Rovi’s Jon Hewson on the Rise of the Connected TV Ad Network

Rovi LogoIf you work in online advertising, the chances are you see opportunities for ad networks everywhere. You see a web designer with a list of clients working in a particular vertical? Build an ad network. You stream video content for publishers? Build an ad network. You develop apps for connected TVs? Build an ad network. However, at least most of the time, those ad networks either don’t happen or the inventory is handed over to third party networks or exchanges. Rovi, however, are a company that saw the opportunity and took the plunge themselves.

Aggregating supply was relatively easy: Rovi is already a large NAZDAQ corporation specialising in connected TV search, discovery and licensing, so it already had relationships with the owners of  the leading electronic programme guides (EPGs) that it provides on a white label basis. Rovi’s metadata technology is used by several of the top tech and ecommerce players including Spotify, Shazam, Google, Amazon, and the iTunes Store. Then there’s the CE partners who work with Rovi to improve their EPGs, such as Samsung, Sony, Panasonic and Toshiba. Jon Hewson, EMEA Advertising Director at Rovi, says, “Roughly 80 percent of the time, anywhere around the world where someone is pressing a guide button, it will enable some sort of Rovi technology or Rovi patents”.

Rovi’s connected TV ad network is based around custom display ads (standard IAB display formats won’t work) that appear on connected TV electronic-programme guides (EPGs). “Standardisation is an area we want to pioneer so we have standard creative sizes and ad units across all manufacturers. If you make it easy for the advertiser to buy, they’ll buy. But as things stand, we’re doing a huge amount of the heavy-lifting when it comes to deploying campaigns. We have to manually produce 30 or 40 versions of each advert to serve across all of the different devices.”

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On clicking the ad the viewer is then taken through to a microsite that might contain additional video content, surveys etc. Hewson says the EPG is a great place to serve contextual ads, “People are leaning forward, engaged and actively looking for something to watch,” he says. “In the US, these units have been used to great effect by entertainment companies to promote TV show, but in Europe we’ve seen all sorts of advertisers expressing an interest in testing connected TV. I think market directors now realise they have to connect with the consumer wherever they’re spending their time, and new opportunities are opening up beyond traditional TV advertising.”

While connected TV advertising is perceived as being a sibling of regular TV advertising, it can also be used as a direct response channel to promote apps and content in a way that mobile ads are commonly used today (see the ad for Red Bull above).

Advertising on connected TV EPGs becomes even more important when you consider the lack of alternatives. While connected TV is online, it’s not a conventional part of the web, and so content and app owners don’t have access to their usual digital marketing tools. On connected TV, you can’t link in to your content via social or find users via search engines, nor can you run standard display or video campaigns. So advertising on the EPG is one of the very few in-platform options open to advertisers.

One of the big hopes for people working in connected TV is that it will liberate content owners and allow them to go straight to the consumer. Hewson is convinced apps are the set to become the new channels and thinks the UK’s leading broadcasters are leading the way. “BBC iPlayer has set the standard for connected TV. It’s so easy to use and everyone is already familiar with the web version, so it’s intuitive and they know what to expect.”

Hewson says the connected TV ad network is just the beginning and that the focus is very much on building a multichannel ad network. “We’re already working with four of the leading manufacturers and we’re looking at partnering with more, as well as helping to monetise the apps themselves. The VOD market is obviously growing rapidly so we’re also looking at building our own video advertising technology. Then we’re also looking at how we can flip our current model and run ads on multiple devices.”

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