"On TV And Video" is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in advanced TV and video.
Today’s column is written by Rob Aksman, chief strategy officer at BrightLine.
Unlike in the tech-inhibited world of pre-connected TV, CTV has the power to unlock precise measurement and targeting at scale.
In most US households today, TV content is consumed over IP, running through high powered devices, each with their own unique identifiers. And a cadre of technology companies, industry groups and open forums are more than capable of together delivering on the promise of data-driven TV.
But for all that promise, nothing has happened that’s meaningfully scalable.
The root of the problem is that four companies – Google, Roku, Apple and Amazon – control the fate of whether we free up the downstream value of CTV for brands. Moreover, they haven’t shown the incentive or desire to participate in the industry forums!
There is no shortage of opportunities for them to contribute. The content owners have tried to address the issue of measurement and targeting with numerous committees, initiatives, councils, and panels, put on by the IAB, independent trade groups, or standards groups. But the big four never seem to be in the room where the conversations happen (or the room where nothing happens as is the case).
These four companies power the devices where most CTV streaming takes place, and as the developer and owner of those operating systems and standards, the downstream destiny of so many others starts and ends with them.
At the root of it, these four companies determine whether and what identifiers everyone else sees from the apps, to the ad servers, to every vendor in the stream. Simply put, agreeing on a single, persistent device ID, and privacy compliant “household ID” that isn’t IP address alone would solve what thousands of forums, industry groups, panels and white papers have not, and can never resolve.
And the stakes are high, since the goal is to build a truly holistic addressable capability and view of the consumer for advertisers that spans screens, media providers, and platforms. Otherwise the industry will forever be condemned to in-ecosystem solutions that don’t cross the garden walls, save for a bevy of probabilistic methodologies serving as sub-par workarounds. Worse, we’re going to have to listen to the same industry conversations for decades debating the same challenge.
Surely for Google, Roku, Apple and Amazon, it comes down to a business decision. The more you control, the more money you make in the walled garden mentality. However, each of these companies has unique propositions that can go above and beyond providing stable identifiers for the rest of the industry to use.
More specifically, each one of them has the household’s billing information and billing address, which is the root of the most deterministic path for matching addressable segments. Not to mention all four have TV wallets, capable of becoming the foundation for the much vaunted potential of T-commerce. Amazon goes a step further with its oodles of purchase data and shopping habits from which to craft targeting segments and derive attribution. Google has a monolithic tech stack of phone and search data to merge with their TV data.
To truly incent “the four” to come to the table and work out a solution, there needs to be the revenue incentive for them to invest the time and support to make a solution that works – one that doesn’t require each to control their own individual addressable ad ecosystem. Perhaps Google, under increasing scrutiny from the government, makes a unilateral move opening up the ecosystem, and setting a precedent for the rest. Or Roku, under pressure from the street for growth, and without a broader ecommerce business or entire tech ecosystem to rely on, makes moves to capture a share of every dollar running through the device, vs. controlling the dollars themselves.
If that can be found, call it a simple toll on everything downstream, then we may just see the full potential of CTV measurement in our lifetime.