How OTT Is the Next Frontier for Consent Everywhere


Brian KaneAs the targeted advertising on connected TV and over-the-top (OTT) platforms continues to grow, there are obstacles that need to be overcome for obtaining consent from audiences for use of their personal data. Here Brian Kane, COO and founder of Sourcepoint, outlines the main challenges around collecting consent on OTT platforms.

Video content consumption continues to grow globally — with over-the-top (OTT) platforms and connected TV (CTV) leading the pack. The OTT / streaming video market is expected to double in size to $72.8 billion by 2023. However, with the onset of data privacy regulations like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the US, media platforms need to ensure legal compliance. This brings a host of challenges and considerations to be incorporated into the rapidly growing market .

Digital video consumption rates have been increasing year-on-year, due in no small part to the improved portability of device and streaming options. It’s a common sight to see commuters watching digital video on the train, or kids at restaurants watching entire movies on their tablets. We are all accustomed to viewing content across multiple devices — and locations. 

But in a world where viewers increasingly consume video on a variety of devices in multiple locations, keeping track of their consent everywhere is a necessity. After all, we expect our viewing preferences to go wherever we go – why shouldn’t our privacy preferences?

Because of its powerful targeting capabilities, advertisers have responded favourably to the rise of digital video. More and more OTT inventory is being traded programmatically, and in contrast to linear TV buying, the audience-based buying that’s possible with OTT is especially appealing to marketers because of attribution. 

Identity, Privacy and Personalisation

Companies are working to resolve identity and targeting for OTT and CTV. Media owners want to enrich their direct sales inventory so that buyers can have more granular detail about their audiences. There has been a rush to develop new technology to capture as many details as possible about viewing habits, including companies in the data and attribution space — and even products that can detect the number of people in a room when a programme is streaming to avoid wasting ad spend on an empty room. 

The advertisers who adopt these new technologies will see improved consumer targeting and potentially greater ad effectiveness, which ultimately results in better monetisation for OTT publishers. But to achieve this level of targeting, and drive key performance metrics, it will be imperative for all stakeholders to meet the changing privacy requirements and apply the same level of rigour surrounding respectful use of consumer data in the OTT environment.   

In Europe, GDPR requires OTT providers to gain explicit consent for data collection and to empower viewers to choose how their data is used and shared. The focus of regulators has so far been on traditional ad tech players – including Google’s £44m fine – but broadcasters and OTT platforms have to make sure robust consent procedures are in place, not only for GDPR but for other incoming regulations globally.

Stateside, the impending CCPA doesn’t explicitly mention apps, CTV or OTT, but it’s widely acknowledged — and inevitable — that the regulation will require publishers on these digital platforms to comply. Whether it’s for consent or supporting user requests to opt out of the sale of personal data,planning for this should happen immediately so platforms can build an optimal experience for their audiences. 

Furthermore, the OTT industry relies heavily on online identifiers such as IP addresses or device IDs, not just for targeted advertising, but for video delivery, analytics, and even content recommendations. The IAB Tech Lab recently introduced a new Identifier For Advertising (IFA), specifically for OTT environments. Under new data privacy regulations, these identifiers are considered personal information, compelling providers to obtain explicit consent to use for these specific purposes. 

One challenge for publishers will be how to preserve a consumer’s preference across all their devices, not just when they’re viewing on CTV but also when streaming via their phone, tablet or other device. The increasingly fragmented and portable content consumption experience requires durable consent to allow companies to preserve the user’s privacy preferences across logged-in environments, as well as open up greater targeting opportunities for advertisers. 

The complexity of the OTT environment highlights the need for publishers operating within it to be savvy, to start thinking about the technology that will ensure they’re operating compliantly within the boundaries of the regulations. This technology needs to be implemented now at the foundation stage to support the growth of their business within the industry. Ultimately, a single interface which connects a user’s preferences across multiple environments – not just OTT– is what would allow consumers to take control of their viewing experience in a compliant way. 

As GDPR and other data regulations such as the CCPA become commonplace, managing privacy preferences must be a central consideration in OTT. With issues of complexity, identity, and responsibility to overcome, the developing industry needs a flexible and extensible framework that allows media companies to manage and apply consent preferences across all platforms, OTT and otherwise.


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