Demystifying Connected TV for Media Buyers

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The phrase “Connected TV” and abbreviation “OTT” draws different emotions from media buyers. Some are nervous, frustrated and confused while others are excited, confident and understanding. If you are in that first group or are just continually interested in the state of advertising on Connected TV inventory, this is for you. We hope to demystify Connected TV (CTV) as a whole and empower you to begin planning with success.

Technical Inventory Types and Formats

Let’s start with the basics. What are the standard types? You can get caught up in trying to understand the difference between CTV and OTT, but we recommend focusing on the viewing behavior of the consumer rather than how that content is sourced. This will help lay a framework for where to begin your CTV/OTT media planning and trafficking journey.

Connected TV Types

vMVPD (Virtual multichannel video programming distributor) Also known as virtual cable. FuboTV, PhiloTV Live, SlingTV, DirecTV Now and Hulu Live are examples but you can also buy inventory for individual channels from those providers. A way to digitally stream linear TV while it is airing live. Audiences use this method instead of buying cable every month and get to choose the content they want to consume. Takeaway: There is a larger variety of people in these groups since you can consume multiple different types of content, instead of individual publishers or pre-set channels like if consumers 
AVOD (Advertising Video On Demand) YouTube, TubiTV, The Roku Channel, PlutoTV, Vudu, Hulu, PhiloTV and Crackle are examples. A way to have free access to on-demand video content with ads distributed throughout the content at regular intervals. The subscription (SVOD) version of this type does not allow for ads and includes Netflix, HBO Max, Prime Video, Disney+, AppleTV+ and Discovery+.
TVE (TV Everywhere) Allows those who pay for traditional cable to log into specific apps and watch a specific channels’ TV content from there.  These apps can be found on many types of devices, like Roku and Apple TV, and include ABC, A&E, AMC, TNT, FOX and more.  

Connected TV Formats

Long Form The provided video content is longer than 10+ minutes and is also known as “Full Episode Player” (FEP). Generally it is 20 - 60 minutes given the length of most episodic content. This format can be watched on a Smart TV, connected device, mobile phone and desktop computer, so this is where the devices vs. content is tricky. The device will dictate what reporting metrics are available, like clicks and conversions. Pro tip: This format sees very high completion rates and ~100% viewability. Beware of applying viewability settings in any platform though as it is not measured the way traditional viewability is. 
Short Form The provided video content is less than 10 minutes and is sometimes referred to as “Shorts.” Generally, there isn’t too much room for ad space, so scale is less than long-form videos.  Examples include highlights on ESPN, YouTube, Cinedigm, ZMG and ABC. Pro tip: Be sure to include mobile devices for this type of content.
Streaming Content is shown to consumers in real-time as opposed to “on-demand” This is an incredibly competitive space, so be ready to see the highest CPMs (We have seen up to $75) for this type of content. It’s nearly impossible to forecast accurately and generally sees a fairly low scale. Other options include using day-parting to help facilitate the right times to bid during an event. Try to avoid layering on as much targeting as possible


Note: If you are still curious about the difference between CTV and OTT, don’t fret. Simply put, CTV is the hardware or device used to watch content (i.e. Smart TV, Gaming Console, Roku, Amazon Firestick, etc.) and OTT is TV-like content consumed over the internet, regardless of the device used (i.e. Hulu on your desktop, mobile device or CTV device) so think like “over the top” of your network provider.

Publisher Inventory Types

Audiences can watch connected television content through a subscription-based service or an ad-supported service. Subscription-based services include Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV+, and Discovery+ and do not offer an opportunity for your ads to serve as they are not ad supported. 

Ad-supported services (as the name suggests) do allow for your ad to serve and this inventory can be found in Display & Video 360 (DV360). Examples include content suppliers like YouTube, Roku, SlingTV, PlutoTV, TubiTV, Vudu, UNIFD and Samsung TV Plus and content creators like Disney-Hulu properties, Discovery INC, FloSports, CBS, A&E, CNN and Univision NOW.

Pro tip: Reach out to video exchanges like SpotX to curate a group of CTV publishers to target in one deal ID, or Xandr to save you the time of reaching out to every publisher for a deal ID.

The Latest DV360 Update, 3p Audiences!

Identifier for Advertisers (IFA) audiences are becoming more adopted throughout the industry! Google recently announced “3P partners have all met our policy standards for using IFA-based audience lists” so DV360 media buyers can now serve audience-targeted ads across TV screens while ensuring viewer privacy is upheld. Search “LiveRamp Data Store” and “CTV audiences by Nielsen” in the Audience List Targeting section of your Line Items to explore the available segments and get started.

For context, TV screens don’t use cookies or device IDs like desktop and mobile devices do to identify, target and measure audiences. Industry players have been developing their own identifiers based on IP addresses and publisher specific-IDs to solve for this. However, IP addresses are considered PII, do not provide users control over tracking and are a challenge for accuracy. Plus,  publisher-specific IDs don’t easily allow for cross-publisher tracking. 

So Google adopted the use of an IFA, which is different in each device and is completely disconnected from a hardware ID, MAC address, IMEI or IP address that provides device identification. IFAs track performance and audiences for CTV campaigns in a privacy-safe way so you can feel good about maintaining your CTV strategies in 2021 and beyond.

YouTube TV vs YouTube CTV

DV360 is a strong, unique platform for buyers as it has inventory for YouTube and just about every third-party CTV/OTT opportunity as well! Taking it a step further, YouTube has two offerings for audiences to watch content: YouTube TV and YouTube on TV screens (aka CTV).

YouTube TV is purchased through a Preferred deal secured via a client's Google Ads point of contact. Reach out to them for targeting, pricing, and next steps.
YouTube Connected TV inventory is readily available in the open auction through the standard YouTube Line Item workflow. Buyers can most efficiently activate this inventory by decreasing the bid adjustments in a Line Item for Mobile, Desktop, and Tablet by 100% and leaving Connected TV at 0%. Google audiences are compatible so feel free to carry over your Display audiences into your CTV strategies.

Pro-Tip: According to an IAS study from October 2020, “YouTube is consumers' preferred ad-supported CTV service,” so be sure to include YouTube in your CTV media plans for maximum reach.

We’ve Navigated This Before

Still Need Help? Our expert Programmatic Media team is ready to solve any issues for you. We can plan your campaign, handle all campaign trafficking and tagging, negotiate publisher deals, and optimize and report on your campaigns. We do the heavy lifting and you get results you can brag about. We also offer consulting options if you want to manage it yourself but have a little guidance. Contact us to get started.