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News Plus 25 Jan 2022 - 4 min read

Covert ops: TV networks plot BVOD walled garden powered by OzTam IDs to counter YouTube’s might

By Brendan Coyne - Editor

"If you want a frequency-capped buy across the major publishers… using a common ID… this is how you will have to do it."

Seven, Nine and Ten are attempting to build a combined 'BVOD Marketplace' that uses OzTam IDs as a common identifier to enable targeting and capped frequency across networks in a bid to counter YouTube's might and wrest back control of programmatic inventory and prices. Burned by announcing grand initiatives and then taking years to deliver, the networks are keeping quiet. But they aim to be in market by June – leaving agencies and the media supply chain scrambling to understand the implications.

What you need to know:

  • Main free-to-air networks pitching 'BVOD Marketplace' to agencies. OzTam identifier at the core, flipping from measurement to targeting and frequency capping.
  • Plan is at early stage and fluid but aim is to create privacy-compliant solution.
  • Agencies, supply chain and other TV networks struggling to work out what it being pitched, lots of questions about what will – and will not – be enabled.
  • Agencies worry ability to plug in first party data crimped.
  • Networks say too soon to officially outline plan.

After years of insisting that each can go it alone, fierce rivalries and occasional bloodletting, Australia’s free-to-air TV networks are attempting to lay the foundations of a privacy-compliant walled garden for BVOD inventory. They aim to flip OzTam’s ID for measurement into a mechanism for targeting and frequency capping while herding buyers through the network-owned ‘BVOD Marketplace’.

As one network exec put it: “If you want a frequency-capped buy across the major publishers… using a common ID… this is how you will have to do it.”

That could have ramifications for agency-owned buying platforms and other adtech players, should networks ultimately close off alternative buying avenues.

But agencies warn that the move could backfire, driving buyers deeper into the arms of Youtube, estimated to be trousering north of $2bn in revenue from Australian advertisers.

They fear BVOD Marketplace, which will use IDs based on OzTam’s identifiers that work across the networks’ inventory, may curb their ability to use first party data within the mooted walled garden.

TV execs suggested such concerns are misplaced, though none would speak on the record as the Marketplace is yet to be officially announced – with the industry burned by making announcements and then taking years to deliver.

One industry exec involved in the project attempted to allay fears by stating that the networks remain in the consulting phase – and that no firm decisions on technical spec have been made.

Consulting, not pitching, VOZ 'pivot'

“There is no final build underway at this point. We have spoken with agencies and tech vendors about timelines and everything is on the table,” they told Mi3. “We will go live when we have a solution that satisfies more people than it disappoints.”

While Australia's major publishers have tried to create joint ventures in the past, only to see them collapse, the exec suggested this time might be the exception.

“The changes that are coming down the track related to consumer data and consumer privacy are material. But also the timing is right – BVOD is now big enough to demand the time and resource to do this.”

Another involved exec took a similar line. Agencies may be airing fears based on early consultations, he suggested. “We are modifying what we are doing to meet the market."

If it gets off the ground, one agency exec suggested the OzTam identifier-powered BVOD Marketplace “could actually unlock the true power of VOZ … and become the final pivot that delivers value”.

How the system will work

BVOD Marketplace aims to take the OzTam ID that is already used for measurement and harness it for targeting, reach and frequency capping. The ID will be held in a centralised environment, and when somebody switches on a BVOD streaming service, there will be a call to the publishers’ ad server, then calls to the programmatic inventory supply chain. If buyers want to bid on, for example, males 18-39 and the inventory is available, the system will return a positive ID and enable the deal. The aim is to also facilitate consent: If the viewer has opted out of targeted ads, the system won’t return the ID.

Briefings, counter-briefings

Ad tech providers and agencies were briefed on BVOD Marketplace just before Christmas. The TV networks aim to launch the marketplace in Q2, though agencies and vendors suggest that timetable is highly ambitious.

SSPs will need to undertake the necessary engineering and development, OzTam’s ID will need to be compatible with their systems, and the networks will need to finalise exactly how the marketplace will function and what it will enable.

Neither SBS nor Foxtel are currently involved, with Foxtel understood to have concerns about putting all its digital inventory in one basket and unanswered questions around due diligence and market readiness. However discussions with both networks are ongoing.

Industry execs said that platforms such as WPP’s Finecast may be adversely affected if BVOD Marketplace effectively ends up as a competitive approach, though GroupM execs may argue that if first party data overlays are compromised via the TV networks’ marketplace, the opposite could be true.

One exec said that some agency DSPs “may actually benefit from a levelling of the playing field, because you have the same identifier coming in and the everyone is bidding on the same thing”.

Will it fly?

The only real consensus from agencies is that the ‘consultation’ is quickly shifting and that proposals are currently too fluid to understand implications for advertisers.

But there is some support for Seven, Nine and Ten’s intent.

“The networks are using a moment in time where they have volume, interest and momentum to make what they would view as a strategic move that delivers benefits over three to five years,” said one ad buyer.

“So how does that work, is it meaningful or are we all going to say 'too hard' and buy more Youtube? That’s what we will find out… But there is not much point in doing this unless you remove some of the current ways of buying [BVOD] … because if there are ways around it, it won’t work,” he suggested.

“That is the whole point. They want to curtail the power of SSPs and holdcos that are arbitraging their inventory … if they can succeed, that would be a win for them.”

Other supply chain execs agreed.

“The networks collaborating to gain more control and visibility over their largest growing assets strategically makes sense – eventually BVOD and linear TV revenues will flip. They are collectively trying to build a more transparent, premium video ecosystem and something like this has to happen,” said one.

“But I think they will need to adapt it for [first party] data. That will be driven by buyers – and the networks will probably change their minds [and adapt the system to enable first party data-driven buying] if advertisers don’t bite,” said the exec.

“One of their goals is to combat Youtube. The problem is ... it could backfire and push buyers in the other direction.”

'Not a game changer'

However, one industry observer suggested the proposals currently tabled lacked broader ambition, and that if the networks wanted to create a walled garden, they should lay far deeper foundations. 

"Networks will tell you this is a massive step forward. I'd say it's an incremental improvement, but not a material change to the way TV ultimately needs to be bought in the modern digital age," he said, suggesting the networks had a "unique opportunity to build one data platform using one data lake and the same methodologies... think about all of those different bodies that have tried and failed to create a universal ID.

"They should build a walled garden for TV that protects it and sets it up for the future so that it can be bought and traded on real value. If the networks worked together to create one data lake, one CDP and one data platform... that allowed the sales teams to ultimately sell top properties at premiums and the rest programatically to enhance reach and frequency, cap impressions and charge accordingly based on consumer segments developed specifically for the client – then welcome to the twenty first century."

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