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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Here’s why publishers should be thinking about CTV revenue

August 7, 2023 | By Hunter Terry, GM CTV – Lotame @Lotame

Once again, the media world has found itself in belt-tightening mode. A number of high-profile media companies have announced layoffs, and ad spend has grown more slowly in 2023 than in the previous few years. Publishers are looking for revenue streams beyond subscription packages – and for those who have video content, CTV offers a lot of promise. 

After all, CTV is where the growth is, in terms of ad spend and audience. For publishers that are already monetizing video on desktop and mobile, CTV is the most intuitive next step for diversifying revenue. For those that aren’t monetizing their video content yet, that’s all the more reason to jump into CTV.

In terms of both viewership and the influx of ad dollars, CTV is growing like gangbusters. Streaming CTV ad spend is tracking to reach $23 billion by 2026 – a double-digit increase from today. Streaming video consumption has surpassed linear TV, as experts had predicted, and there will be 3.5 users of over-the-top (OTT) streaming services globally by 2027. 

Right now, the audience growth is coming from ad-supported tiers, which is an ad inventory source so desired by brands that supply can’t keep up with demand. This sure sounds like a field day for the Netflixes and Hulus of the world. But while the largest streaming platforms get the lion’s share of attention in the industry trades, they won’t be – and, considering demand, can’t be – the sole beneficiaries of this influx of ad spend.

Power to the content owners

According to industry experts, more than 90% of CTV ad spend coming through DSPs goes to around 30 streaming platforms. That’s a much larger number than the handful of big names that get name-dropped most frequently in CTV conversations. Not many of these platforms own all, or even most, of their content outright. They source it through deals with other media creators. And those creators have a distinct advantage: They reserve the rights to sell ads on their content. Streaming services don’t have exclusivity in the same way as the publisher who creates the content. 

Clearly, media companies stand to benefit greatly by partnering with CTV services for video syndication. There are two types of publishers who can most easily grab those ad dollars: those that already stream their content on CTV, and those that have video content on their owned and operated properties that they’re not monetizing via CTV yet. 

We’ve heard about leading publishers who have launched their own video apps on CTV services including The Economist, Vox, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. But across the broader landscape of publishers who produce the high-quality video content advertisers crave, there’s a great untapped opportunity for ad revenue. 

Good news for publishers: The bar for entering the CTV space isn’t nearly as high as it was a few years ago. Free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) services have democratized access to the streaming ad market, as it’s not nearly as costly as developing a subscription app – the means of access in the days before FAST. 

Publishers who already have the video content can launch their own channels across multiple CTV platforms and devices, at a reasonable cost. For the great many publishers who already have experience syndicating video across social channels, it’s an intuitive move and it opens up inventory that delivers higher CPMs, is more desirable to advertisers than pre-roll on the video players hosted on publishers’ own digital properties, and presents opportunities for advertisers to connect with viewers in a wider variety of viewing environments and viewer mindsets. 

CTV calls for a strong data strategy

Expanding to CTV will be an easier task for publishers who partner with data platforms that offer flexibility and interoperability. The limited availability of actionable, scalable first-party data remains a pain point not only for advertisers, but for publishers looking to get into streaming. This presents challenges in working across streaming platforms and devices, which have their own data but are reticent to share it. To drive the most revenue, publishers will want to be able to connect their data with any of their ad partners who need it for campaign optimization. That means the ability to solve for identity, and to provide interoperability, are essential pieces of the puzzle.

A solid, well-applied data strategy opens up key advertising functions like cross-platform targeting, frequency capping, and personalization at scale. Publishers don’t have to consider themselves out on their own in sourcing the necessary data, though. Streaming device makers are one place to look, although publishers may need to match the device makers’ proprietary IDs for actionable cross-platform insights. Using IP as a proxy (common in CTV) enables measurement in CTV, although IP may not be the best proxy in other digital environments, or for targeting at the individual level. Demographic, location, behavioral, and other data from data providers will enable programmatic buying, and incentivize advertisers that want the scale and efficiency of programmatic. 

To get the most value from CTV, publishers benefit from having a capacity to break down data silos and unify all identifiers (and the data signals used for ID enrichment). This opens up access – access to inventory for buyers, and to new revenue for publishers. It also allows for targeting across the broader ad ecosystem, while limiting wasted spend. 

A strategy that unifies data from relevant sources, and the ability to solve for identity, enhances a publisher’s value proposition to advertisers in CTV. It presents a great revenue opportunity for publishers. And delivering the value of actionable data insights is central to deepening long-term relationships with advertisers.

Making the most of the opportunity

At this stage of the CTV marketplace’s growth, there’s a real opportunity for any creator with quality video content. Therefore, publishers should be taking advantage of their video libraries. To fully capitalize on those advantages, they’ll need to be able to access and fully leverage the data that advertisers are looking for. 

Publishers who can bring both to CTV will be in a better position to weather economic unpredictability that may come to the digital media marketplace in coming months and years. Resilience hinges upon the ability to vary revenue sources, reach new audiences, and capitalize on an ever-expanding viewer base. And a strong data strategy, based on bringing together data from all relevant sources, will be key to truly realizing the revenue potential CTV holds. 

About the author

For over a decade Hunter has held and managed a variety of sales, consulting, and partnership positions in Advertising/Marketing Technology (#MADtech) throughout the US, Southeast Asia, and Australia. Currently based in Baltimore/DC after six years in the Asia Pacific, Hunter leads Lotame’s Connected TV initiative focusing on household graphing, viewership data partnerships, and data enrichment throughout various supply and demand channels.

Prior to his current role, Hunter led Lotame’s Global Solutions Consulting team solving leading marketer and publisher challenges through identity resolution and data enrichment methods. Additionally, Hunter has helped expand the Lotame Sales and Account Management teams in their Singapore and Sydney offices during his tenure in APAC.

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