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Can Data Normalization Fix FAST?

Arguably, the two biggest challenges in the FAST ecosystem are managing the ad experience and delivering ROI for the brands that support the platform. Evan Shapiro, CEO, ESHAP, Patrick Courtney, SVP, Head of Streaming & Business Development, Fuse Media, and Laura Florence, SVP Global FAST Channels, Fremantle, agree that standardizing the data they collect and delivering on the promise of programmatic advertising is the key to making it all work. But as this clip from Streaming Media Connect 2024 reveals, it's easier said than done.

Shapiro says to Courtney, “Whether it's the sellout rate or the over frequency or any of the other colliding elements of this, the answer is going to wind up being data, right? The more we can drill into the data and use each user's anonymized, privacy-protected, unique identity, the better that environment is going to be for each user. The question is, how do we pull everybody together to get the data that makes that necessary?”

Courtney notes that disparate data gathered across platforms is the essential problem. “I don't know how you pull it together,” he says. “There has to be some sort of forcing function, and maybe things like Walmart's acquisition of Vizio are part of that…[it creates] this need to standardize measurement across platforms.”

Shapiro says, “In the United States, we had Nielsen, which was a monopoly for many years, and then they fell out of favor. Now, we have a Joint Industry Committee (JIC) that allows for a multi-pronged currency and measurement ecosystem in the UK. All the stakeholders own the JIC, and there's basically one unit of measurement. And it compares all of the sides of the platform: Netflix, broadcast, and soon-to-be YouTube, I hope. We don't have anything close to that here, and we keep grappling with the conversation. But how do you sell interoperability? You have TV, digital, and all these other platforms, and I'm sure you're selling across [all of them]. Are the buyers buying that way?”

Courtney says, “There used to be a separation between digital media and TV. Now they're just video investment teams, and they're buying across social, YouTube, connected TV, pay TV, linear…but not everybody buys that way. So it's a difficult challenge. I'm not envious of our sales team and our integrated marketing teams. How do we take this package to advertisers A, B, C, and D? And I think that's something that is kind of just table stakes now, is to understand how you do that.”

He notes the unique strengths that Fuse has in dealing with these issues due to its multicultural and diverse audience. “We reach a certain segment of audiences across platforms, and we sell that contextually against premium long-form content for the most part,” he says. “And that is a really strong sell, and that gives us the value proposition to our advertising partners to spend with us. The way that we can sell is different than the way Tubi might sell, or a Samsung TV Plus might sell. And I think that creating a collaborative ecosystem, in which all of the data is shared, that actually creates a healthier advertising ecosystem for everybody.”

Shapiro says that it is helpful to think about the situation from the consumer's standpoint. Users lean on known brands because discoverability for new products is very difficult due to data fragmentation and a perception of an overwhelming amount of offerings (the “paradox of choice”). With more unified data across platforms, he says, user preferences could more easily be carried across different providers. Additionally, he notes that a lack of data standardization makes ad buying extremely difficult. Big tech “death stars” have vast advantages regarding cohesive user data, which is impossible for smaller players to compete with. Walmart and Vizio are another example of a big power shift. “They're both huge retailers who are suddenly now television companies,” he says. “And that's the ecosystem we now live in.” He asks Florence for her thoughts on the situation.  

Florence says there is a desperate need for a benchmark that advertisers can agree on to ensure content is valued correctly. “I need that benchmark that advertisers can agree on because they're going to know that our IP is IP that is a lean-in active watch scenario,” she says. “It's family-friendly. These are the things that are going to help them discover that this is worth taking the effort on. I can only do that in pieces right now, and it's not being done at the value the content is worth. We need that normalization because we can't make this content, and we cannot keep it going if it's a fraction of the actual value that it is worth to an advertiser.”

See videos of the full program from Streaming Media Connect February 2024 here.

We'll be back in person for Streaming Media NYC May 20-22, 2024. More details here.

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