‘There is room for challengers’: Team Whistle looks to OTT and CTV to boost its agency business

The header image features an illustration of a person sitting in a dark room with the glow of their TV shining on their face.

Skyrocketing growth in ad spending is attracting an ever-lengthening list of advertisers, content rights holders and publishers to CTV and OTT.  

Team Whistle thinks it can make money from all of them, thanks partly to an ad agency it acquired last spring as well as its continued growth across digital and social platforms.  

In the past several months, Team Whistle has signed on as the OTT ad sales provider for Redbox, which is trying to expand from DVD kiosks into ad-supported video on demand; as the ad sales partner for the World Games 2022, with Team Whistle’s agency, aptly named Team Whistle Agency, helping the global sporting competition sell sponsorship packages, while also providing content and services across the social platforms where Whistle attracts most of its audience. And back in June, it produced an hour-long TikTok special for Tubi TV to help drive awareness for the Fox-owned AVOD brand.

The media side of Team Whistle’s business accounts for the lion’s share of revenue, and it will remain that way for a while: Media is expected to grow faster than the agency side in 2022, though both will grow, svp of brand partnerships said Dustin Fleischman, Team Whistle’s svp of of brand partnerships. But significant portions of the growth will be powered by the world’s accelerating migration from linear to streaming video.

“There’s $80 billion of television money that’s going to be re-expressed into many places,” said Kyle Young, evp of solutions at Team Whistle. “It’s going to cross-platform for social, which is where our core business is, and the rest is going to OTT [and CTV].”

That migration has been a boon to digital publishers in many ways, creating everything from new places to sell new kinds of content to an affiliate marketing bonanza. But Whistle is hoping it can feed both sides of its business at the same time, particularly as brands and rightsholders pour more resources into growing audiences in these emerging platforms.

“Providing agency services, beyond the standard publisher services, is where we see ourselves accelerating into next year,” Young said. “There are still so many people that are just beginning to scratch the surface in these spaces…Although there’ve been huge players making big footprint moves there, there is room for challengers.” 

Whistle’s pitch seems designed to resonate with smaller publishers and IP rightsholders, many of which have had trouble building direct sales momentum in the space. Research published last month by Pubmatic and Forrester found that just 28% of advertisers are spending their CTV and OTT ad budgets with small or medium-sized publishers, with many choosing instead to tap into private marketplaces built by agencies.

Whistle is hoping to help with that, not just by providing more technology support but by sharing audience insights and expertise that both Young and Fleischman say can help clients spend their content and marketing budgets more efficiently. For now, though, it has no interest in bundling agency clients’ OTT inventory with its own.

“There’s no go-to-market that says, ‘You can buy Whistle and Redbox together,’” said Fleischman.

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