In this edition of ‘Sell-Side View’, we speak with Tyler Fitch, VP of advertising partnerships at ad-supported streaming service Tubi. In this interview, Fitch talks to VideoWeek about the attribution challenges for CTV going forward, how the cookieless future brings potential for CTV publishers, and keeping user experience central as an ad-supported streaming platform.
What is the great challenge facing CTV publishers today?
I think the greatest challenge is keeping up with our scale and our growth that we’ve seen over the pandemic. Since last year, we’ve been close to doubling our size already. And with all the people staying at home we need bigger and bigger budgets, as we are an AVOD player and are fully ad supported. We need advertisers to fully lean in to this new medium of advertising, that’s really exploded.
We have seen advertisers jump in and work with us closely to reach a new audience that they might not be able to reach somewhere else. So it’s been really wonderful to see over the past five years how we’ve grown, and how the industry has changed to keep up with the growth.
Which ad tech vendors are delivering the most value to your business?
So Tubi is a unique publisher where we actually built our own proprietary ad tech. We started as a company called adRise almost eight years ago. So we have our own tech, and we really leaned into that, because most ad tech out there is made for display or pre-roll video. We didn’t really find anything that fit our needs. But especially eight years ago, there was nothing.
People are catching up now. But we really leaned into our ad tech. Just removing that layer of a middleman has been a very big advantage for us. It allows us to work really closely with our advertising partners like the DSPs where we don’t have that middleman or somebody else in between us and allows us to keep more money in our pocket. So our biggest ad tech vendor is us. As our sales team grows, as we get closer to DSPs, that ad tech is going to be a big advantage for Tubi.
If you could change one thing about the buy-side, what would it be?
This is a problem we’ve been tackling for a long time- when we were getting into TV, there were TV buyers, and there were digital buyers. And there wasn’t really any communication there for a while and when we first started, nobody wanted the budgets. And now, all of a sudden both teams are jumping in to get these new CTV budgets because of the performance, because of the scale. So I think that’s the thing that I would change.
But that’s one thing that’s really gotten better over the past two years, is them understanding what they’re getting. They’re not looking for things like viewability, but looking at other KPIs that might make sense. We had the same conversation with Nielsen on target percentages, and GRPs, and things like that from the linear perspective. So I think it’s really converged and they’re getting it now. But there’s always going to be a bit of push/pull between the TV buyers and the digital buyers, and how they each look at performance and how they look at spend.
Which content types and ad formats are working best for you today?
User experience is always top of mind for us. We are a free service. And so with that, users really don’t owe us anything outside of free content. So if you don’t have a subscription, they don’t need to come back. We’re not taking a monthly cut from them. So we do stick to our main ad units, the leanback linear experience.
We have experimented with interactive ads, and even doing things like QR codes. We’re still dabbling in that right now. But we really want to concentrate on having the lightest ad load of all AVOD players, and having that streaming experience be really good. That’s more important to us than interactive formats, or formats that jump out at you.
We do sell sponsorships into some of our content and around our temporal events. But that user experience is always number one for us. We would rather have somebody come back and watch again, than try to shove another ad in their face. So I think that’s why Tubi has done so well, it’s that focus on user experience. And we continue to focus on that.
What is your company’s strongest USP?
What really separates us is having the largest library. We go out and get the most content out there and continue to grow our library. And with the acquisition from Fox, we get all the Fox content too.
But what we do is take the biggest library out there and then focus on the tech side, so the machine learning and content recommendation is part of it. When somebody does come into our app, it doesn’t feel like there’s 30,000 titles, it should feel like there’s titles handpicked for them. And we’re using different data sets, and very smart people, to try to figure out the best ways to surface relevant content to users. So that is our selling point.
There are a lot of players in the AVOD market, and there are going to be even more going forward, but how do we separate ourselves from that? Quality content is always one way, but it’s also about personalization. And I think that’s what Tubi is always focused on, and has done a great job on, and that’s why we’ve succeeded and become the size that we have.
