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Advertising’s Role in the CTV Viewer Experience

Amid the ever-intensifying streaming wars, ad experiences are playing a bigger role in viewer retention and service differentiation. 

Nearly 213 million people use Connected TVs (CTV) in the U.S., spending an average of 82 minutes per day. Inundated with programming choices, CTV viewers are continually trialing and curating their own content libraries, pulling in a mix of ad-supported and subscription-based services as their budgets allow.

Streaming subscribers pay for five services on average, according to a recent survey issued by Deloitte. Nearly half of survey respondents, however, stated they cancelled a service over the past six months, while 60% said that they use at least one ad-supported service. Furthermore, a recent report released by the Trade Desk notes that, only 14 percent of TV viewers [are] willing to pay a premium for an ad-free experience, while more than five times as many (71 percent) [prefer] either a free (32 percent) or lower-cost (40 percent) ad-supported model.

It’s clear that as viewers reach their spending limits on paid services, free ad-supported options will become a bigger piece of the CTV picture. And this reality poses an interesting opportunity and challenge for streaming services in terms of how they manage ad experiences. 

When viewers tune-in to TV, whether it’s streamed or delivered via their cable box, they’re accustomed to a premium ad experience that includes diverse, polished creatives. Anything short of that — including duplicate ads, heavy ad loads, time outs, or blank slates — can turn them away, putting retention and brand reputations at risk. With so much up for grabs, it’s never been more timely and critical for streaming services to provide an engaging and relevant ad experience to viewers. 

With that in mind, here are our six tips for delivering premium ad experiences: 

  1. Manage your ad loads with dynamic controls.
    Showing viewers more ads up front and less in the latter stages of a program can help to drive greater engagement while affording advertising partners a larger share of voice. Setting dynamic duration parameters both within ad breaks and across video manifests is key for accomplishing this. 

  2. Control for deduplication, creative separation, and ad adjacency.
    Seeing the same ad back-to-back is an irritating experience for viewers. Applying deduplication, creative separation and ad adjacency rules ensures that the same ad isn’t delivered twice in the same commercial break, and that competitive ads aren’t delivered alongside each other. With these key business rules in place, ad breaks become more delightful and less bothersome. 

  3. Enable greater ad diversity within your ad breaks.
    Programmatic CTV spend is expected to reach nearly $7 billion in 2021, offering media sellers broader and more efficient access to ad buyers. All of this access is for naught, however, if programmers can’t capitalize on the high volume of ad requests they’re receiving. Ensuring auction mechanics are configured to capture a range of different creatives helps to drive greater fill, while providing a diverse ad experience for viewers. 

  4. Ensure creative quality with pre-rotation validation.
    With such a large volume of CTV buying activity driven by programmatic, it’s become challenging for programmers to understand and identify the specific creatives that are bidding on their inventory. This is important because if accurate metadata can’t be ascertained upfront, then enabling ad diversity and deduplication becomes near impossible on the backend. Highly-accurate ad validation tools are needed to unlock these types of business rules, and importantly, to ensure that only high-quality ads are delivered to viewers. 

  5. Get a handle on queries per second (QPS) and throttling.
    Buffering and time outs can cause programs to crash and — even worse — viewers to seek other options. These issues often stem from ad platforms attempting to “game the system” by serving the same opportunity multiple times at different price points, resulting in dramatic QPS increases. Calibrating your ad tech to correctly and tactfully surface ad opportunities in CTV will ensure you avoid these pitfalls. 

  6. Balance viewer experiences with revenue objectives. Lastly, as various rules and controls are applied to CTV ad inventory, it’s key that programmers keep a close eye on the viewer experience and balance it with revenue objectives. Consider putting yourself in the shoes of your users: What types of ads are they seeing? How frequently? Are they seeing a lot from one brand, or from one category of brands? Answering these questions, and course-correcting as needed, is important for delivering better value to viewers and improving revenue over time. 

As we charge ahead in 2021, the streaming wars will only continue to intensify. There is a lot up for grabs, and delivering a premium ad experience is critical for not only retaining users, but driving differentiation in your ad-supported offerings.

Contact us to learn more about delivering premium ad experiences in CTV: