Leading Local Insights

Local CTV and FAST Services Sales 2024 Outlook with Premion's John Vilade

January 29, 2024 BIA Advisory Services Episode 89
Leading Local Insights
Local CTV and FAST Services Sales 2024 Outlook with Premion's John Vilade
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this general election year, CTV has become even more important for political and issue campaign media investments. As local inventory has increased and programmatic trading making it easier and more powerful to activate specific audience segments and optimize those buys, CTV is benefiting from significant tailwinds in 2024.   

Premion’s head of sales, John Vilade joins BIA’s Leading Local Insights podcast for a discussion about where CTV is headed in 2024. John has a solid sales leadership background in linear, CTV, programmatic, and ad tech with positions at Premion and also with earlier leadership positions at NBCU, Hulu, Discovery Networks, and TRUSTX.

Topics covered include CTV political spending, FAST services and CTV, buyers’ intentions for local CTV in 2024, and audience currency and attribution.

Rick Ducey:

Hello and welcome to BIA's Leading Local Insights podcast, where we examine the trends, technologies, platforms and industry activities related to local media revenue. I'm Rick Ducey, BIA's Managing Director, and I'm pleased to host this podcast today because we're going to talk about what is arguably the fastest, the most innovative space in local media Before we start spending in 2024, I'm talking about CTV/OTT streaming video. As we'll discuss in this general election year, CTV has become even more important for political and issue campaigns, for media investments and, as the local inventory has increased in programmatic trading, makes it even easier and more powerful to activate specific audience segments and optimize those buys. In CTV. We're seeing significant tailwinds benefiting CTV/OTT. We'll talk about the difference there in just a second. But today I'm really excited because we have from Premion head of sales, John Vilade, John has a solid sales leadership background and linear CTV, programmatic and ad tech, certainly from your position that premium John but also with earlier leadership positions NVCU, Hulu, Discovery Networks and TRUSTX. So you've been with content and tech and sales. I mean when people think CTV a lot of times they're thinking premium, and when I think premium they're thinking John. So you're kind of a guy to talk to about all of this. And 2024 is the kickoff. It's just a really interesting time in CTV. So many things seem to be coming together generally in this part of the media business, and then specifically some of the things that you're doing at Premion, some of the way that technology has evolved and coming out of the COVID fingers crossed, we hope where consumer behaviors have really reshaped and the number of subscriptions, the type subscriptions, has been kind of evolving a bit, but their commitment to this platform streaming video platform is solid and more players are coming into the ad supported space. So there's so much dynamic activity here. So let's talk about that. But first premium, which of you? Let's start off by learning a bit more about Premion, what you're doing there, how premium positions itself and arguably the most complex video marketplace we've invented so far. How do you bring your offer to the marketplace? How have you organized your sales operation? Again, we'd like to focus on the local side of things, both internally at Premion and then TEGNA's, your majority owner, along with great television and other partner. So just list the premium on story and how do you come to local market?

John Vilade, Head of Sales, Premion:

Yeah, Rick, it's first and foremost great to be here. I know we've been trying to get together and it's good to be in your studio here. I love it Exactly. So, yeah, great question. I mean, I have to go back and credit a 2016 vision from TEGNA. I mean my colleagues at TEGNA and I wasn't even at TEGNA in 2016, but they recognized this significant viewership shift in local television due to what you and I both know IP connectivity and digital and they invested early in this branded B2B service called Premion, to really solely focus on the aggregation of that ad supported streaming opportunity for locals. So Premion's become a pretty important aspect of the local media ecosystem, and not just for advertisers but for publishers. I mean, it's one of the areas that often gets overlooked. Our publishers are very reliant on making this local marketplace for them. They don't have the capability to go out and cover all of the agencies and all of the clients that we cover. We'll get into that a little bit. So our business model to your question, Rick, revolves around partnering the acquisition of Inventory from top to your premium publisher brands, both publisher direct and also the major fast services, and we leverage our targeting and attribution capabilities to deliver a 95% connected TV audience. We are in the living room heavily and predominantly. We have organized our sales organization at Premion and Premion is a sales company, Three primary channels. One is what I call our national spot channel, so that would comprise of what you would probably think, Rick, it's an east and a central and a west, and we also leverage our partnership with TEGNA national sales in that regard. Then, as you mentioned earlier, with TEGNA and Gray, we have our stations sales channel, so that's TEGNA stations and Gray stations. And then we have a political sales channel and that covers 100% of the marketplace. I mean, you know, the stations cover 80% of the households alone. But I would also consider a another sales channel, if you will industry thought leadership, like what we're doing right here. That's a fourth sales channel for us.

