How Automation Is Coming to the Local TV Ad Market

Startups plan to streamline the multi-billion-dollar space

Fragmentation has long plagued local TV ad buyers. Getty Images
Headshot of Ronan Shields

The growth of the digital ad market has been a prevailing narrative in recent years, with eMarketer predicting that it will outstrip offline spend in 2019 at a ratio of 54% to 46%. Meanwhile, efforts to combine the scale of national TV buying with the efficiencies of digital targeting are proceeding, albeit slowly.

And now, efforts to infuse the disparate localized TV media buying market are underway as well, with startups looking to streamline this $16 billion market.

This includes efforts by companies WideOrbit and HudsonMX, which are integrating their tech platforms, WO Traffic and BuyerAsist, in an attempt to reduce the time it takes for local TV buyers to plan, implement and measure the effectiveness of their campaigns.

JT Batson, CEO of HudsonMX, described the local TV media-buying sphere as being wrought with inefficiencies. He also claimed his outfit’s integration with WideOrbit should bring together the workflow systems of thousands of buyers and thousands of sellers across hundreds of local TV markets.

Batson, an early executive in the ad-tech space of over 10 years, also compared the manual nature of local TV planning and execution to booking digital display ad campaigns in the pre-programmatic era of the early ’00s.

“You were spending a whole bunch of time just moving information back and forth,” he said, “and not enough thinking about audience strategy, creative optimization or [reach and frequency].”

Media agencies, he said, are eager to bring automation to local TV buying, as it would help diversify clients’ purchasing options.

“If you’re a local agency, you need to make sure there’s a media ecosystem outside of Google and Facebook that’s going to be compelling for marketers,” he added.

Ad tech supposedly helped usher in the commodification of the desktop advertising space. Some have questioned whether or not local TV owners will meet the same fate. Batson is quick to allay such fears.

“I would say this is more sort of about electronic communication and automation then what you think of ‘programmatic’ in the digital sense [i.e with cookie-based targeting and tracking],” Batson said. “I think the opportunity here is to learn from the evolution of programmatic in display and make sure that we’re not sort of recreating the same mistakes here as we saw in digital.”

@ronan_shields Ronan Shields is a programmatic reporter at Adweek, focusing on ad-tech.