French broadcasters team up to reduce fraud across VOD inventory

In France three broadcasters, France Télévisions, M6 and TF1, have created a common standard for advertisers who want to buy inventory on their video-on-demand services programmatically, called Sygma. The idea is to make it easier for buyers to access inventory from all three broadcasters, plus reduce wastage and types of fraud.

Sygma, launched in September, is a number of common standards around security and data privacy set by the broadcasters that demand-side platforms have to adhere to in order to access valuable logged-in VOD inventory. DSPs that have the Sygma certification have a separate buyer interface to make it easier for advertisers buying across all three.

Programmatic buying across digital video is growing in France — according to M6 two-thirds of deals on its catch-up service are sold direct rather than programmatically — but until recently broadcasters have been concerned with data leakage and security. M6, for instance, has around 22 million people subscribed to its on-demand service, highly sought-after deterministic, anonymized age, gender and location data.

“The value of this data is very high, we did not want to put in programmatic so buyers could steal it,” said Guillaume Charles, deputy director general of marketing, digital and studies of M6 Publicité, the broadcaster’s sales house.

According to Nielsen’s Digital Ad Ratings, digital campaigns are between 30 and 50 percent effective at reaching target demographics in France. Using deterministic data from broadcaster VOD services increases accuracy significantly. M6 digital campaigns are more than 75 percent accurate, said Charles.

“We observed some [buyers] were making false bids in order to get this data,” he added. “Some make false bids with trackers with segments in the DMP without buying anything. You see new players come in and make millions of bids without buying. We know they’re sniffing the data with everyone. We want to avoid this type of practice.”

Adobe Marketing Cloud was the first to have the Sygma DSP certification at launch, but Charles said it’s in conversations with other tech vendors, as long as they match Sygma’s data protection criteria and tech discrepancies. “Not all programmatic is fraudulent, most of the buying is honest and transparent, but there is some that we want to avoid,” said Charles. “That was the first motivation.”

France has a number of alliances between media companies, but collaborations between just broadcasters are harder to come by. With YouTube and Facebook making more aggressive moves for TV money, touting premium broadcaster inventory regardless of teaming up with historical rivals is more appealing. Last year, European broadcasters teamed up to form the European Broadcaster Exchange, EBX.

Sygma isn’t a full alliance: Broadcasters aren’t sharing data or pricing, it’s open to all parties provided they meet the standard, broadcaster sales houses will remain independent for direct sales while programmatic non-logged in data is still available. However, according to Charles, it’s the first time French broadcasters have developed a standard tech that’s common for TV broadcaster’s digital offering. Outside of ad inventory, France’s broadcaster’s joined forces in June this year to announce Salto, a subscription video-on-demand platform, to rival Netflix and Amazon.

The complications with getting into bed with competitors are clear, often they’re formed against pressure from a common enemy — mostly Facebook and Google — but with the TV business growing working with competitors is easier, said Charles. Sygma has been roughly a year in the making, and only since 2016 has broadcaster data been at a suitable place to warrant this type of collaboration.

However, in general, alliances should be broader to have a real impact, said digital media consultant, Alessandro De Zanche. “Media alliances should work on a consistent, data science led framework providing a single customer view one level above the delivery channels,” he said, “and only then feed the different channels as needed — in this case programmatic, but not necessarily — then leverage that uniqueness of the knowledge of the user. Otherwise, it’s a way of mixing the same old ingredients with maybe slightly more checks and fewer issues.”

Sygma is currently running test campaigns with ad agencies in France, sources familiar with the matter say there is strong demand and early signs are promising. CPMs through Sygma will be higher than going direct because there’s more scale, targeting criteria and competition.

“We want buyers to have the same level of delivery as they have through direct, the same reliability,” said Charles.

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