Viewing of premium video is certainly fragmented. But the same holds true for selling ad inventory programmatically, regardless of whether “pipes are connected” from the desktop all the way to set-top box video on demand.

“There are different levels of maturity in terms of the ease or liquidity of programmatic transactions and there are different challenges across each of them,” says Neil Smith, who handles programmatic digital as SVP, Markets, at the industry’s most complete advertising management system FreeWheel.

With many publishers of premium desktop inventory sold programmatically, it’s less about infrastructure and audiences. In a broad ecosystem with lots of long-tail, non-premium video, the big concerns are “how do you surface the right information and package that inventory up so that advertisers can find that inventory that meets their needs and ultimately really extracts more value from the inventory,” Smith says in this interview with Beet.TV.

On the other end of the spectrum are set-top box VOD and OTT platforms. With the former, “all of the pipes aren’t even connected yet,” Smith says. “We’re still at that stage of enabling dynamic ad insertion in those platforms so you can even engage in programmatic transactions.”

Things are a bit better with OTT devices but measurement is limited. “So we have kind of a fragmented world in terms of viewership but also very fragmented in terms of capabilities.”

Within FreeWheel’s customer base, most view programmatic as “a transaction model,” Smith says. While traditional insertion orders supplement programmatic channels, “When they’re doing it through programmatic channels, they’re definitely gravitating more to private marketplaces.”

Reasons for this include personal relationships between buyers and sellers and sellers seeking unique information about inventory to match up with their objectives. “We do see publishers start to dabble with the more open world, but it’s done using as much control as possible with regard to what inventory is made available and what information about that inventory is made available,” Smith explains.

One of the challenges of expanding OTT device inventory in a fully open market is a lack of information about the inventory—owing partly to a lack of personal relationships. “If you don’t have all of those audience measurement capabilities that you can pass, the buying in an open marketplace is much more difficult,” Smith says. “We’re seeing some success with desktop there, but really for the platforms that are emerging that almost has to be sold through private marketplaces today.”

Another emerging trend Smith notes is programmatic guarantees involving “the idea of a traditional Upfront deal that’s executed on an IO basis” but run through “a programmatic pipe.”

Asked where things might progress in the next 12 months, Smith hopes for less fragmented programmatic capabilities and better measurement, leading to convergence of linear and other premium video “so that publishers can monetize it as a unified pool but also marketers can access their target audience across any screen.”

He believes that FreeWheel both from the digital and linear side “is in a great position to make that happen for the ecosystem.”

This interview was recorded in Manhattan as part of the Comcast/FreeWheel 2017 U.S. Client Summit “Unifying The New TV Ecosystem.” This series of videos from the summit is presented by FreeWheel.