ITV closes in on deal to build its ad tech

ITV’s long-gestating attempts to transition from a direct sales business to a self-serve platform are gathering momentum now that it’s found a business to build the ad tech it needs.

The broadcaster is close to concluding a deal with Amobee that will see it provide ad tech that ad buyers can use to buy ads around VOD content without having to go via a sales person, according to two media agency executives with knowledge of the plan. Automated auctions will run instead, which will take aim at sizable direct response budgets from large and smaller advertisers, the execs said.

The deal is set to be announced next month, and ITV has previously told analysts the self-serve platform will go live before the end of the year. A spokesperson for ITV declined to comment on the prospect of the deal, though did say there would be an update soon.

One of the agency execs, however, shed further light on how the deal would play out on condition of anonymity for fear of jeopardizing commercial deals with the broadcaster: “At the heart of this deal is ITV trying to scale up its VOD content,” said the agency exec. “This isn’t necessarily about ITV selling programmatic during linear broadcasts unless it’s during simulcasts people are watching on its ITV Hub VOD service.”

It’s a reversal on ITV’s previous stance. In 2017, the broadcaster claimed it was on the verge of serving addressable ad campaigns across its linear channels watched on connected TVs thanks to Sorenson Media’s ad tech. The ad tech vendor was unable to deliver on its promise, forcing ITV to resume talks with other businesses it had considered. One of those businesses was Videology, which had been acquired by Amobee prior to ITV and Sorenson Media parting. ITV knew Videology’s ad tech well as it had been part of the consortium of broadcasters — including Channel 4 and ProsiebenSat.1 Mediaset — that lost the auction to acquire the ad tech vendor’s assets to Amobee.

“It’s not just the potential of the tech with this deal, there’s a measurement piece also,” said the second media agency exec. “Amobee, thanks in part to what it got when it acquired Videology, has deals with third-party data providers that could bring more transparency to a VOD space that’s been lacking.”

ITV is pitching its self-serve offer as a riposte to online media owners and their attempts to siphon money away from broadcasters.

“We have simultaneously amassed reach through our TV platform and now coupled with large audiences that we can drill down into segments on the hub where we can do laser-targeted advertising on the hub,” said Steve Forde director of marketing and experience for online at ITV at Advertising Week Europe. “We’re 100 percent viewable, brand-safe and fraud-free. A lot of the online players can’t really say that.”

The broadcaster has already been trialing a self-serve platform for smaller businesses to buy ads and has started to talk to ad buyers about total viewing, which covers offline and online, when pitching its scale. The proliferation of connected TVs combined with ITV showing more ads around its VOD streams, is giving way to more impressions. In 2017, around 15 percent of ITV’s VOD inventory was addressable. Today, it’s now 75 percent, per the broadcaster.

The emergence of ITV’s ad tech will rival Sky’s own Adsmart addressable offer. ITV has ruled out selling ads through Sky’s ad tech as it would mean ceding too much commission to a rival. It creates another walled garden ad buyers will need to contend with as more of what they buy becomes biddable.

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