How Advertisers Can Get the Most Value From OTT Content

The key is assigning program type to premium video

In the past, premium video was a highly anticipated one-time viewing experience. But today, it can be accessed at the touch of a button. Premium video is on our phones, our desktops and our connected TVs. The common denominator across each of these mediums is the content they display. It also happens to be the central point between a consumer, an advertiser and a media owner.

A key component in driving TV and digital convergence is developing scalable solutions that allow marketplace participants to describe, transact and report on a clearly defined, understandable and manageable set of OTT content descriptors more easily.

Aligning OTT taxonomies

In programmatic, information about content was historically derived from a URL or an app. For example, the new Space Jam movie is available at and the 1996 original is at Different URLs represent different content.

OTT content, however, works differently. Take the HBO Max app, which contains content as different as Under Siege 2: Dark Territory and Air Buddies. Each of these films have a distinct audience that advertisers value, but it’s impossible to derive which audience is which from the app name alone. Perhaps a third grader who lost a basketball game to a dog would be OK with this lack of detail, but for programmatic advertisers, additional signals are required to get the most value out of OTT content.

Recently, the industry has aligned via the IAB on a set of standardized fields in the “content object,” which covers important categories like genre, rating, delivery type (live or on demand) and duration. This is a good framework, but premium video publishers often have their own taxonomies for categories like genre. For example, one publisher might use “comedy” while another might use “humor.”

To make these fields usable at scale, platforms must work closely with publishers to standardize this information into a consistent taxonomy. Xandr has done the work to apply a unified taxonomy to all content object fields that we make available across the ecosystem. Currently these fields are available through reporting and deals-targeting for publishers and in the Xandr Curate platform. They’re also sent in bid requests to all external DSPs and made available through reporting in our buy-side platform.

While it seems simple, this consistency in impression labels is still nascent. However, it’s a critical component to programmatic as it ensures media buyers can easily reach audiences and generate meaningful reporting. So, when it comes to content like Under Siege 2: Dark Territory and Air Buddies, a consistent taxonomy in fields—such as genre, e.g., action or basketball and rating, e.g., adults or children—means media buyers can differentiate between audiences and make more accurate purchasing decisions.

Distinct content definitions equal clear audience targets

The IAB’s progress in standardizing fields is impressive, but there is more work to be done. What’s missing is a field for “program type” which describes the format of the content, such as a movie, a show or an event. Let’s consider three new pieces of content being watched live on a virtual multichannel video programming distributor (vMVPD) like AT&T TV: Air Buddies on ABC, Women of Troy on HBO and Game 3 of the WNBA Finals on ESPN.

If a media buyer wants to target just live basketball games, they might be tempted to use the logic “live AND basketball.” Again, seems simple, but actually, all three of these pieces of content would fit this general description. After all, they’re all about basketball and none of them are being watched on demand.

Recognizing this gap in the “content object” system, Xandr has applied the program type methodology, enabling sellers to label Air Buddies as a movie, Women of Troy as a show, and Game 3 of the WNBA Finals as an event. In this case, the logic “live AND basketball AND event” would be applied, and a media buyer’s message would be accurately aligned to the content it appears on.

As the number of vMVPDs, streaming services and formats as a whole continue to increase, these granular fields for content distinction will become even more important. Working with industry groups to standardize the adoption of such fields should remain top of mind for programmatic platforms looking to facilitate a better buying and selling experience and provide consumers with best possible viewing experience.

As director of product management at Xandr, Lynn Chealander oversees products developed for agencies and marketers within Xandr’s sell side platform, Xandr Monetize. With over 15 years of ad-tech experience, solutions developed under Lynn’s leadership have been instrumental in Xandr’s progress toward creating an open and transparent advertising ecosystem.