Cynopsis Presents: OTT Special Report

Cathy Applefeld Olson


Think OTT, act locally. This could well be the new slogan among advertisers in a market where consumers no longer distinguish between linear and OTT viewing environments, and where the latter is magnetically drawing more and more viewers by the week.
The onslaught of premium digital video services—many of them ad-supported or with an AVOD tier, and all with enhanced targeting abilities—provides a ripe opportunity for local advertisers. According to a July 2019 report from eMarketer over 218M U.S. Adults are projected to stream OTT video services by 2022, resulting in +65% of the U.S. population. 
“The definition of what ‘local’ is has pivoted with technology,” says Rachel Williamson, President of Gamut, a media company specializing in local OTT advertising solutions, owned by Cox Media Group.
Four years ago, “we started developing deep relationships with premium content providers and began to marry national content within local markets. This helped our local clients reach a bigger audience and complemented what they were doing with their local linear content,” she says.
As linear TV viewership continues to decline and OTT consumption increases, advertisers are looking to maintain the reach of their local media buys in the markets that matter most to them.  In fact, eMarketer reports a +20% OTT user audience growth comparing 2019 vs. 2014 (an increase of 34.71M viewers).
To that end, local OTT ad revenue is on track to rise 43 percent in 2019 to $857 million, and reach $2.13 billion in 2024, according to new research from BIA Advisory Services. “OTT offers a considerable opportunity for broadcasters to grow revenue,” noted BIA CEO Tom Buono. “As consumers shift their viewing habits, it’s an opportunity to extend the value of traditional over-the-air content.”
In the Mix

Buying advertising in the OTT and direct-to-consumer video universe, and measuring campaign results, remains a less than perfect scenario. And the process can be trickier for local campaigns, which typically are backed by more complex executions. But as options unfold, agencies and brands increasingly either are setting aside budgets specifically for local OTT ads or incorporating it heavily in their media mix.
“Because audience consumption is so quickly changing, you really need OTT as a strategy within your portfolio to truly hit the scale and full marketplace in local video,” says Williamson. “We look at OTT as a complement to linear television in creating a fully inclusive video strategy.”
Williamson says as OTT services multiply, the greatest opportunity at Gamut is “being able to work directly with the content providers and the platforms directly to try to aggregate as much scale as possible. That way, we can start to understand how to deliver to the audiences that aren’t being reached by cable any longer, or incremental reach to what the local broadcast affiliates are able to deliver.”
According to eMarketer’s July 2019 report, over 4M HH’s have cancelled their traditional cable/satellite service this year and currently there are 40.2M HHs that are either cord-cutters or cord-nevers. This group of “Non-Pay TV” households is expected to grow to 56.1M by 2023.

The proof is in the activations. In three recent studies by Cox Custom Research using a MarketCube Panel, OTT advertising drove a significant lift in intent to purchase.  Specifically, Gamut saw a 15 percent lift for a travel destination, a 40 percent lift for a CPG client, and a 130 percent lift for a retail client.

Additionally, in two recent ACR (Automated Content Recognition) studies, Gamut OTT advertising drove incremental lift in intent to purchase for viewers who saw the ad solely in the OTT universe. Ads viewed by consumers who were not also exposed to the television campaign drove a lift of 90 percent for a tier II auto advertiser and a lift of 90 percent for a QSR advertiser.

Digital technology is an asset. OTT services can, for example, use a viewer’s IP address to determine their location, a boon for brands looking to make local impact. “The technology behind all things digital and the OTT landscape really does support a dynamic flow of advertising while maintaining that big screen in the living room for the user,” says Jill Steinhauser, SVP, ad sales revenue and planning, at Discovery Inc.

The market provides “a really great opportunity now to find their local audiences at scale, and create a really rich experience for the clients as well as the viewer in sending a nice targetable message to them,” Steinhauser adds. “You can do that fairly seamlessly in OTT in terms of the dynamic ad insertion piece.”

Steinhauser says Discovery supports some 150-200 devices and different versions of devices that are considered OTT. The early days of its ascent “reminded us at Discovery of the early days of mobile, where you spend hours and hours thinking about how you’re going to serve ads on those platforms,” she says.

Yet while it took the mobile market five to seven years to sort out ad solutions, “with OTT a lot of companies are figuring that out fairly quickly,” she says. “They’re focusing on it, hiring appropriately and putting investment behind it to find the best vendors. Where the audience is going is typically where the marketplace follows from an infrastructure perspective as well.”

Measurement Mania

The missing link remains measurement. “The only thing really holding it back from true explosive growth or even going completely cross-platform is the measurement on these OTT services,” Steinhauser says. “It’s not holistic enough.”
While she acknowledges the industry is “making strides every day,” Steinhauser says it will take an integrated effort. “It will take the entire industry, from content providers, measurement services, device manufacturers and aggregators to really force the issue forward and get it done,” she says. On the positive, she notes, “Digital is not predicated on one currency, i.e., Nielsen, like linear is—so it’s going to deal with multiple currencies, which is a good thing. It allows a little more flexibility on measurement.”
Williamson says as technology advances, “more of what were talking about now are targeting and accountability metrics. I always pause when it comes to saying attribution, because in my opinion that takes you down all the way to the lower funnel and what these premium video assets are best for are branding and consideration—more upper-funnel tactics. So what we need to do as an industry is make them more accountable.”
A key function to Gamut’s concierge work with clients, she says, is offering guidance about what exactly to measure and parse. “I often say to clients, ‘Just because we can measure it doesn’t mean we should.’ We’re very new in some ways and so are the attribution models because they were traditionally made for digital, mobile and desktop driven media in a one-to-one model.
“But TV is an on-the-wall viewing environment, at the household level,” she adds. “The industry is getting better at what metrics should be measured, how we get more accountability, what methodologies are adequate and true—we still have some work to get done there, but those are a lot of the conversations we have with clients.”

Winter Is Coming

This fourth quarter and into early next year will see an onslaught of new OTT services. Some, like NBCU’s Peacock, are entering the market as ad-supported services. And while others, including WarnerMedia’s HBO Max and Disney+, are launching as subscription services, many in the industry believe they eventually will add an ad-supported tier as have some of their predecessors.
“Over time, most of the streamers will have to open to advertising in their platforms as they see how difficult it is to build subscribers,” Bruce Gersh, president of People, Entertainment Weekly, People en Espanol and Four M Studios/Meredith, said at the recent Cynopsis Big TV conference.
“I see such an opportunity as people start to experiment with the content libraries,” Williamson says. “I think we’ll see more cord-cutters and cord-nevers as the younger generations mature into our key buying demos. That’s where I see the opportunity in OTT growing.”
”There is a lot to choose from, so the viewership will be fragmented, and a lot of the services will end up with an ad-supported layer,” Steinhauser says. “Introducing ads into these services needs to be done very carefully ie, what Hulu has done, what ESPN+ has done. You need to be really protective of your consumer base, making sure subscribers have the best experience you can give them.”
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