Rick Ducey:

It's super important.

John Vilade, Head of Sales, Premion:

Yeah, yep, and look, we cover every market, every category, Anyone who wants to spend ad supported streaming locally. We have over 400 sellers out there and it's interesting. I was just having a conversation with our head of local sales recently and it's this heart surgeon metaphor. My grandfather, when I was very young, we were talking about an issue and he said you know, Johnny, it's like picking a heart surgeon. Do you want a heart surgeon that's done just a few of those heart surgeries or do you want a heart surgeon that's done hundreds of them? So here we are, from 2016 to 2024. I looked at this yesterday. The stat yesterday 35,000 campaigns later, 15,000 buying entities we've dealt with since 2016. And our teams are still running out with a very high care factor. They're local experts, they're leveraging these relationships and I think, in the age of algorithms, we are built by local for local and we're doing it a terrific scale and we've really flipped the model to a total TV focus. And look, I'm happy to say this and I love all of my colleagues from TEGNA and I love all my colleagues from Gray, but it takes a lot to move those tried and true linear and traditional broadcast organizations into this and I think we've done that very successfully.

Rick Ducey:

Yeah, I mean you've got a huge presence in the marketplace. I mean great brand leadership, great performance, great reputation. So a lot of things have been going right per plan and, as the markets evolved, you've always been in the forefront of it. Just one thing quickly you mentioned CTV and it's in a living room. 95% of the inventory is being delivered over a TV set. So when we do our ad forecast we talk about CTV/ OTT. That's sort of a feral label for now we're trying to keep up with the industry, but we originally call it OTT over- the- top television. But then actually what happens in terms of viewing and ad units being sold as a TV set? That has really become interesting. So most of the viewing and most of the monetization of those impressions is in the living room and the big TV set. So when we say CTV, the way we distinguish that is that those are impressions on TV sets delivered from streaming video and OTT. People do watch on their phones, their iPads, whatever. So there's some of that, but a lot of the inventory that we're talking about actually is connected TV impressions going to the TV set.

John Vilade, Head of Sales, Premion:

Yeah, absolutely, Rick. And you know our head of marketing, Annmarie Gatti, who I absolutely love, and we even go into market and ask those questions how is this nomenclature in this business working for you? Is it OTT, is it CTV, is it ad supported streaming? And I'm glad we're We've started to focus on connected TV. It's really where the value creation is, at least in our world and our ecosystem.

Rick Ducey:

Yeah, and that's what we're here to and that's From some of my conversations. That becomes a differentiator. It's like, no, we're actually selling CTV, not OTT, because that's a different experience than an ad unit on a phone. Anyway, so we're in the political season We've had, as we're recording this, we've had Iowa. We're on the precipice of the Hampshire. Who knows what awaits the country? There are awaits the country, but we're in it and there's a lot of spending already and the parents, TEGNA and Gray TV local TV stations love the political season. Whatever happens politically, there's a lot of ad activation happening in local TV stations, which is good. So CTV just looking at our numbers in this general election year, we're seeing overall it's going to be about $11 billion, $11 billion spent on political for ad targeting local audiences. That's going to fall to TV, to CTV and some other media. About 6% of that $632 million is what we're forecasting will be spent on CTV local ads. Much of it will be sold by you, I suppose, sean.

John Vilade, Head of Sales, Premion:

We only need 20% of that overall budget. Yeah right, we'll take it right.

Rick Ducey:

So this is for the 2024 cycle, the last general election cycle in 2022, so we're saying $632 million will be spent in CTV in the 24 cycle. It was less than 1%, or about $74 million in 2020. So from the last cycle in 2020, $74 million. Now we're talking $632 million Rough numbers, almost 10 times the spend, 9 or 10 times the spend, say, in CTV between these two cycles. So I started off saying so much is happening generally in terms of tailwinds for CTV technology. You went through all your different sales channels, the organization that you talked about to bring this offer to market and the ability to optimize short distribution. Some of the things are happening In political. They've always been so sophisticated around developing and targeting and activating audience segments. So what do you think for political? I mean obviously a big revenue lift, and why is CTV growing 9 or 10 times since the last general election cycle?

