Future of TV Briefing: Why CTV ad sellers are adopting universal IDs like Unified ID 2.0

This Future of TV Briefing covers the latest in streaming and TV for Digiday+ members and is distributed over email every Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET. More from the series →

This week’s Future of TV Briefing looks at how streaming ad sellers are seeing the adoption of universal IDs boost their CTV ad revenues.

  • ROI(D)
  • Walmart looks to buy Vizio, the Disney-Fox-WBD sports streamer, Disney’s AI ad pitch and more

ROI(D)

The connected TV identity landscape has changed — in that there is one now.

With the third-party cookie’s demise spurring web publishers’ and advertisers’ adoption of universal identifiers like The Trade Desk’s Unified ID 2.0, the extension of those universal IDs to CTV creates an opportunity for advertisers to similarly target their CTV campaigns and for CTV ad sellers to get advertisers to bring more of their online ad dollars to the TV screen.

“When UID 2.0 was born, it was originally through the lens of the death of the cookie. That never really applied to CTV; CTV signals were always more enriched; we didn’t rely on cookies,” said Jennifer Hess, vp of global advertising operations at Fubo, a streaming pay-TV service that adopted UID 2.0 in February 2021. “What the benefit of UID 2.0 has been is the standardization of signals, which just opens publishers like ourselves to more monetizable events.”

Translation: CTV ad impressions were lucrative without the cookie. But attaching cookie-replacing identifiers like UID 2.0 to CTV ad impressions is proving to make them more lucrative.

Philo, a streaming pay-TV service which announced its adoption of UID 2.0 in September 2023, “saw a 25% to 30% jump in revenue, like immediately,” said Reed Barker, the company’s head of advertising.

Fubo has also seen its ad revenue and fill rate increase when UID 2.0 is attached to impressions, though Hess was unable to provide specific numbers.

An executive at another streaming company that had recently adopted UID 2.0 said they had also heard about streamers notching similar CTV ad revenue increases. “I hope both of our sources are as accurate as possible. I’d be A-OK with that [revenue bump] right now,” said this executive.

The reason behind the revenue bump Philo received is the same reason that the streaming executive’s company is adding support for UID 2.0 in CTV: The identifier is unlocking new ad dollars. This may not be all that surprising considering that the company behind UID 2.0 operates one of the biggest demand-side platforms in the market.

“What we really saw was that the advertisers were using UID 2.0 as sort of a must-have,” said Barker. “So it wasn’t that we were necessarily seeing higher CPMs — although they were higher, but not 25% to 30% higher — but we are seeing that we are able to fish in different ponds.”

Not every streamer is seeing UID 2.0 have such a strong impact on their CTV ad businesses, though. Tubi adopted UID 2.0 in April 2021, but whereas Philo doesn’t have a direct sales team and depends entirely on the programmatic market and resellers for its ad revenue, the Fox-owned free, ad-supported streaming TV service relies more on the traditional upfront advertising market. As a result, “the inclusion of UID 2.0 and other addressability solutions doesn’t have the same kind of bidstream impact as it does on open market and web inventory,” said Melanie Brown, vp of advanced TV at Tubi.

The need for universal support

Another limiting factor is the fact that UID 2.0 is still gathering support across the CTV market, which can inhibit its impact for companies distributing programming and selling ads across various streaming services, such as streaming pay-TV providers and FAST services.

“We are leaning in the direction of supporting [UID 2.0 for CTV], but we’re still in conversations,” said Tyler DeNicola, vp of programmatic revenue and partnerships at A+E Networks. While A+E Networks supports the idea of UID 2.0 providing a universal identifier for the CTV ad market, the reality is, “if not everyone’s doing this, then it’s a universal approach with gaps,” DeNicola said.

Some of the gaps are the result of UID 2.0 being an identifier based primarily on first-party data, such as people’s email addresses and phone numbers. While some streaming services require people to sign in to watch shows and movies, not all do. Additionally, for a company like A+E Networks that operates a network of channels in other companies’ FAST services, those other FAST services would need to also support UID 2.0.

“If people want a universal ID, the way I see it, it needs to be there 100% of the time. Based on where we sit in the ecosystem, we can’t give 100% support of UID 2.0 because we don’t have the data available to support it in every instance of our impressions. Our goal is to try to support it at 100%,” DeNicola said.

One hundred percent support is a lofty goal. But the gap is closing. Last week Dish Media announced it has adopted UID 2.0 for its traditional pay-TV service as well as its Sling TV streaming pay-TV service.

The surplus of universal IDs

It’s not as though UID 2.0 is the only universal ID option for CTV. Tubi, for example, also supports LiveRamp’s Ramp ID and is “working to enhance that via Google PAIR ID and Yahoo’s ConnectID through [LiveRamp’s Authenticated Traffic Solution, which can connect various universal IDs to a Ramp ID],” said Brown. And Philo expects to add “one or two other ID solutions” in the next year or so, Barker said.

