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ITV, the UK’s biggest commercial broadcaster, has unveiled its long-touted ‘premium advanced advertising platform’ – Planet V – to take much of the friction out of buying smart ads on its VOD service. The Drum catches up with managing director of commercial Kelly Williams to find out how the system is intended to “futureproof” its business.

After months of in-house tests and revamps, ITV has rolled out end-to-end VOD ad solution Planet V to UK advertisers and agencies. For its 50,000 hours of development, so far it has delivered 500m impressions. Now comes the official launch. 

There are currently 32m registered users of its VOD service, ITV Hub. Year-on-year, it has seen a 75% increase in consumption hours and its monthly reach is up 40% – this is despite its hit show Love Island and simulcasts of Euro 2020 not coming to the fore. Managing director of commercial Kelly Williams – keen that advertisers should know that the youth use it – tells us that 75% of 16- to 34-year-olds in the UK are registered on the hub. 

On-demand viewing is “becoming more normalized“ for viewers and advertisers, he says, adding that VOD revenue has been growing at about a rate of 30% a year and now sits at the ‘thick-end’ of £200m – around a fifth of broadcast revenue – and that gap is closing. 

 

What problem does it solve?

Before the launch of Planet V, VOD inventory buying was done manually, by email or over the phone. A budget, the desired audience and creative assets were exchanged, and after, a report would outline campaign performance.

Now clients can self-serve ads into ITV’s VOD. It has very clearly taken a leaf out of Facebook and Google’s playbook – revenge, perhaps, for the duopoly suctioning TV spend for the last decade.

“Like Google and Facebook, it’s really simple self-service. It is a demand-side platform, a sell-side platform and an ad server all in one.”

That the VOD revenue has grown so fast with antiquated manual buying instils ITV with optimism – especially during a rough year in revenues.

“Our priority was to get the thing out and now we’ve eliminated the gremlins from the platform, so are ready to crack on.”

Over the next six months, ITV will be introducing the platform to clients and training them in its use.

Programmatic problems

The platform is fully owned by ITV, developed by Amobee as part of a UK and Ireland deal. “It’s a programmatic platform, built specifically for TV,” says Williams, and it looks to avoid the weaknesses of the programmatic ecosystem.

“We wanted to own the platform. We didn’t have any of these third-party adtech companies coming in and taking their adtech tax from the value chain. It’s completely transparent and 100% of the revenue goes from the advertiser to us.”

Williams claims that programmatic buyers spend most of their time trawling DSPs for quality inventory, and ITV is pushing the idea that it has only premium inventory. And he says third-party data integration (like Expedia or Mastercard) can refine targeting around postcodes and household demographics. 

TV’s future

The VOD product, initially touted to top-up or supplement linear audiences, looms over broadcast. Williams admits that, increasingly, TV will be delivered over the internet, and that having this product in place puts ITV in a good place to capitalize.

There’s a shift in priorities too. The ITV Hub debuts ITVBe programming before it runs in linear. Super-fans will have to drive into hub to catch that. So, could we see more of that?

“It will evolve. Over the next five to 10 years, more of our inventory is going to be delivered via the internet. We’ll transition from being a broadcast media to being IP delivered media. As soon as our channels, our catch-up and our on-demand services are delivered by the internet, then we can serve advertising as opposed to broadcast advertising.”

Buyer’s view

Mihir Haria-Shah, the head of broadcast at Total Media, was treated to an advance look at the platform. 

He says: ”I don’t think it’s a competitor to Sky AdSmart, yet. AdSmart is the only addressable TV solution in the UK that is on live linear TV, and to my knowledge no one else has developed the technology to do this yet. It is very much ITV’s aim to be able to do this on linear TV, but Planet V is a few years away from that.”

Planet V's closest competitor is probably GroupM’s Finecast, the addressable TV solution that operates on connected TVs across a wide range of inventory – broadcaster VOD (including ITV Hub), AVOD and also some publishers. 

ITV has the advantage of running self-service rather than managed buys though. Connected TV players like Samsung TV Plus and Roku are also competing – indirectly, however, as AVOD scratches a different itch to BVOD. 

As a behavioural planning expert, Hariah-Shah is impressed with the new targeting options. ”It allows us to go beyond genre and demo targeting and reach more niche audiences based on their actual behaviours."

Williams admits that the platform can segment user types through their TV consumption. People who have logged ITV Hub time across multiple locations are more likely to book a holiday right now, especially over those who have been hunkered down in a single spot. 

Haria-Shah adds: ”The platform itself looks great and it is really interesting to see the way the CPM changes as you add or remove layers of targeting – again something that would just be communicated to us over email or phone, with us having no real idea of what layers of targeting may make the audience too niche and more expensive.”

As a negative, it needs more content. If it is successful in its mission to be a one-stop-shop for other broadcasters too, those volumes will increase. ”In its current state, I feel that – for smaller broadcast teams like mine – it may actually add more strain to buyers as another system to use only to buy one set of inventory.”

The platform blurs the lines between TV and digital buying teams. The introducing of targeting into the ecosystem actually makes it more inclusive. TV can be an expensive, mass reach brand builder, but Hariah-Shah outlines that it allows broadcasters to also stoke the middle and lower end of the marketing funnel with precise buys. 

In short, Planet V is a ”bold step” in the right direction, he says, future-proofing ITV and offering marketing more tools to use in the TV ecosystem.