Marketers are plugging into a world of streaming similarities (and differences)

The shift to streaming is now complete. Around the world, people are spending as much time or more with streaming as they are with linear. With fewer cable boxes and fewer streaming sticks attached to TVs, the smart TV platform is becoming more critical to marketers and advertisers than ever before.

But there are significant differences between Dallas and Düsseldorf, and between Melbourne and Mumbai, from population numbers to viewers’ approaches to content. For advertisers, it’s crucial to understand how user adoption varies across the globe.  

To start telling the story, Samsung Ads analyzed data from 100 million Samsung households around the world. This is what we found. 

Where in the world are consumers streaming?

Some markets look quite similar to each other, of course. For example, according to our internal data, 84 percent of consumers stream on their Samsung Smart TV in North America, compared to 89 percent in Europe. There’s less streaming on these devices in APAC: India is at 54 percent, Indonesia is at 43 percent, Australia is at 32 percent, and Thailand is at 26 percent. 

Looking at just one market, North America, it’s clear that streaming increased across the first half of an unusual year. “Interestingly, when you compare July to the beginning of 2020, app activity on the Samsung Smart TVs is up 14 percent across North America,” said Tom Fochetta, vp of advertising sales and operations at Samsung Ads. “Streaming is pretty irresistible.”

Germany is catching up on the cord-cutting front as well: Nearly two in 10 Samsung Smart TVs there aren’t carrying any linear content at all. Across Europe as a whole, more than 40 percent of Samsung Smart TVs are tuning in less than two hours of linear TV per month.

Consumers are streaming globally — are advertisers following?

There are significant differences between the rate of advertiser and user adoption, according to our data. David Spencer, who runs the global media operations team at General Motors, said: “Investment lags well behind consumer adoption of streaming. It’s not a lack of interest; it’s more a lack of experience and the right infrastructure to get it done. Globally we buy the vast majority of TV directly from the networks, so it’s just logistically easier to tack on streaming to that buy — especially in countries that have thin budgets, to begin with. We get better scale and inventory that way. But it’s all changing. CTV is getting easier to buy programmatically everywhere.”

Another difference is that there is less content in countries such as the UK and fewer smart TVs. “ITV, Channel 4 and Sky remain very powerful,” said Alex Hole, who runs Samsung Ads’ business across Europe and Russia. “But ad-sponsored streaming may yet come on strong. A recent IAB research report showed that two out of three Europeans don’t want to spend more than 20 euros on subscription TV services like Netflix and that those same viewers are willing to watch ads.”

Advertisers are hoping that’s true. 

As Spencer, at General Motors, puts it: “If it wasn’t clear before COVID-19, it’s clear now: No matter where you are in the world as an advertiser, you can’t rely entirely on linear. There are about a quarter of households where we can’t get nearly the same reach that we got 10 years ago with linear only. This has really validated GM’s audience-first approach. Experiments are happening everywhere. In fact, in South America, GM is further along in AVOD (advertising video on demand) because our leaders there have been more progressive about testing and learning.” 

To venture more heavily into streaming environments, advertisers will need to understand better which types of ad experiences make the best match for streaming users. Many AVOD platforms have cracked the formula, focusing on customers first and advertisers second. 

But this dynamic, interestingly enough, rewards advertisers who can get their message across without alienating consumers. “Networks ought to learn from that,” said Spencer. “I recently watched a movie on one network, and the ad pod was five minutes long. That’s an eternity in today’s on-demand economy. Consumers won’t put up with it.”

Who’s buying programmatically, and where?

Whatever the differences globally, viewing time remains a zero-sum game. As streaming continues to rise, that time has to come from somewhere. Time spent watching linear TV in North America is down 6 percent and about 5 percent in the EU. 

With people everywhere soon hunkering down for the winter, and more viewing options becoming available, time spent streaming seems likely to increase regardless of region. 

Advertisers need to follow those audiences — and programmatic buying is key to scaling those efforts. The impetus is already evident in Europe, where advertisers like to buy programmatically — especially when buying is unified rather than siloed. “In the UK, about 90 percent of our AVOD properties are bought programmatically,” said Hole. France and Spain are predominantly programmatic, too. Germany, less so.” 

Those habits may spread to the U.S. as TV manufacturers launch their own DSPs. Buying connected TV has been needlessly complicated, but making it easier for buyers to buy the way they want to buy will break down barriers to adoption. It’ll be different in Peoria than in Paris, but it’s a safe bet it will still be happening — viewers are streaming what they want to watch, and advertisers are racing to meet them on their streaming screens.

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