In advance of what promises to be the most data-intensive upfront marketplace in 60 some-odd years, Discovery Communications said Tuesday that it has assembled a comprehensive analytics suite designed to help optimize its ad sales efforts.
The cable networks conglomerate -- which along with the flagship channel oversees brands such as Animal Planet, TLC and Investigation Discovery -- has entered into agreements with a host of Big Data companies. These include the TV sales platform Clypd and the analytics software firm Lake 5 Media, as well as Nielsen's Catalina and NBI units and Rentrak's TV Essentials measurement service.
Discovery ad sales president Joe Abruzzese made the partnership announcements at the company's Tuesday morning upfront breakfast in New York. "Discovery wants to lead in this new space and help our advertisers reach our super fans, make our marketing more precise and help content creators be smarter about emerging trends," Mr. Abruzzese said. "These deals will help us do that."
Speaking to Ad Age late last week, Beth Rockwood, senior VP-market resources and ad sales research, said the various data alliances would allow Discovery to "put together our best inventory for our advertisers," before adding that the greater insights afforded by third-party number crunchers "should help television be an even stronger choice" for media agencies and clients.
Two of the aforementioned companies, Clypd and Lake 5, will assist on the systems front, helping Discovery manage the incoming flood of viewer and purchasing data at its disposal. For its part, the Boston-based Clypd will assist in the sort of workflow automation and audience targeting that makes programmatic TV sales viable -- according to Ms. Rockwood, "it's the only product out there specifically designed to do that."
Using ad tech to precisely target TV viewers or buy ad inventory in instant auctions -- the sort of thing that advertisers associate with "programmatic" ad tech -- remains a work early in its progress.
Clypd first began making waves in programmatic back in December, when ESPN said the company was handling the web-based auction sales of some of its "SportsCenter" inventory. but it wasn't traditional ad time in commercial pods being auctioned off: The 30-second spots available that way air on a giant video wall suspended behind the anchors of the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. highlights shows. And at least at the start, there was a 48-hour window before ads bought that way actually ran.
Lake 5 Media will sift through Discovery's data deluge, processing Nielsen respondent-level/household data and the "Media Information Tapes" used to place automated buys. "They're really adept at taking in complicated data sets and making them easier to work with," Ms. Rockwood said, adding that this will help Discovery identify the audience behaviors that are most relevant to a given client.
The upshot of all this data mining is an environment that simply allows for smarter decision-making. "A lot of this goes beyond age-sex demos and actually looks at behavior: you know, who bought what," Ms. Rockwood said. "And while we certainly don't think anyone's going to move away from Nielsen, all this information is going to be layered on top in some way. So you'll be able look at normal adult 25-54 viewing and also whether someone is in the market for, say, a mid-size car."
Nielsen Catalina and NBI will track viewer and consumer behavior for Discovery as it relates to four areas: financial services, retail, travel and entertainment. And while it has yet to be accredited by the Media Ratings Council, Rentrak's sample size of 30 million set-top boxes has made it the metric of choice for several local TV markets.
There's no question that buyers and sellers have an unprecedented amount of usable data on their hands, but will all these ones and zeroes have a discernable impact on the upfront market?
"We've begun talking to a number of our agencies over the last few weeks and they're all beginning to think about how they're going to bring it through the buying process," Ms. Rockwood said. "Is there too much data? Of course there is. But the more intelligence you can bring to the table, the easier it is to help our partners make better decisions."