John Vilade, Head of Sales, Premion:

Yeah, I mean. The good news here is there is a bottom line to this one, and the bottom line is connected TV now reaches 85% of all US households and we need to look no further than sources like Nielsen Gage. I think Nielsen just came out with another number in terms of the pie. Our pie is becoming like a true north for buyers or, by the way, any trade headline in any given week. To understand the audience shift away from cable and traditional broadcast. I mean cable alone and nothing against cable, because cable is still needed in our total TV environment. But cable was losing 20,000 paid subs a day. So without a total TV strategy, they political, are just missing massive groups of voters, and that's a fact that used to be something that maybe was debatable right In elections past. I really need this. Can I rely on the old, tried and true ways, but shifting gears though from? Another aspect of this is much deeper targeting capabilities within connected TV, so far beyond age and gender. Right, I mean, in the old days of advertising was by the demo, by the audience, and away we go. But we benefit now and connected TV from the ability of targeting at things like the congressional district level, more refined by set issue, interest, affinity. These are all table snakes in the capacity of streaming, and also one of the basic things that we don't talk about is that's a reduction in waste. Remember we used to talk about waste wreck.

Rick Ducey:

Right, exactly, yeah.

John Vilade, Head of Sales, Premion:

That's a reduction in waste. I like some of the promise of what we all hope for years ago in this business is now coming to fruition. I also like it as a base case local aggregators like Premion, and I'll include everyone that we compete with. They excel at delivering budgets at smaller GEOs and anytime you walk into a room we are. The political landscape has become so sophisticated that again it goes beyond districts. I've got to reach these smaller GEOs or their smaller cohorts. So one of the things that I've been really thrilled about and proud about and I thought I knew about political until I got to TEGNA we have a super experienced political team and we combined our TEGNA sales team with our premium sales team and we're having extremely important discussions campaign impacting issue impacting discussions with regard to why connected TV is so important. I might mention this down the line here, but it's not just about the volume of what's moving in connected TV and ad supported streaming. It's about efficacy. And look, we're also bringing other issues into the inside the Beltway and outside. So issues like brand safety and ad fraud. I mean gosh, what could be worse for a political campaign to find out that you invested in fraudulent inventory or that your ads were running adjacent to challenging content? We're talking co-viewing. We're talking about all of the attribution options that come with connected TV, even things like dynamic creative and brand live. How do you, how do you test that your campaign creative is working? So, anyway, one of the major points I was talking to our head of political sales yesterday, who just came to us from Freewheel, a terrifically experienced guy. He said one thing to remember JV it's also key to keep multiple inventory activation paths in play, and we might be in an environment in 2024 where we start to see some runaway CPMs around Labor Day. So, at the very least, if you're listening to Rick and JV today, make sure that you understand all of your options, and that should absolutely include connected TV. It'll help win elections this year.

Rick Ducey:

And then the other thing we hear a lot is the Gray and TEGNA local stations will get a lot of this spend but they run out of inventory as they get closer to the election and you know. So it's almost sophistication of targeting and attribution and optimization that you're talking about. But to get to those people the waste I mean with broadcast TV, arguably there's some waste. I live in DC, so if you're buying a DC station and you're trying to drive voters in Virginia, I'm in Maryland, I don't care about the Virginia races, but you can target that with CTV of course. But even so, that is scarce inventory in the local stations and once it's gone, it's gone. Where else can you go? So that's another important demand driver for CTV, specifically on political that's right.

John Vilade, Head of Sales, Premion:

We play an important role there with our stations. That's well said, Rick.

