Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Paul Gubbins: A look back at the UK CTV market over the last 12 months

By Paul Gubbins, Head of Strategic Partnerships at Publica and NDA monthly columnist

Now I appreciate this is the time of year when we normally look forward and predict, however, the UK CTV market is evolving so quickly that I wanted to take some time out to take a look at some of the fantastic work those on both the buy & sell sides have been doing locally this year to ensure the infrastructure is in place to capture the growing traditional TV, digital display & social budgets that will be migrating to addressable TV environments in 2021.

Standards, Protocols & Best Practices

Transacting TV advertising via programmatic pipes is very different from display or video, although there are a lot of similarities, there are many differences (live content, ad pods, slot position, ads stitching, pre fetching, OpenRTB objects et al) and governing bodies such as the IAB UK have done a fantastic job this year in pulling together their CTV Advisory Group (Disclaimer, Publica is a proud member) that includes a cross section of the buy and sell side to help shape the best practices needed to encourage more ad budgets to enter the ecosystem.

This week, they released their in-depth CTV Supply Chain Transparency guide that can be downloaded via and does a great job in illustrating a breakdown of the different CTV advertising options for advertisers looking to enter the OTT market where their cord cutting audiences are increasingly spending their time.

UK AVOD & BVOD Inventory

I have already written this year in NDA why I feel the UK CTV supply ecosystem is now mature enough to support CTV ad buys, however, I wanted to reiterate why I feel we end 2020 in a much stronger position when it comes to premium BVOD & AVOD inventory liquidity.

77% Of UK consumers prefer to watch TV shows for free with ads than pay to watch ad-free according to recent research from Unruly and our biggest broadcasters have been quick to react to the way consumers want to watch TV content. We have tier 1 broadcasters such as ITV & Channel 4 opening up access to their BVOD inventory to programmatic demand & a multitude of global OTT first apps such as Pluto, Rakuten, Roku, Xite and others who are all now offering advertisers the opportunity to engage with UK cord cutting audiences in AVOD environments that are streaming professionally produced content.

ITV’s premium advanced advertising platform, Planet V, officially went live 5th October after a soft launch in January. According to reports, Planet V will allow both advertisers and agencies control over the planning, buying and reporting of their campaigns across ITV’s video-on-demand service, ITV Hub. Kelly Williams, managing director, commercial, told Campaign that ITV built its own platform as a “new programmatic ecosystem for television” and what I find really interesting about Planet V is that it sounds like it will be made available to other premium broadcasters also, not just exclusive to ITV owned & operated domains. Initiatives like this from our biggest broadcasters are fantastic to see and will certainly make it easier for traditional TV advertisers & those new to TV from display & social to increase their CTV investments.

The search functionality on mobile devices is now second nature to most consumers, however, AVOD App discovery on CTVs beyond the core SVOD offerings is still a little daunting to many who are just getting to grips with their smart TV features. This is why it is great to read that Samsung’s Tizen operating system is the most popular streaming platform in the world. Samsung sold 11.8 million smart TVs worldwide in the previous quarter, making it the best ever quarter by Samsung or any other vendor.

Tizen OS currently powers some 12.5% of all internet-connected TV’s worldwide and this is a good thing for the growth of AVOD in the UK market due to the strong penetration of Samsung smart TVs and their commitment to making AVOD Apps discoverable on their hardware. Samsung’s position in the CTV market also enables them to have an advertising offering in the UK via Samsung Ads that enables advertisers to engage with & target AVOD audiences on Samsung TV’s via a multitude of different premium OTT channels, another example of the way data driven CTV advertising has been made readily accessible to advertisers in the UK this year.

As you can see, there is so much positive innovation happening from the sell side this year that finding good quality, premium & brand safe CTV inventory should no longer be a challenge in 2021.

Identity, Data & Context

CTV Apps and more specifically AVOD Apps ordinarily operate outside of the controls of web based browsers & telco App stores so thus far have been protected somewhat from the tectonic changes driven by Google & Apple shaping the practice of programmatic display & mobile ad buying. Assuming consent has been given, AVOD apps have been extremely well placed to capture programmatic budgets this year where controls such as reach, frequency & attribution can still be applied holistically due to the persistent & privacy compliant Device ID passed by OTT AVOD Apps.

The CTV will take on a new role alongside that of content distributor next year and will also act as a truth set to validate the many number of household identity hypotheses made by device graph companies in 2021. Unlike mobile phones, tablets & laptops, the family TV rarely leaves the house and in most case will be connected to the same IP for the majority of its lifetime, this means the CTV is ideally placed to help bridge the divide between deterministic & probabilistic ID assumptions so I fully expect a lot of CTV identity partnerships next year.

2020 has all been about 1st party data & AVOD publishers have been uniquely placed to capture it in a privacy compliant way. There are multiple points of direct communication with users such as CTV power on, App instal, pre OTT show etc and companies such as LiveRamp are now empowering ad supported streaming publishers to better understand, segment & activate these highly prized data points so they can surface them via CTV PMPs within SSPs to the DSP’s who are looking for the data parameters to target that have historically not been made available to their advertisers via traditional TV buys.

However, for those AVOD publishers in the UK that are still early on in their data journey or want to add another layer of insights to their inventory to increase bid density, yield & sell through there has been ‘Context’. We have seen great progress this year from companies such as IRIS.TV & Peer 39 when it comes to applying the logic of context beyond the page to CTV streaming content & this is just another example of how the UK CTV market has matured in 2020 & is now extremely well placed to enter 2021 with a strong inventory, data, identity & privacy narrative.

Yes, I know we still have some work to do on the measurement front but we have come such a long way in the last 12 months that I fully expect this to be resolved by the end of next year considering how much advertising budget & AdTech R&D resources are focussed on addressable TV at the moment.

Have a safe Christmas, enjoy the ad funded streaming & hopefully speak to many of you in person in the new year about how we can collectively grow the UK CTV advertising ecosystem even further!