Which brings up an important point: There is unlikely to be one universal ID to rule them all in CTV (or any other channel, for that matter). A second streaming executive said they are currently eyeing three universal IDs for CTV — UID 2.0, Ramp ID and Epsilon’s CORE ID — “and then I’ve heard of at least four other, different frameworks,” they said. Fubo is also evaluating additional universal IDs with an eye toward interoperability so that an overabundance of universal IDs doesn’t overcomplicate ad sales (or compound the cost of sale).

“Is it necessary to integrate with all of them, or is there one or two singular solutions that can give us access to all of those environments? I think that singular solution, in addition to UID 2.0, likely wins in terms of our roadmap for adoption,” said Hess.

Ad tech companies like Cadent are similarly having to expand support for the various universal IDs, extending themselves across the CTV market in order to seize the opportunity opened up by this interoperability need. “I think it will continue to become more important for players like ourselves to be able to work with more and more identifiers,” said Erin Hawryluk, vp of product marketing at Cadent.

“I think it’s going to be in everybody’s best interest to have as many of these identifiers within their inventory because, at the end of the day, it comes down to what the buyer wants. If the buyer’s strategic audience strategy is based on UID 2.0 because The Trade Desk is their exclusive DSP, you want to make sure you have UID 2.0 rolled out,” said the first streaming executive.

And with targeted advertising and programmatic becoming more important components of the overall TV and streaming ad landscape — including the upfront market — the incentive for CTV ad sellers to support universal IDs such as UID 2.0 and LiveRamp’s Ramp ID is increasing.

Consider this from the streaming executive whose company recently adopted UID 2.0 for CTV: “I do think it’s going to help. I think the industry in this [year’s] upfront is going to be very focused on data buying, strategic audiences, delivered in all platforms and wherever possible. So I would hope that that’s one of the reasons why some of the other people are getting this up and running,” said the executive.

What we’ve heard

“A lot of pressure’s been put on publishers to provide data to be transparent on where things are running. But there’s been little in return from the [demand-side platforms] of what we get in transparency back.”

Streaming executive

Numbers to know

123.7 million: Number of people who watched this year’s Super Bowl, per Nielsen.

126.6 million: Number of people who watched this year’s Super Bowl, per iSpot.tv.

800: Number of employees that Paramount Global is laying off.

-14%: Percentage decline year over year in the number of scripted shows that aired on traditional TV or streaming in 2023.

1.3 million: Number of core subscribers that Disney+ lost in the fourth quarter of 2023.

11.4 million: Number of streaming subscribers that AMC Networks had at the end of 2023.

12.6 million: Number of streaming subscribers that Starz had at end of the 2023.

-20%: Percentage decline in ad revenue for Fox Corp in Q4 2023 compared to Q4 2022.

What we’ve covered

Despite the rapid rise of the creator economy, the Super Bowl relied on traditional celebrities — a lot of them:

  • In the 59 ads that aired during this year’s Super Bowl, there were 80 celebrities featured.
  • The celebrities’ average age was 49 years old.

Read more about Super Bowl ads’ celeb-centricity here.

How Duolingo’s CMO Manu Orssaud advertised around the Super Bowl:

  • The brand aired a five-second-long regional spot in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, among other markets.
  • The ad sought to replicate Reddit’s 2021 ad.

Read more about Duolingo’s Super Bowl strategy here.

Super Bowl advertisers aim for mainstream appeal with AI-focused ads:

  • Microsoft used the game to promote its Copilot product.
  • Google touted its Pixel 8 phone’s AI capabilities.

Read more about AI-focused Super Bowl ads here.

For Doritos Dinamita, a $7 million ad spot is just the start of its Super Bowl strategy:

  • Ahead of the Super Bowl, the chip brand debuted its TikTok account.
  • The marketer used the campaign to relaunch the Dinamita brand.

Read more about Doritos Dinamita’s Super Bowl strategy here.

New sports streaming service will upset the balance of power in TV, media buyers say:

  • The Disney-Fox-Warner Bros. Discovery streaming sports joint venture is likely a response to increased competition for sports rights and declining traditional TV revenue.
  • Ad buyers are interested in hearing what the streamers’ ad product portfolio will include.

Read more about the sports streamer here.

What we’re reading

Walmart looks to buy Vizio:

The retail giant has put smart TV maker and CTV platform owner Vizio in its shopping cart in an apparent bid to follow rival Amazon into the streaming TV market, according to The Wall Street Journal.

More on the Disney-Fox-WBD sports streamer:

After breaking the story about the media companies’ joint venture, The Wall Street Journal has followed up with details about major sports leagues’ reaction to the news (not good) and the sports streaming service’s potential price point (up to $50).

Disney’s AI ad pitch:

Disney will use AI to contextually target ads on Disney+ and Hulu based on the content of scenes in shows and movies, according to Reuters.

X’s pitch for creators:

The platform formerly called Twitter plans to start letting advertisers target pre-roll ads to run against specific creators’ videos in a bid to incentivize creators to post to the platform, according to Bloomberg.

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