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by Ramsey McGrory
July 28, 2017

The buying and selling of media is changing.  ‘Programmatic’ developed first in the unsold inventory of digital display media but has now evolved into a way of thinking that uses massive and diverse data, coupled with automation, through cloud-based, agile-developed software. ‘Programmatic’ thinking is changing how we manage all types of media and, as Dave Morgan argued and Allison Weissbrot reported, ‘programmatic’ thinking is turning all media into performance media.  

Much of programmatic innovation has focused on digital ad spend which surpassed linear television for the first time in 2016, per eMarketer, and is expected to see “double-digit growth each year […] from $83.00 billion in 2017 to $129.23 billion in 2021” creating a $10 billion gap between spending on the two platforms. Because of statistics like this, there has been a lot of hand wringing by traditional buyers and sellers about how programmatic strategies will eat traditional TV. Foremost in everyone’s mind is Programmatic TV (PTV)—the buying and selling of video inventory using software automation and advanced audience data. PTV video inventory includes any television that is delivered via an IP address or through an OTT service or device.

However, for all the excitement, eMarketer estimates PTV currently accounts for less than 5% of the total TV/video market. The long-term trend is undeniable, but it will not be at significant scale for at least five years as content delivery systems shift to IP based and OTT. Also, the TV ad buying process is far more complex than simply switching to audience targeting.

So, the key question for marketers is what to do in the next 12-18 months that recognizes both the long term trend and short term needs, where we can deliver incremental advancements within the framework of traditional television buying and selling.  To massively improve TV upfront ROAS, the answer lies in leveraging data in the schedule planning and optimization process across television and digital.

What follows are two key areas where the industry is already making strides, and presents marketers with opportunities for immediate action:

  1. Rethink your currency. The best example is the industry shift from relying on Nielsen as the sole planning currency, to including comScore/Rentrak as an alternative provider. This was significant enough that Sir Martin Sorrell addressed it at a dinner with partners and clients in Cannes.  By incorporating comScore’s rich data sets, marketers can fine-tune target audiences, identify their viewing habits, and measure ROI in near real-time.  In a world where the upfront market is softening, scatter is moving to digital, and digital is moving to real time, flexible and robust data is increasingly valuable. Comscore demos available in Mediaocean Platforms for 2018 Upfronts
  2. Infusing data and automation into the UpfrontsStandard Media Index reports that this year’s Upfronts accounted for 76% ($16.5 billion) of national TV spending, so while trends in television buying are changing, Upfronts are still massively important, and ripe for innovation. The process of optimizing brands, campaigns, and target audiences against scheduled commitments is still lengthy, manual, and done too infrequently.  But there are companies, such as VideoAmp, that are ushering in the next generation of omni-channel video-focused planning / buying solutions.  VideoAmp automates the way agencies and brands have manually allocated their upfront commitments, and instead helps them optimize committed network television buys using offline and digital data from Nielsen, comScore and many other 3rd party sources. By managing linear television budgets with the same precision as digital video (OTT, social video, and VOD) the industry will see greater ROAS and deeper analysis, while freeing personnel to focus on more strategic pursuits.


Mediaocean’s latest partner VideoAmp creates a fully integrated linear TV planning and optimization solution for the upfront and scatter markets for agencies and brands.

Adopting incremental advancements is the best way for brands and agencies to stay competitive without sacrificing healthy operations – people, process, profits, or massively overhauling the TV buying process before much of the necessary infrastructure is in place.

By taking these steps now, marketers can massively improve ROAS and begin reorienting teams around converged planning / buying processes, built on a massive amount of data and automation.