Sky brings programmatic to video

U.K. pay TV broadcaster Sky is going deeper into programmatic with a new programmatic video ad system.

Sky Media, the ad sales division of Sky, will be licensing Videology’s technology to build a programmatic system to run Sky’s video ad inventory across digital platforms, creating a “proof of concept project” that will come into play early next year, said Jamie West, Sky Media’s deputy managing director.

Toward that end, Sky will be developing a layer that will sit on top of its technology stack allowing it to optimize and automate its different video inventory across its digital platforms and set-top TV box. Sky Media has several ad products and inventory sources that offer different “routes to market,” all of which are managed separately, according to West.

“For instance, for Sky Go (the on-demand mobile app), the ads are inserted at point of consumption. For the set top box, they are inserted at the point of download,” he said.

Managing these buys all separately potentially leads to waste and lack of transparency.

“We’re facing the market to offer a sales proposition to transact holistically across all of those platforms, and allow agency platforms to integrate into that technology layer and manage it in a data-secure way,” he explained. “We’ll also take into account the frequency capping and current industry supply and compliance rules.”

This is an important point as the ad server technology will comply to restrictions, such as time of day served, ensuring there aren’t duplications of ads — or whether two advertisers in the same category are in the same break. “These are things basic ad servers don’t take into account,” he said.

Sky has spent heavily on ad technology to develop products like AdSmart (allowing advertisers to target their TV ads to specific households) and AdVance (a solution to join up TV and digital advertising).

Jem Lloyd-Williams, executive director of product and innovation, at Vizeum, part of Dentsu Aegis network, which works with Sky, points out the broadcaster has always used technology to reach customers, whether through a set-top box or a satellite dish.

“It understands how to turn the data into insight. It’s a technology company with TV at its heart,” he said. “Understanding what you haven’t got is as powerful as understanding what you do have, and partnering a well-established tech company is a smart move.”

Sky counted 12 million U.K. customers in the summer of 2015, according to the company; this first-party data is a powerful weapon. “It has a vast amount of data on people who consume its products,” said Lloyd-Williams. “Videology also has vast amounts of data on how people consume video. It’s not just about the technology layer that’s going to sit on its video inventory, but the convergence of data intelligence of these two big companies and the exciting things that will happen there.”

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