GroupM, iSpot Study Finds $1 Billion in CTV Ads Being Counted When TV Is Off

Kirk McDonald
Kirk McDonald (Image credit: Xandr)

Media buyer GroupM and measurement company iSpot.TV have completed a study that found that 8% to 10% of connected TV ad impressions are being counted as delivered when the TV is turned off.

With cord-cutting and viewers shifting to streaming, marketers are moving ad dollars to connected TV. GroupM estimates that connected TV ad revenue will rise 26.7% to $12 billion this year.

The overcount results in about $1 billion in CTV ad waste, Stephens analyst Nicholas Zanger estimated.

The results of the study led GroupM to aim to create new standards for streaming viewability and CTV measurement, and iSpot has developed a product called iSpotCTV Verification, which measures continuous play at the campaign level. GroupM will have exclusive access to the product when it completes testing and development.

GroupM said that The Walt Disney Co., Fox (and its Tubi unit), NBCUniversal, Paramount, Vizio and Warner Bros. Discovery have committed to working with agencies and advertisers on the new standard, which would be designed to ensure ads are counted only when delivered to screens that are turned on and have people in front of them.

“The explosion of streaming is rich with opportunity to deliver smarter ad experiences across a wide variety of possible channels,“ GroupM North America CEO Kirk McDonald said. “With any technological advancements, it's our job to close the gaps so all avenues of ad delivery are verified. As responsible investment stewards of our clients’ media spend, this verification illuminates both the issue and the opportunity for our industry. Regardless of the medium, if an ad is running, we want and should be able to attribute, measure and report that an ad was served and seen.” 

Details from the iSpot-GroupM study found that while, on average, 8% to 10% of overall streaming impressions were delivered when the TV was shut off, 17% of impressions delivered through CTV devices such as dongles, gaming consoles, and sticks were delivered when the TV was shut off. Gaming consoles had the lowest rates of continuous play.

Native smart-TV apps, which account for about 50% of all CTV viewing, had virtually no incidence of overcounts across streaming ad delivery. 

Depending on the mix of TV make and model, streaming device and publisher app, the CTV impression overcount by publisher ranged from 2.5% to 15%.

Stephens analyst Zanger thought the fact that there was nearly no overcounting when the operating system embedded in a smart TV was used was significant.

Samsung, Vizio and LG operating systems are only accessible via TV integration, while CTV operating systems available from Roku, Amazon, Google and Apple are accessible through sticks or dongles. “In our view, the study further supports our thesis [that] CTV hardware/software combo participants are in the most enviable position,” Zanger said.

The study comes as the industry reexamines how TV ads are measured and who is doing the measuring.

"This CTV study between GroupM and iSpot is another example of the importance of independent third-party measurement in the industry,” said Aaron Sobol, head of U.S. media investments and partnerships at Unilever. “The validation that impressions are being counted while the TV is off is vital to understand and needs to be fixed. We support and applaud our partner in GroupM for their dedication and rigor to develop this critical learning." 

“We want both our world-class content and our advertisers’ messages to be seen, measured and properly counted,” Warner Bros. Discovery chief advertising sales officer Jon Steinlauf added. “By addressing continuous play with a solution our entire industry can get behind, GroupM propels greater trust, transparency, and accountability in the CTV space, and that benefits everyone in this ecosystem.”

GroupM and iSpot evaluated hundreds of millions of aggregate and anonymized CTV impressions delivered across 20 million smart TVs, various platforms and publishers between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2021. The analysis was restricted to ad buying through programmatic channels, using a single smart TV manufacturer’s automatic content recognition data as the underlying match.

GroupM and iSpot will conduct a phase two of the study with an expanded data set. ■

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.