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WEEK IN REVIEW: OAR and Nielsen Show Off Demos At CES, Verizon Tries Some Lighter Bundles

1. OAR and Nielsen Show Off Demos At CES

So CES is over and while everyone was SMH-ing (STH-ing?) about Quibi and their cringey rotating phone screens, our attention was on the giant TV screens that were showing off the future of addressable TV advertising. (Someone should write a report about that… Oh, wait.)

Both Project OAR and Nielsen showed off demos of their linear addressable technology this week, bringing networks linear addressable that much closer to real.

The demos both rely on ACR (automatic content recognition) technology to allow programmers to insert targeted ads in place of the ads that the entire audience was slated to see which allows TV networks to sell addressable ads on their own inventory without having to involve their mortal enemies, the MVPDs. 

On a macro level this allows brands to achieve a variety of goals:

  • Gain incremental reach by supplementing existing buys with more targeted ones.
  • Add linear TV advertising to their media plans by only paying for the limited targeted audience they want to reach
  • Prevent an ad from being served to a user who has just seen it multiple times on a streaming service. (This one will require more cooperation between services to actually achieve, but it’s doable and it’s something brands really want, bigger national brands who spend billions in particular, so there’s that.)

The OAR demo even used live feeds from several networks, a brand new step for the consortium and for addressable overlay technology in general.

Nielsen and OAR also announced new partnership agreements—the former around a beta with a group of broadcast and cable networks, the latter around ad tech providers and actual specs. You can read about them in detail at the links we’ve so graciously provided at the start of this paragraph, but the key takeaway is that the largest players in the TV space— the CBS’s and Freewheels—are continuing to take this all seriously.

Why It Matters

Just about every TV related panel at CES, regardless of the actual title, seemed to circle back to the theme of addressable TV advertising, how it was coming on strong this year and why it mattered.

While the world of addressable TV advertising also includes CTV and MVPD VOD, the sort of linear network addressable that uses ACR to avoid having to deal with MVPD set top boxes is something that has not previously been feasible, which is why it is such a big deal.

It also gives brands the ability to buy addressable as part of both linear and on-demand buys and begins to acknowledge the fact that actually buying addressable TV advertising of any sort is still a cluster fuck of the highest order and while this is a start, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done before it’s sorted out.

That said, getting this far is indeed a big deal for the industry and probably the most notable TV-related news to come out of CES.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re a brand marketer, it’s time to start taking linear addressable seriously and looking to see where it can fit into your plans.

If you’re a cable or broadcast network, you’re going to want a piece of this too or you’ll be giving up serious ad revenue.

If you’re OAR and Nielsen, first you need to take a bow for getting this far, and then you need to coordinate efforts. It won’t necessarily be easy, but it will be the way that linear addressable can achieve the sort of scale it needs to go from experimental budget to real budget.

If you’re a network exec, a brand marketer or you work for an ad agency and there’s any part of the addressable TV universe that you find confusing—we’ve got your back.

DOWNLOAD THE TV[R]EV SPECIAL REPORT ON ADDRESSABLE TV ADVERTISING NOW

2. Verizon Tries Some Lighter Bundles

Verizon, which has been very hesitant to take part in any sort of content play as it recovers from the many, many, many missteps its previous CEO made in that arena (Go90, Oath, et al) announced that it was going to offer FIOS customers some mildly skinny bundles that they would be able to subscribe to on a monthly basis, in what is clearly an attempt to head off cord cutting.

Why It Matters

Verizon’s bundles aren’t really all that skinny: they are priced at $50, $70 and $90/month and that’s before you add on a set top box for $12/month, which brings the pricing to $62 for the cheapest bundle, $86 for that same bundle if you have three TVs.

(This is actually fairly baffling: the $432 you’d pay each year for three Verizon set top boxes will cost you more than this brand new 55-inch VIZIO 4K smart TV.)

In addition, Verizon also offers YouTube TV’s vMVPD service at $50/month (which is exactly what it would cost you if you didn’t get it through Verizon) and the possibility of a single bill aside, it’s unclear why Verizon is pushing YouTubeTV over other vMVPDs, given that Google isn’t cutting their customers any kind of a deal.

But what’s important here is that it’s step one to something you can find in our 2020 predictions (it’s #5): the launch of the Super Skinny Bundle as a hedge against cord cutting. 

Now granted Verizon’s bundles aren’t all that skinny. And when I tried to go on the site to see which channels were included, they did that thing we’d also predicted—tried to get me to upgrade my broadband speed from 100mbps to 400mbps for an extra $10/month since broadband is pure profit for them—but it’s definitely a start, and the fact that these are monthly contracts that you can dip in and out of at will is also telling, though it will be interesting to see how long that piece lasts once The Great Rebundling starts and yearly contracts make a comeback.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re an MVPD, you should probably look into doing something similar to Verizon—monthly contracts and smaller bundles—and prepare for a world where your viewers are all in on the FASTS and the Flixes and want SuperSkinny cable bundles with just the broadcast networks and maybe 24-hours news and local sports.

If you’re a cable network and you’re not as well loved as say HGTV or CNN, and your ratings are definitely tanking, maybe it’s time to think about Plan B: market yourself as a studio of sorts, producing 10-15 hours of originals each week for one or more Flixes.

If you’re a consumer, this is a good time to renegotiate your pay TV service—there will be deals.