Do you think the demise of the cookie and privacy will help or hinder CTV publishers? How will the industry adapt?
It’s funny, because CTV has never had cookies. So we’ve never had this problem. There are issues that we’re going to run into with the demise of third party cookies, but I think it’s a good thing for CTV. In this post-cookie world, context is going to matter, quality is going to matter. And we’re going to get a lot of those dollars, I think, from the digital side.
The one thing that does worry me about this whole demise of cookies, and the iOS updates, is really the measurement. And there’s the attribution piece that connected television really has an opportunity to do: what did people do after they went and saw an ad on TV? Are they watching linear TV too? So the part that worries me is the data side and the cross-platform side.
We are looking at a lot of solutions,we will be launching The Trade Desk’s UID 2.0 very shortly and should be one of the first CTV publishers to do that. That will sit alongside the work we’re doing with LiveRamp and a few other vendors. I think the challenge here is, is taking that one-to-one relationship from a mobile device or a desktop device, and then attributing that to a TV and who’s in front of that TV. So that’s the part that really scares me about the demise of the cookie.
One question for us is how do we prove our worth to advertisers. We really focus on this, I have a full team, the advanced TV team, that works with advertisers to prove that our campaigns are working for them. It’s really important, because mobile didn’t really succeed until we figured out the attribution piece and proved that it was working in a way that made sense for advertisers, to make them feel comfortable spending dollars. We have the opportunity to do that now with CTV. It’s just going to be a lot more challenging now that you can’t tie it back to a cookie or MAID.
So we’re working on solutions now to address that and to be way ahead of the curve. But because we never had cookies, we were planning for this for a long time, actually. So it definitely escalated things, but we’re in a good place to keep providing that type of measurement to our advertisers.
Are you exploring revenue streams outside of advertising? Are they succeeding?
We’ve always been focused on being fully free. There are a lot of, I guess, temptations to move into different streams, but it’s a totally different business. And I don’t think we even want to play in that business. Our CEO has been pretty adamant of keeping it free and really super serving the underserved of people that can’t access content, or want more content. So I think we’ll focus there, I don’t see us getting into any other models.
Which platforms are working best for you in terms of distribution, engagement and revenue generation?
We’re looking at all of them. Tubi is on 26 different platforms right now, which I think makes us one of the biggest footprints out there. And there’s always room for growth on all of them.
We don’t discriminate, we try to keep the user experience the same across all platforms. So obviously, some platforms have bigger footprints. But I wouldn’t put one above the other in terms of what’s more important. I think there’s room to grow on all of them.
What person in the industry inspires you the most today?
There’s a lot of people doing some great things in TV. There’s a lot of great personalities out there in ad tech.
I really like Alan Wolk, from TV[R]EV. He’s been covering the connected TV sphere and is a big champion of it. LightShed Ventures with Rich Greenfield has been a big champion of Tubi and really promoted the rise of AVOD. And you get into personal ones that are just fun to be around: Terry Kawaja from Luma Partners and Ari Paparo from Beeswax. There’s a lot of good personalities to be around in this industry.
What does the future hold for CTV publishers?
CTV is only gonna get bigger from here. Identity is a huge focus for us. How privacy is handled is going to be another focus and how to be above-board. I know Europe is way ahead of us with GDPR, but I see the US catching up in some way. We already have CCPA here, and there’s a lot of other new regulations coming. I don’t know if it’s going to be on a state by state basis or federal, but I think there is going to be a lot of consolidation, and it’s going to be extremely important to make sure we’re using data in privacy compliant ways.
The identity piece is going to be really big too. And to that point, the loss of the cookie is going to accelerate that in the CTV space and, and have people really think about how they buy TV and how they create identity around that, which has never really been done very well outside of some walled gardens, and even then it’s a bit murky.
We need to get to that point like mobile has. The 2000s to 2010s was the era of mobile, and now we’re in the era of CTV, but that attribution piece is really important to move dollars over to CTV, and to get advertisers spending.