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An Interoperable Future For Linear And Connected TV

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On TV & Video” is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in advanced TV and video. 

Today’s column is by Anthony Katsur, CEO of the IAB Tech Lab

Linear TV remains a powerhouse business, and for good reason. With scaled infrastructure, exclusive live sports rights and the unparalleled ability to attract massive audiences for culturally vital events, linear TV will continue to dominate ad inventory for years to come. 

But the giants of linear TV are fully aware of the power of streaming. They have access to the same data we all do: US ad spending on linear and Connected TV (CTV) platforms will exceed $99 billion by 2025, from just under $88 billion this year.

Television executives also fully grasp that CTV will drive the entirety of that anticipated $11 billion of growth. In fact, CTV claimed more than one-third of total TV time in June 2022, thanks to four straight months of record-breaking growth. Consumers love the convenience of streaming, and there are more ad-supported ways to do it than ever.

Yet it’s difficult for linear budgets to shift to streaming the way things currently stand. It’s not nearly easy enough to buy or measure audiences or reconcile your buy. There’s too much manual work and not enough normalized signaling. Buyers have to synthesize a patchwork of disparate data sources to generate a clear picture and struggle to report holistic results back up to the C-suite.

Both linear TV executives and CTV executives have every reason to want a future with more interoperability and addressability. There are many shared use cases across linear and connected television. And there is value in the creation and stewardship of technical standards and best practices to normalize data and create interoperability across all television environments.

The industry has a simple goal to pursue: to establish interoperability between legacy linear and connected television, which will streamline ad spend across both channels.

Getting to interoperability 

From the consumer’s point of view, TV is just TV. But from a technology point of view, each existing TV distribution environment uses different content delivery and ad signaling technologies.

That means each platform operates as its own silo, with separate workflows, measurement and reporting. It’s clumsy, but it doesn’t have to be.

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When properly marked and signaled, most television ads can be made ”addressable.” The industry must solve the following critical use cases across linear and CTV, with consumer privacy always in mind.

  1. Universal Reconciliation: Create the structure for streamlined and normalized reconciliation of TV buys across CTV, linear and broadcast environments.
  2. Cross-Environment Auditability: Develop open-source measurability for tracking ad creative across all platforms.
  3. Data Interoperability: Establish a common technical framework for audience interoperability, universal addressability and cross-environment frequency capping.
  4. Improved Ad Validation: Further develop Advanced TV anti-fraud measures and more accurately account for viewability.
  5. Frame Accurate Ad Replacement: Standardize the foundation for an impression-based TV market and universal ad break management.

Trying to force a common television distribution technology would be impossible. But the good news is it’s also unnecessary. Rather, what’s needed is a way to enable common signaling that allows all ads across all television environments to be identified by a specific asset ID and made addressable wherever possible. 

Whether an ad is on a traditional linear platform like cable, satellite, broadcast or emerging IP-enabled TV (CTV, OTT, Addressable Linear, streamed FAST channels), the industry must ensure that any ad can be identified and potentially offered as part of the addressable landscape.

The benefits are obvious: all TV ad exposures and addressable insertions can be tracked, reported and reconciled in a standardized and normalized format.

Addressability should be a business decision, not a technology constraint. 

Follow (@IABTechLab) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

For more articles featuring Anthony Katsur, click here.

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