the business itself is much larger and these are multibillion-dollar clients. We’re very active with demand-side platforms – it’s one avenue for people to access our system, and there’s currently 46 demand partners signed on to provide demand into our market either on a direct or market-oriented basis.

Is the programmatic linear TV discussion still focused on niche, vertical networks?

Early on, we were finding advertisers that wanted to buy prime-time football – the most expensive inventory out there – as their foray into programmatic linear. And that’s completely contrary to the assumption that people are just buying 2 a.m. time slots on the cheap.

TV builds brands, mindshare at the top of the funnel. It’s obviously not a fulfillment vehicle and attribution can be a challenge just like in display where you have 10 different channels showing X results and the CFO says, “Everyone’s claiming they added $1 million to our business, but our business hasn’t grown $10 million because they’re all taking credit for the same thing.”

How is attribution evolving for TV?

If you stop running TV spots, advertisers and mass marketers see their revenue decrease dramatically. There’s no shopping cart that you can tie directly to a stream of impressions right that show exactly how that buyer/customer got there, but we’re working closely with some very smart digital attribution providers who have been focused on TV for a while to fix this.


Companies like C3 Metrics, and many others. The challenge is Nielsen tracks households and they create demos from surveys. Digital does single sign-on attribution. There are some emerging models where we’re trying to track a single TV behavior to a single individual in a household. It’s an emerging area, but the data by and large exists. It’s just not tied together really well and of course the privacy issues you have to consider, which are significant.

You’ve doubled down on direct-response TV (DRTV). Is that merging with brand buys?

The modern example of a DRTV campaign is a telco like Sprint or AT&T trying to build handheld subscription volumes. P&G does some DRTV. It’s a growing area because DRTV by its nature is very attribution-oriented. They don’t care about Nielsen numbers; they care about ringing the cash register. And there are plenty of options for advertisers to take segments of their business that are easily measurable from a region, apply a DRTV lens to it and execute based on that lens.

Where’s the biggest evolution happening in TV buying as it becomes more programmatic?

Everyone’s trying to surface the value of their inventory. Historically, the linear industry has leaned on Nielsen and Arbitron, and those organizations add value, but there’s room for improvement and there’s certainly room for individual broadcasters and content owners to surface the unique attributes of their inventory.

We would like to make it very easy for you to take apply your data into our execution engine. You can index against your own targeting versus the inventory programming we have available. That doesn’t mean everyone can take that data and apply it against a TV or radio schedule, but it’s absolutely going in that direction.

Interview edited for clarity and length.

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