Over the past few years, the way we consume, plan and purchase media has changed immensely. A large reason for the sweeping changes around the TV media buying landscape is the arrival and evolution of programmatic TV. The term programmatic can be misleading to those coming from a digital media buying background, who tend to associate the term with one-to-one targeting capability and real-time bidding/buying that has been available in the digital world for some time. Understanding this new landscape begins with a better understanding of the terminology.

Demystifying the terminology


In the table above, on the far right you’ll see classic linear TV, which we all grew up watching. Linear TV programs are pre-scheduled and everyone in the same region sees the same advertisements aired before, during and after the same schedule of programs. These programs and advertisements are broadcast or delivered through various networks in the US, or free to air (FTA) and paid TV in Europe.

To the left of linear TV, you’ll see addressable TV. A fairly recent development, addressable TV makes it possible to have different ads aired to target specific households, enabled by set-top box based technology in the US and Europe, and HbbTV (Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV) in Europe. With addressable TV, your neighbour could potentially see a different ad than you while watching the same TV show at the same time. 

Further to the left in the table above, you can see broadcaster video-on-demand (VoD) and over-the-top (OTT)/connected TV(CTV), where TV content is consumed over internet enabled devices (i.e. computers, tablets or smart TVs). These have the capability to target viewers individually, in a similar way to digital video on websites like YouTube.

Differences in media buying

As the market embraces new parts of the TV media ecosystem, it’s becoming more clear that the reach as well as buying complexity increases as we move from programmatic to linear TV, where the latter is the least automated.

Additionally, TV media owners have made their VoD/CTV inventory, and to some extent addressable TV inventory, available to be bought in a similar way as digital video via programmatic media buying exchanges, with options to target specific audiences using data. This is ideal for marketers who want to know their message is reaching the right consumer at the right time. It’s possible to buy media on addressable TV by leveraging audience data and also attribute actual conversions to ads by data matching with data providers (especially in the US market). On the other hand, linear TV buying remains complex with manual processes involving checking the availability of inventory (lacking up-to-date information), negotiating discounts and manual booking, all based on mass targeting and less frequent measurement data.

What’s on the horizon

To remedy the current lack of innovation in linear TV, a few platforms are emerging with the goal of more automation in buying, aiming to bridge the gap between linear TV and digital media buying. While the US has a larger ecosystem, with its own TV inventory aggregators (supply side platforms) and unwired networks (which stitch together local TV inventory across the country to offer national footprint), TV networks are also collaborating on initiatives like the Open AP, where competing networks like Viacom, Fox and Turner have all agreed to support the same audience segment definitions across participating networks. 

In Europe, collaboration among TV networks has also come with the announcement of the launch of the European Broadcaster Exchange EBX late last year. A joint venture founded by Mediaset (Italy and Spain), ProSiebenSat.1 Media (Germany), TF1 Group (France) and Channel 4 (United Kingdom), EBX aims to address the demand for brand-safe environments and high-quality pan-European online video campaigns at scale.

Even as networks collaborate in hopes for a streamlined solution to a fragmented landscape, there is no single platform which provides a holistic solution for the industry’s needs: TV inventory availability (local and national), complete end-to-end automation in planning and booking and measurement through a self-service platform.

Our team at DCMN is eager to simplify the TV media experience for marketers by integrating media planning, buying and analytics into a single integrated platform. The recent announcement of our free tool, DC Analytics, is a step in that direction. The next step will be to simplify the media planning and buying process across the board and our long-term vision is to enable digital-first brands to easily plan and buy media (TV, radio, DOOH, mobile) on a single platform.

This is the future of media buying. Stay tuned to hear more about how we plan to get there.