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The TV Data Initiative Is Looking to Streamline the TV Data Ecosystem

TV’s shift to streaming has allowed the industry to collect a vast amount of data, and that in turn has turned out to be both a blessing and a curse.

A blessing because it’s now much easier to get an exact read on who exactly is watching, when, where and on what device in order to more precisely target and measure advertising.

But a curse, because there are no common standards or definitions for TV data, which, given the number of different players in the space, tends to make using that data about as easy as herding cats.

Fortunately, help is on the way. A new consortium has been formed from among some of the leading players in the industry to try and make order out of chaos and to develop proposals that can help the industry to unlock the full potential of the new TV data ecosystem.

Dubbed The TV Data Initiative, the founding members: Blockgraph, DISH Media Eyeota, MadHive, TransUnion, TVSquared and VideoAmp are looking to work with the industry to develop clear definitions, best practices and other guidelines to make the TV data ecosystem more user friendly.

“The one thing we hear over and over again is that brands and agencies are excited about the availability of all this data, but unsure how to best make use of it,” notes Kevin Arrix, Senior Vice President, DISH Media. “Our aim here is to create a common framework for the way we engage with and talk about data so that everyone can feel confident they’re getting the most out of it, in a way that is transparent and privacy compliant.”

One key issue the consortium hopes to tackle is making it easy for advertisers to use a single data set to meet a range of business goals. “There’s no reason the same data set you use to plan your media buy with one company shouldn’t also be available to help you understand performance via another,” said Kristina Prokop, co-founder and CEO of Eyeota. “Marketers shouldn’t be forced to assemble new data sets every time they want to look at their marketing spend from a different perspective.”

Identity resolution in the TV space is one area in particular that the consortium is turning its focus, so as to make planning, targeting and measurement more seamless and privacy compliant across the TV ecosystem. “TV is often measured on the basis of households,” noted Matt Spiegel, Executive Vice President of Marketing Solutions at TransUnion. “Being able to attribute viewing and spending patterns to people is a big deal, which is why you need an accurate and persistent view of individuals and households throughout the process.” The goal, Spiegel explained, is to settle on a handful of robust interoperable identity platforms that work across the ecosystem, so that brands don’t need to implement a different system for every TV platform and vendor, a process that is both costly and inefficient.

In particular, the initiative is hoping to accomplish four main goals, explained noted industry expert Jon Watts, who is helping to oversee the project. 

  • A landscape overview of the data-driven TV ecosystem, with clear definitions and frameworks.
  • A review of the opportunities ahead, as advertisers look to data to identify and describe audiences for their campaigns, and the building blocks required to support these activities.
  • An analysis of the challenges and barriers currently facing different categories of industry participants, as they look to leverage data to support their campaigns and goals.
  • An assessment of the potential for new collective arrangements to support data sharing, matching and quality, improving the operation of the data-driven TV ecosystem in the 2020s.

Participants all stressed the need for increased collaboration in an industry with many diverse players.

“We need to work together to collectively develop solutions that solve for the television industry’s increasing complexity while addressing advertisers’ demand for data-driven solutions. All in a way that always puts privacy first,” said Jason Manningham, CEO of Blockgraph.

His sentiments were echoed by TVSquared President Jo Kinsella, who stressed the importance of creating uniformity as a way to unlock the potential of the new TV ecosystem, adding that “By working together, we can create a TV ecosystem that meets the needs of all players in the equation–advertisers and media owners, data providers and publishers. It’s a classic example of how a rising tide will lift all boats.”

In addition to a detailed research report due out this summer, the TV Data Initiative intends to hold a series of virtual conferences and seminars to present their findings and recommendations to the industry at large.

“It’s so important to get this right at the beginning,” said Adam Heflgott, CEO and Founder of MadHive. “If we can create uniformity and standardization now, when this whole ecosystem is still in its nascency, it will be so much easier for it to scale and grow. That way, we can ensure that the dollars really do follow the eyeballs to streaming.”

Our Take

Anything that gets everyone in the industry pulling in the same direction is much needed right now. If there’s a common theme we hear from just about everyone we talk to, it’s that everything is just so confusing. Which is understandable in an industry that was, until recently, largely relying on a single source of measurement that pulled from a fixed set of data inputs: age, gender and daypart.

To say the switch to the wide range of disparate inputs available in the streaming ecosystem is overwhelming would be an understatement. 

The complexity makes it challenging for advertisers to achieve anything resembling scale on data-driven TV campaigns, which then leads to the prospect of underinvestment at a time when more and more viewers are making the shift to streaming. 

The other reason a common language is necessary is privacy. Brands, programmers, hardware OEM’s and the ad tech providers they rely on all have far more personal information on our viewing and purchasing habits than ever before. If this data is to become useful to both the broader industry and to consumers, the industry needs a standardized way to use that data that fully protects consumers and ensures that their privacy is being maintained. That’s a moral imperative as much as a legal one, and the industry needs to ensure it is doing everything it can to maintain consumer’s trust.

As VideoAmp’s Jonathan Steuer, who is also spearheading this effort as an independent expert advisor, notes, “What’s happening now is too important to just leave it to chance. By pulling together voices from all corners of the industry, we can create a workable framework for today and for the years ahead.”