Rick Ducey:

And then yeah, and then the in political. One of my other favorite things that I hear from time to time is the ultimate attribution for political is played a definitive Did your candidate win? and there's a definite date when you find that out. So we talked about viewing and spending and you mentioned the gauge study. So there is this. I talked about the fast growth rate between political 2020-2024 and, generally, I think, ashhawn numbers. Our new forecast has been showing that CTV is the fastest growing medium in terms of local ad spending and but there's a discrepancy really between spending and viewing and we saw this in mobile and other digital media as it kind of grew up, and you premium did a study last year looking at CTV OTT advertisers Two thirds of those using CTV plan to increase their investment and is that platform Great news for 2024. And so certainly this is encouraging. But there is that opportunity gap between spending and viewing. Ctv accounted for about 20% or so that total CTV and TV inventory from 21 to 23 in your study, as it was showing. The share of viewing for CTV is now up to 40% and I think that's still about right with the latest gauge study and that's actually a measure of national viewing. But you know, probably that's fairly representative of local. So linear TV, broadcast TV, has less than half of overall video viewing. Streaming, you know, is out performing broadcasting cable in terms of viewership. We have this gap and that's that's the role of viewing, is that's where the viewer impressions are. But a lot of this spend is still with linear TV. From that study and things you're seeing in a marketplace. What do we expect is going to happen next there?

John Vilade, Head of Sales, Premion:

Yeah, that's an excellent path. We could probably do an entirely separate podcast on that. Rick, we love that study and I blame it on my Six Sigma training. I was a GE and NBC owned by GE. I was in Six Sigma for a year. I was a black belt and the number one rule basically that I took out of that was capture the voice of the customer and when in doubt, capture the voice of the customer again. So my obsession with capturing the voice of the customer led us to do more and more studies like this and, by the way, the results of that study can be downloaded at premion. com. So marketplace education, I think, is the way to and through this and it's been a hallmark for us. So pushing thought leadership has been a hallmark. We actually have spent a lot of time and a lot of money also on our side with our own sellers to make sure that they are not only experts on connected TV and the movement of budgets, but also more experts just in terms of the total environment. So what we've been doing over the last several years is investing in that market education to get marketers and buyers more comfortable with the level of investment flow into streaming, to match audience movement and also, as I mentioned earlier, where the bang for the buck is. And there's a lot of bang for the buck in streaming. So if you're not looking at streaming in this way, you're only capturing half of the American living rooms these days. So a few superpowers, kind of that I think about in this area. One is it's easy to have a discussion with somebody when you're talking about simplifying and aggregating audiences in an otherwise potentially confusing market, when you talk about targetability, measureability, relevancy. So I'm going to aggregate, I'm going to target, I'm going to measure and I'm going to make sure that everything that we're working on has relevancy. That's a great way. That's a group of four great pillars, four great superpowers to use in having the educated discussion. So, again, it's not just about the level of the audience, it's about the efficacy of that connection that that ad by reaches. Rick, I was thinking about this the other day In early 2019, the conversation around streaming was hey, john, thanks for the deal we just did, but I didn't see my ad last night when I was watching streaming and I might want to cancel my order. Right, okay, now fast forward. 2024, it's John. We're getting into planning for 2024. How much more should I be putting into streaming as each quarter progresses and consult me on how I need to shift my strategy at the end of 2024. So bottom line we'll get there. Rick, we will get there.

Rick Ducey:

It's interesting, JV. So there's for the targeting. My son-in-law grew up in Maui and so for the fun of it, sometimes I'll watch a local Hawaii station and see the news, see what it's like back there. So I was watching. I don't remember the specifics but it was a Hawaiian station, probably from Oahu and then they go to break and I got an ad. I mentioned I'm in a DC area, so a very large community college run here actually, where my wife is a professor at Montgomery College. So I'm watching this local TV newscast in Hawaii and then I get a spot for Montgomery College. So I said, okay, that's targeting. So I told my friend who is in sales for this platform this story and then she says, yes, our targeting is working. And I said, man, is it? I mean you kind of have that personal experience and say, okay, I didn't see my spot last night, but the targeting works. You do get some slates, but I mean pretty much it's becoming a much better experience from an audience perspective. So one thing you had mentioned aggregating content from premium providers and then I think you made a quick reference to fast channels and, as local TV stations Gray, TEGNA, all the group owners looking for revenue growth. Your TV viewership is softening, we're seeing that and the spending the digital the big players and digital are taking up a lot of the spending. They're also moving into video as well, of course, and so fast channels are something that the TV groups are coming into with more and more commitment. So there was some launches of fast services last year, more coming out this year and that's becoming a very interesting competitive strategy for local TV group owners to have more video inventory. And what are you seeing in the fast space for 2024?

