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MBPT Spotlight: What Does Programmatic Mean for TV: A Snapshot of Options

As traditional media channels begin to make the move towards programmatic ad buying, there is a question lurking at the back of every marketer’s mind: What does programmatic mean for TV?

While there are many robust programmatic marketplaces for digital video available, there are several emerging marketplaces for traditional television that are hoping to bridge the divide. With gross rating points (GRPs) extending to video, digital is blurring the distinction between TV and digital content. Many of the programmatic marketplaces offer a varying amount of data that can be appended for targeting and measurement, and with various degrees of accuracy and transparency.

For brand marketers and media agency professionals looking to learn more about programmatic, below are the different options to explore for the programmatic buying of linear and non-linear TV and a snapshot of their current capabilities.

Programmatic Buying of Linear TV

Programmatic linear television is in its infancy. While the national television sales community is still trying to figure out how programmatic buying would fit into their business model, there are a few options available where local cable and broadcast inventory is being aggregated and then sold through automated platforms.

Programmatic linear TV buying does not involve bidding at this stage, so it could be argued that it is not truly programmatic. It is a private marketplace with fixed prices determined by the supplier. Some of the platforms tout that a biddable marketplace will be available in six to nine months when the market offers more liquidity.

Ad technology companies, such as AdMore, PlaceMedia and AudienceXpress, have built platforms to automate the process of television buying. These buying platforms automate the planning, audience buying, optimization, and reporting of linear TV campaigns, and allow for the programmatic application of first and third party data.

For example, AdMore’s platform uses a broadcast station model. Its inventory is accessible via direct relationships with local TV stations. Other platforms such as PlaceMedia and AudienceXpress have local inventory from multichannel video programming distributors including BrightHouse, Cablevision, Charter, Cox, Dish, and Verizon. PlaceMedia also has an agreement in place with RevShare, which enables the company to access local broadcast inventory. These sellers claim to reach anywhere from 60 million to 90 million homes across a national footprint.

Additionally, programmatic TV buying does not offer specific inventory but rather a specific audience with great efficiency and ease of execution. Using these platforms, brands and agencies can buy :15-, :30- or :60-second ad spots and target Nielsen-powered demographics like household income, education, own or rent, presence of children, and more. One can then optimize the placement by daypart, networks, budget, dates and length. 

More granular targeting is not yet achievable at scale, but the industry is seeing a shift toward tying richer data available from online to inform the buying and allocation of TV budgets as a first step toward a more ‘programmatic’ marketplace for linear TV. There are also limitations when it comes to watermarking and geo-targeting programmatically for linear TV, as both of these options are not yet widely available.

When it comes to data, there are some players collating TV data and making it available to target when buying programmatically. For example, Simulmedia has acquired a large quantity of set top box data, and by using their own proprietary methods they have built a TV monitoring product.

Although there are limitations, today there are potential advantages to utilizing these programmatic platforms: geo-targeting, running different creative in different markets, and the efficiency of automation. Real time bidding and the ability to layer on additional data – at scale – when making investment decisions will bring advertisers a true programmatic alternative for TV. 

Non-Linear TV Programmatic Buying

Non-linear or ‘addressable’ TV involves targeting a specific ad to a specific household across networks such as video-on-demand networks and networks that don't offer traditional linear TV. This can include online networks like Hulu. It also includes over-the-top (OTT) and connected TV (CTV) devices like Roku, Apple TV and ChromeCast, as well as cable providers operating local inventory in non-primetime dayparts.

As for the OTT or CTV devices, brands and agencies can reach these consumers using video demand-side platforms (DSP) such as TubeMogul, Brightroll and These devices are connected to the Internet, allowing brands and agencies to buy inventory like we would for users consuming video content on a desktop computer or tablet.

Another option is Clypd, a DSP making linear, addressable, TV inventory available programmatically across multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs). Using Clypd, we can target by date, age, race, gender, education, home ownership, income, marital status and number of children. We are also able to input any network restrictions. Clypd also allows us to do CRM data matching through various data providers, i.e. using data segments developed through digital campaigns to create actionable TV audiences.

Why Move To Programmatic?

As more tools begin to surface to help aid the programmatic buying of linear and non-linear TV, marketers and media companies will only benefit. It simply isn’t possible for people to carry the workload of assessing and managing the volumes of inventory that make up the vast majority of TV advertising opportunities. That work has to be done by using technology. By removing the time and cost of delivering the foundational media buys, programmatic will allow the industry to do what they do best: free up people’s time so they can develop forward-thinking campaigns that create meaningful relationships between brands and audiences.

Let’s embrace programmatic, develop the tools we need to make it right and use our time for creativity. Programmatic is only here to stay.