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News Plus 28 Jul 2021 - 3 min read

Ad-funded SVOD: Rod Prosser unpacks 10ViacomCBS' sports sales strategy, insists paying viewers will not mind 'unintrusive' ads

By Josh McDonnell - Senior Writer

Rod Prosser: "We know sports viewers are comfortable with a level of advertising, we will treat that with great respect and by doing so give brands a level of attention, exclusivity and dominant share of voice across the game."

10 ViacomCBS is set to bring ads into subscription video, with the A-League the test bed. Kicking off the network's new sports sales strategy, sales boss Rod Prosser thinks a hybrid approach could be a winner for advertisers – and insists the strategy will not be "intrusive" to audiences paying to watch sport.

What you need to know:

  • 10 ViacomCBS will run ads through its new streaming platform Paramount+ with soccer the test-bed.
  • Ten won the rights to the A-League, W-League and other football properties earlier this year in a $200m deal.
  • Sales chief Rod Prosser said the cross-platform sales strategy is "the future" of the business, as network spreads content – and ads – across FTA, BVOD and SVOD channels.

This is about future-proofing the sales strategy of the business and I think there is an opportunity to bring advertising into the subscription model, provided we are respectful of the viewer.

Rod Prosser, Chief Sales Officer, 10ViacomCBS

Extra time

10 ViacomCBS will experiment with ads in subscription video later this year, with soccer the test-bed.

The network is kicking off its new sales strategy, underpinned by the $200m deal for A-League and W-League via the newly formed Australian Professional Leagues (APL), which last year split from Football Federation Australia.

As part of the five-year deal, 10ViacomCBS also secured an undisclosed level of equity (reportedly 2.5 per cent) in the leagues and became the second broadcaster in years to own the rights to an entire sporting code. 

Speaking to Mi3, Prosser said the business was confident in being able to rebuild the code's audience after ratings plummeted during Foxtel's tenure. And he thinks audiences won't kick back if ads are unintrusive.

The network sales boss said 10 was determined to land the entire scope of the rights, not just partial free-to-air or limited amounts of streaming, which has been the case for other codes such as NRL, AFL and cricket in recent years.

"No disrespect to the incumbents, but we think that we're giving fans and viewers more access to more games across more distribution platforms," Prosser said.

"It can't be piecemeal. We've got the entire sporting property and our own interests not just from a rights perspective but investment in the game – so a cross platform offering is key."

Paramount+ launches August 11. Prosser said the network's expectation was to "make good money" from the deal. He wouldn't comment on audience benchmarks or subscriber growth targets but said football is central to its subscription plans, with the new streaming service replacing 10 All Access, which failed to fully take off.

Ads in SVOD

The broadcaster is now plotting a different approach to how it sells inventory across its FTA, BVOD and subscription services and will push in-stream advertising across the Paramount+ exclusive games. 

"This is about future-proofing the sales strategy of the business and I think there is an opportunity to bring advertising into the subscription model, provided we are respectful of the viewer," Prosser said.

"We know sports viewers are comfortable with a level of advertising, we will treat that with great respect and by doing so give brands a level of attention, exclusivity and dominant share of voice across the game.

The commercial opportunities will likely involve pre and mid-roll inventory, alongside the sponsorship of streaming exclusive segments.

While the likes of Stan Sport have also had sponsorship as part of the Rugby rights deal, in-stream advertising on SVOD would be a first for Australia.

Prosser said this could continue to grow as the network takes learnings from its international owners and how the new streaming service is rolled out in other markets.

In the US, streaming giant Hulu makes the majority of its subscription revenue through its ad-funded model.

"This is a unique position and will gain a lot of insights from the test and learn stages from multiple markets around the world," Prosser said.

"If you look at the US, they have audiences comfortable with paying a certain amount for content that is mixed with ads and then a level that is without ads, so there's certainly a chance to explore that once we see how the platform is received here and elsewhere."

While Paramount+ launches at a cost of $8.99, the introduction of sport pricing models may diverge.

I'm optimistic that the audiences will pile into TV over the coming months and as we saw last year, the revenue quickly followed ... and bookings really tightened.

Rod Prosser, Chief Sales Officer, 10ViacomCBS

Fourth quarter comeback

While free-to-air TV audiences have declined following last year's pandemic peak, the recent NSW and Victorian lockdowns may drive another spike.

Some media buyers have indicated a resurgence in TV spend as other channels remain impacted by the lockdown measures and current campaigns are shifted or paused.

Prosser said there are early signs "history could be repeating" for the fourth quarter.

"We saw this last year, with a lot of brands shifting spend into TV – it got extremely busy and bookings really tightened," Prosser said.

"Some brands are leaning in already, some slightly, others moving portions of their spend from channels completely but then there are those who are holding off from a decision.

"I'm optimistic that the audiences will pile into TV over the coming months and as we saw last year, the revenue quickly followed."

Should there be an influx of interest, Prosser said the network would be better prepared this year.

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