John Vilade, Head of Sales, Premion:

Yeah, I'm a huge fan of what the fast services have accomplished in a very short period of time. And hey, look, a few Super Bowl ads, maybe some backing by Amazon, major networks, investment Pick, your poison voila. We have anyone who says this industry doesn't move fast. Take a look at how that has happened over the course of just a few years. So, while some of the hybrid and subscription models are still struggling for what I would call consumer fit, the fast channels are, as we both know, are growing really rapidly and consumers love free, big surprise, right. So I read recently, rick, that there are over now over 2000 unique fast channels out there across all the fast services. I believe it, ironically, you know where a lot of that growth has come from are the local stations. The local stations are pumping their content in as fast as they possibly can really smart, and this is a whole other subject. But there's a younger cohort of discovery now out there finding local stations. A lot of these 20-somethings probably didn't even know that these stations existed in their market and now they're beginning a new love affair with oh my gosh, these people are reporting a local news on my fast service. That's really cool. So there's also this perception that there's a lot of overlap between these fast channels and again, I've seen recent research saying that that's not the case. So I always try to disabuse anyone who's investing with us saying, hey, I have enough, let's just call it Roku, channel 2B or Pluto. You know, we'll have to educate them again in terms of the differentiation and the unique value between those fast services. So we're really proud to be partnered with these fast services. And I think you'd also asked about AdLoads. Adloads are something that I'm looking at pretty vigorously with our partnerships team. These days, we haven't necessarily seen scarcity in inventory, particularly in the fast channels, but we're all very cognizant and I think as an industry, you have to be cognizant of the impact AdLoads have on overall audience engagement and ad performance. So, again, data geek, trying to understand what the customer wants, trying to understand how to deliver value. I've been voraciously reading media radars, reports on AdLoads, so I think Freewheel did a pretty nice white paper on this, and then Love what Yiann Lu and T-Vision is doing with regard to AdLoads engagement in the living room. So my net summary is the fast channels have been great for the industry. They've been great at pushing competition. They've been a great home for consumers that want free. I am cognizant, though, that we need to pay attention to how the AdLoads start to work and not every impression is created able. We've got another podcast.

Rick Ducey:

That's right, exactly. Yeah, I mean there's so much in here and yeah, so to make it easy, let me transition to the next, I guess, set of topics, to have a common theme hopefully. But I'll just say maybe a half a dozen words to kind of tee things up and a couple thoughts about that. So in this fast breaking space, and, like you're saying, whoever says this industry doesn't move fast has a bit of tension over the past few years. So I'll say a few words here that are sort of top of mind and occupying a lot of energy and focus, and we'll see what the outcomes end up being. But planning, currency, measurement, performance, activation, optimization, I mean those are the things that are superpowers. You had mentioned that, you know, I think, of the CTV space. So currency for a long time you know it ends up being Nielsen. Nielsen has faced some competitive challenges by other companies. Nbcu did its review of services, and companies like iSpot, video, way Up and others have kind of come into the mix. It seems like all the companies somehow involved in the space, with all those words I threw out there, are facing a time now where like, okay, you know, we have to run this like businesses, we have to be careful of our expenses. We need to time what our expenses are based to our revenues. It is a competitive market. So you know, seeing some adjustments by Nielsen, by Video Am, by pretty much all the players in the spot of telling us what's happening with our audiences and telling us what's happening with our ad campaigns. So with that kind of setup and talk about having enough for another podcast, obviously you pick and choose. I mean, what in all of that do you think is super important that you're really going to be focused on in 2024?

