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Unified Ad Platform Plans Could Signal Disney’s Strongest Push Yet Into Video Ad Wars

Streaming video is a multi-front war at this point, and while Disney’s been heavily involved in the content side of things to-date, they hadn’t really entered the advertising front just yet. However, it appears that’s about to change.

Tuesday’s news that Disney will start a new “Advertising Platforms” team has the long-term potential to make the company an OTT advertising contender on par with Roku, Amazon or Google. While the move is initially set up to be a merger between its advertising technology and product arms across streaming and linear properties, Disney’s stated some organizational goals including a unified, company-wide ad platform.

This goal is where Disney begins to take on those bigger TV technology names. Without a unified ad platform at current, it’s a lot harder to create consumer profiles across services like Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+ and linear TV networks. By consolidating its advertising under one roof, you can not only make ads more valuable for the services and/or networks it appears on, but also make “ad-free” services like Disney+ and Disney Channel more valuable to the addressable advertising ecosystem you create around each individual household.

In its announcement, Disney says that addressability and attribution are major motivators behind the move — something that ultimately makes advertising with the company and its properties far more valuable. Being able to target ads to consumers based on viewing preferences for one service is good. Doing so across numerous services and potentially linear creates a much more wholistic view of a consumer that becomes a major value-add for brands and consumers alike. Earlier in June, Disney Advertising Sales President Rita Ferro told Variety that it wanted advertisers to buy Hulu and TV networks together. This would certainly make that more enticing.

Also notable in Tuesday’s announcement was how this information will make for both more targeted ads, and more “viewer-first advertising experiences” and new formats. Hulu’s one of many streaming services that’s pushed interactive new ad formats in recent years as a way to show more differentiation (and value) vs. linear TV. With better data, that should figure even more heavily into future strategies for that platform, as well as ESPN+.

While current players in the space like Amazon, Roku and Google are aiming to gain an advantage centering around the user interface, and advertising according to what viewers watch on a given device, those don’t include the same links to linear that Disney will be able to offer advertisers with a unified ad group. Where Disney could ultimately wind up competing more is with the likes of TV device manufacturers like VIZIO and Samsung, which are able to advertise direct-to-device based on viewing habits regardless of what, exactly, the audience is watching. TV[R]EV’s Alan Wolk recently discussed how those companies are positioned vs. Roku/Amazon/Google (and sometimes Apple), for some additional context there.

We don’t know what timing looks like for Disney’s eventual unified ad platform, but at least on paper, it seems sure to be a major step forward for addressable advertising — and a strong statement for the company in the streaming ad wars overall. As always, it’s perhaps wise to bet on Disney figuring out how to alter its business to make the most money possible. They’ve really yet to be stopped from doing so, after all.