European Broadcasters are Still Interested in Building a Joint Ad Tech Stack says SevenOne Media’s Mittnacht

As broadcasters continue to form alliances and cooperatives to compete against global giants, ProSiebenSat.1 has been one of the more active players on this front – the company is as a founding member of the European Broadcaster Exchange, and was part of a joint bid for Videology earlier this year. VAN spoke to Dr. Jens Mittnacht, managing director of ProSiebenSat.1’s SevenOne Media, to hear about how he sees these alliances evolving, as well as how ProSieben’s addressable TV advertising offering is developing. 

How is ProSiebenSat.1’s tech stack shaping up?
ProSieben has bought a few tech driven companies over the past few years, the biggest of which is Virtual Minds. Virtual Minds was basically the market leader for ad tech in Germany after Google, and they offer a complete tech stack – for example a DSP [demand-side platform], an SSP [supply-side platform], an ad server, a DMP [data management platform] and attribution. Of course ProSieben uses this for digital advertising, as do a lot of other companies in Germany. We also use it for addressable TV, where we use it exclusively, and currently we’re starting to pilot linear programmatic TV advertising using Virtual Minds.

What the key motivation for this investment in tech, to power ProSieben’s media sales or for diversification of revenue?
We see it really as an enabler for monetising our inventory. We had a lot of trouble when customers used DBM [DoubleClick Bid Manager], and that’s why RTL and ProSieben decided to stop selling our video ads to DBM. So now we use our own DSP, Active Agent, which sits within Virtual Minds. It’s working very well for us as it’s not biased and its neutral. It’s especially useful for addressable TV as that becomes more and more important -if you want to book addressable TV in Germany, Active Agent is the only company that can do that right now.

How is ProSieben’s addressable TV advertising offering looking right now?
We have two products at the moment. There’s our SwitchIn overlay product, which isn’t video yet, but is a display overlay on linear TV when you switch to our channels. That is already scaling in Germany because you can do it via HbbTV. We reach more than 10 million devices, so we make really sizeable revenues from this product.

But of course the bigger fantasy is a spot overlay product, and we’re really happy that we’ve already made that work on HbbTV 1.5. A lot of people though it wasn’t possible from a technical standpoint, but we’ve made it work. We’ve now run our first spot overlay campaign on about four million HbbTV 1.5 devices in Germany. So we’re very lucky we’ve cracked that, and now we of course want to scale it further.

Are there barriers to addressable TV advertising in Germany, either in terms of device penetration or regulations?
No, we are lucky in Germany for two reasons. The first is that HbbTV penetration is pretty high, and we don’t need any partners to run those campaigns – we don’t need to talk to cable operators with their set-top boxes or IPTV providers, we can basically use the technology as we want.

And the second is that German regulators see it as a digital product, because its done by an ad server, so regulation isn’t so strict and we can experiment with how we use it.

ProSieben was part of a reported joint bid for Videology earlier this year, alongside other broadcasters. Will be see other, similar initiatives in the future?

I think so. We think it makes a lot of sense that European broadcasters should work together and create their own joint tech stack. Some broadcasters do own pieces of that – for example we own Virtual Minds, and RTL owns a few interesting companies like SpotX and Smartclip. So yes, I think there is interest in having one joint broadcaster ad tech system. Controlling the demand side for broadcasters in particular seems very important.

The Videology bid was part of this idea, but very much driven by ITV in the UK market, because Videology is much more important in the UK than Germany.

How important is the European Broadcaster Exchange (EBX) to ProSieben right now?
As I said, we believe there should be much more cooperation between European broadcasters, probably both on the tech side and on the sales side. And EBX is a starting point for that, a nucleus for us to work together around. It’s very important for us because it’s a place where ProSieben, Channel 4, TF1 and Mediaset can align on topics, and can work together on technological development. From a sales standpoint it’s not huge yet of course, but we think it has pretty big potential for video and also for addressable TV. It will take some time to scale, but there’s commitment from the broadcasters to make it work.

Do you think we’ll see more cooperatives emerging within markets? ProSieben for example is working with Discovery to create what you describe unified German streaming platform, is there appetite from broadcaster to work with direct competitors within their own markets?
I think it’s happening in lots of countries because broadcasters realise they need to work together to be able to compete against global giants. At least in the German market, the main players understand this, and ProSieben is totally open to working with everyone. So that’s why we’re working on this ‘German Hulu’, at the moment with Discovery and hopefully in the future also with RTL and the public-service broadcasters.

What’s the current state of unified measurement in Germany?
There are several initiatives at the moment – there are panel based initiatives looking to bring unified measurement between TV and video. I hope they take off, though we’ve seen some delays there. There are also some interesting things you can do on the technical side. So for example Virtual Minds has developed a service where you can match TV devices with digital devices in households using IP matching, and then via HbbTV you can also track which households have seen a spot and which haven’t. Then you can do interesting things like targeting households that haven’t seen a certain spot on TV with an ad on another device instead.

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