2019 appears to have marked the year when TV providers and their technology vendors have come to a critical realization – that individual innovation on advertiser offerings is great but, without commonality across the industry, the opportunity will necessarily be limited.

That is why we have begun to see a range of collaborations, consortia and industry associations all come together, in pursuit of scale. It is the ultimate test of the “all boats will rise” idea.

In this panel discussion at Beet Retreat In The City, two such executives discussed how they are embarking on just such initiatives:

  • OpenAP CEO David Levy – the Fox/Viacom/NBC Universal/Univision addressable ad data consortium has now launched a marketplace.
  • Inscape sales and marketing SVP Jodie McAfee – the ad targeting unit of TV maker Vizio has launched a technology consortium, Project OAR.

They were interviewed by Janus Insights & Strategy president Howard Shimmel…

Project OAR starts paddling

Led by Inscape, which uses automated content recognition (ACR) in internet-connected Vizio TVs to understand what viewers are watching, Project OAR aims to define technical standards for TV programmers and platforms to deliver targeted advertising in linear and on-demand formats on smart TVs.

The founding members include Disney Media Networks (which includes ABC, ESPN and Freeform), Comcast’s FreeWheel and NBCUniversal, Discovery, CBS, AT&T’s Xandr and WarnerMedia’s Turner, Hearst Television and AMC Networks.

“The media landscape is littered with the dead carcasses of consortiums that have failed,” McAfee told Shimmel for Beet.TV. “We had seen previous attempts at trying to get to scale that really were, in our mind, rigid in that it was trying to force an entire industry into a single solution.

“The way to scale is flexibility and interoperability and the idea of building sort of a core building block.”

OAR trials early 2020

“Every one (of our members), over the course of the last … year and a half, has leaned in very hard. We get at least 25 to 30 participants in all of our meetings,” McAfee said.

“There are four big OEMs, we’re one, there are three others that shall remain nameless. We will probably be rolling out some trials at the first of the year. We think the next tipping point in terms of getting the other OEMs to join is when it’s real and so we’re sort of sitting back and not really pushing very hard on them.

“We will have a workable, a working product by the first of the year and when our members start pushing inventory through that product, the proof will be in that pudding.”

back when Canoe 1.0 launched, there wasn’t the existential threat of Facebook and Amazon and Netflix and Google. And so I think our members know that they have to work together in order to combat that.

Don’t go it alone

Such joined-up thinking is music to the ears of David Levy. The former Fox executive is now CEO of OpenAP, the two-year-old consortium involving Fox, Viacom, NBC Universal and Univision which harmonizes how they define audience segments that are used by ad buyers who want to buy across outlets.

Speaking on the panel, he recanted tales where going it alone didn’t pan out.

“Whether it was true[X] or Fox, every new thing that we did, regardless if it worked, if we were trying to just go up that hill on our own, it was difficult for agencies to invest a big amount to do something new, with just one of us,” he said.

“We’re now all compromising, small compromises, that basically mean we’re all pushing the same ball up the hill, we’re going to have success.

OpenAP befriends agencies

After its first phase of two years, now OpenAP recently launched its own marketplace from which to buy ads across the TV providers.

“A buyer can come define an audience once and actually get back a optimized plan across close to 20 networks, across linear and digital, all in one place,” Levy said.

Next up, Levy aims to get close to agency buyers.

“What we’re planning on rolling out this year is an agency council,” he said. “So we want to get a lot more feedback. A lot of the stuff we’re going to be focusing on is more on the measurement side of this year. So as we start to develop more standards, we’re going to really lean into our agency relationships.”

Respond to SVOD threat

“The bigger threat by far is the fact that you are going to have three new direct to consumer offerings, all ad free, coming into the market, all competing for consumers’ time and attention and for the ad supported television industry,” OpenAP’s Levy said.

“We better be ready to have a better consumer experience that will make sure we actually retain users.

“We’re all now investing in new ways to transact better, ways to reduce waste so we can get more relevant advertising in front of people. But that has to also result in a better consumer experience and likely reducing ads.”

This video was produced at the Beet Retreat leadership event hosted Publicis Media in New York. The event and video series is sponsored by FreeWheel and LiveRamp. For more videos from the event, please visit this page