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View From The Top – What You Missed at the Programmatic TV Summit

June 27th, 2019   ||    by Rick Howe

The Programmatic TV Summit in New York on June 24 was, I believe, the beginning of the “Summer of Love” for the advanced television advertising business. (I wrote about this on LinkedIn.)

The speakers at the conference were talking about their capabilities, as always –always pitching, always selling, all like such as that. But the sound bites from panelists felt more like pronouncements about the state of the industry.

One general comment I made at the start of the conference was that good tech and great marketing doesn’t do squat if the buyers can’t get their heads around it. And we have NOT clarified and standardized the programmatic TV space sufficiently to get “buy-in from the buyers.”

We are seeing resistance to “programmatic” from the sell-side and the buy-side, to the point that some tech providers avoid the word completely. Standardization is a far off reality, and walled gardens are growing larger and more influential – despite the efforts of some vendors, such as Videa, to counteract those efforts. Witness the increasing size of the AT&T Family: wireless, U-verse, DirecTV, Turner Networks and a growing cluster of branded streaming services. AT&T execs admit they haven’t quite figured out how to integrate, much less sell, all that disparate inventory. How in the world could they expect anybody on the outside to understand?

Comcast may be more buttoned-up, perhaps because their own Spotlight inventory has been in place, run by the same company for decades. Their progress to automation and sophisticated targeting has been, if you’ll excuse the pun, a bit more linear: same inventory with better ways to deliver and market.

The same can be said of Videa. They are working with tried-and-true local broadcast station inventory (e.g. the 6:00 news) and modernizing, or automating, the way that inventory is sold and purchased. Easy for the buyers to understand, with solid improvements on delivery, transparency, reporting and more.

But third-party vendors, working outside their own organizations, are having a tough time. Buyer resistance, lack of standardization, complex “pitches” and simple inertia are burning cash with black ink pushed further and further into the future.

This will be a summer for consolidation. Hopefully a “Summer of Love.”

Here are a few quotes from the June 24 Programmatic TV Summit to chew on:

The inimitable Tim Hanlon, CEO of The Vertere Group opened the summit with, “We are the ones who have to make this stuff work!” Truer words were never spoken.

The understatement of the day came from Xandr’s Matt Van Houten, vice president of advertising product development, and Lindsey Van Kirk, vice president of product management, walking through the reality of seamless integration of telco, wired, satellite, TV Network and steaming advertising inventory: “Perhaps it’s a long road.”

“It’s really about the buy side and what they want to do” said Telaria’s chief commercial officer Adam Lowy on how much inventory goes programmatic.

Videa’s vice president of business development and strategy Brett Adamczyk says it clearly. “Broadcast TV is broad. That’s why it works.” Digital is narrow to the point that it almost disappears.

“We had to change the narrative. Now we’re talking about audiences as opposed to just dayparts and networks,” said Spotlight’s chief revenue officer Brendan Condon on restructuring Spotlight’s sales organization and its approach with customers.

Videa’s Brett Adamczyk concurred: “We need to talk about local TV audiences, not just local TV inventory.”

“How do we avoid the problems of too many middlemen between agencies and advertising inventory,” asks moderator Mike Shields. Translated panel answers: “I’m the good middleman, the others are bad middlemen.”

“There’s a tension between traditional TV buyers and the mobile side. Once you get down to the sales, it gets blurry as to who is going to buy it.” said Frans Vermeulen, Tru Optik COO.

More from Videa’s Brett Adamczyk: “The industry has too many diverse processes and technologies. Standardization will make a huge difference in both moving the advertising industry forward and increasing adoption of automation and addressable.”

Gerard Broussard of eMarketer talks about everything to expect with TV automation, stating “Firms with weaker technological infrastructure may be shaken out or taken over.”

“It has been a very big year for the television and advertising industry. And I can tell you it’s alive & well!” said Jon Steinlauf, chief US advertising and sales officer, Discovery Networks.


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