John Vilade, Head of Sales, Premion:

Yeah and look, we're all for better measurement across linear and streaming and I think that lab work certainly continues across all of these players mentioned and they will figure out, figure it out eventually. We're not there yet. I'm not sure 2024 breaks through that barrier, but there's certainly growing pressure. So you know, what I tend to ask our sellers to do consultatively is shift gears in this area to talk more about return on ad spend and return on investment. So we're going after the right audience leading to the right outcomes. Right, we're very outcomes driven. So in this business and I may have said this long ago, but attribution is really the new rating, so we're strongly consulting to that persistent reach and frequency measure wherever a client can. Sometimes you run into some statistically insignificant issues and you've got to work around that site visits, brand lift sales, lift mechanisms, which we've started to do a lot more of, and then also things like what can dynamic creative do for you in terms of measuring the total efficacy of the campaign? So getting audiences there, but ROAS and ROI are critically important. One other thing I've been hammering on is co-viewing right. So, especially as co-viewing links to engagement when tied to premium content. So I think the industry has largely overlooked that value ad, and it also gets me to kind of the Axiom of, you know, buyers needing to be able to discern what their deal CPM is from their effective CPM. So as these major players are figuring out kind of core linear plus streaming measurement, don't forget all of these other things that are becoming new proxies for ratings and outcome.

Rick Ducey:

l love the attribution new rating, and then the emphasis on co-viewing makes so much sense. It just kind of seems to me like there is some inertia going on, since CTV OTT is digital and people think of digital, as you know faces buried in the phones based in their tablet or faces buried in their PC. So that's what this OTT CTV thing is.

John Vilade, Head of Sales, Premion:

Yeah, that's a political for a minute though too. You know these conversations used to happen in the kitchen. Now they're happening in the living room, and a lot of that viewing is co-viewing. You don't think there's a political discussion happening in the living room through streaming. I'll tell you what got to pay attention to that.

Rick Ducey:

Dangerous, it's dangerous but you're right, no, so co-viewing is a big thing to bring up. There's a lot of uncredited audience, so that gap that I was highlighting before that you certainly see, john, is how much viewing is happening, the impression inventory, versus the spending, the monetization of those impressions. That gap is actually bigger when you factor in things like co-viewing. John, this has been fantastic. Thank you so much for being with us. Before I let you go, I would like you to talk about I think you've already done this, but give you another chance to say what are you excited about? I mean so CTV, you've done so much and talked so much already today, but is there any particular thing that you're like? This is going to be really excellent if we can pull this off as an industry or as a company. I mean, what's something that really has you kind of charged up?

John Vilade, Head of Sales, Premion:

Yeah, I'm reflecting back a little bit as I answer this question. So NBC, circa 1999, I had a technologist there who told me that basically, television would never be reliably delivered over internet protocol. That was 25 years ago. So 25 years later, I'm thrilled that we're here and we're here big time. So I'm excited about the fact that a future that everyone might have even been doubtful about 25 years ago is here and we have that true connectivity and we are leading to an industry of choice, convenience and control. Really quickly. Premion is a terrific place to be these days. I think we're in the right place at the right time to serve local. I am super optimistic about 2024 and I think the industry is leading to 24 with some more optimism. Connected TV is going to help political. I am interested to see how the Olympics will perform with streaming and Peacock and other entities that they will leverage. I'm also excited to see how strategists, planners and buyers are going to continue to leverage up and level up on investment in ad supported streaming. I think the economy is going to be just a little bit better than it was in 23. We hope and streaming should see some organic low to middle, low to mid double digit AGR this year from everything that I'm seeing, which is great. So, and what I'm most looking forward to, rick, is maybe doing this again with you at the end of 24.

Rick Ducey:

We can't let this time go by so long again. We'll definitely check back with you, Maybe even mid year, to kind of assess what the first half look like and then move we should expect for the second half. John, this has been a fantastic discussion. Thank you so much. I'm glad we had a chance to get together. Thank you for joining us and sharing your insights and knowledge about CTV and where we're all headed. It's a very complicated, fast moving space and you did a great job bringing it to life for us. So thank you very much, and we you know so the numbers I shared. That's from BIA's local ad forecast. If you want to know more about our local ad forecast for CTV and the other local media ad platforms, please check us out at bia. com. If you're one of our clients, hopefully already know where to find data, but we're always happy to help you find more data or different ways to use it. Thank you again for joining us, John, and our audience too. Thank you for spending time with us today for this leading local insights podcast. We do this for you. If you have ideas or any kind of feedback for what we've done or what you'd like us to do, please let us know, and if we can help you with your planning for 2024, we're certainly available to do that. That's why we're here. We love to do that. I'd love to chat with you about that. My email is rducey@ bia. com. So with that, John, I guess we'll call it a close. Happy New Year everybody. Thank you so much. Have a great day and have a good year.

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