Facebook is opening up its data for streaming video publishers to target video ads on their sites and in their apps.
A&E Networks, ESPN, Hearst Television and Scripps Networks Interactive are testing an automated system that lets marketers find their intended audience using Facebook data such as age, gender and location.
"It's a new tool that allows publishers to sell their ad space directly to advertisers using Facebook's 'people-based' system," said Brian Boland, VP of publisher solutions at Facbeook.
The program, called Audience Direct, is a fundamentally new way for Facebook to help media partners sell their ads. It gives publishers the power to sell their own ad inventory directly to advertisers, keeping their own ad tech infrastructure in place.
Facebook is not making money off the beta test, but anticipates eventual revenue from fees on transactions and other opportunities.
Most importantly, Audience Direct opens a new path for Facebook to expand its ad footprint. It already operates its Facebook Audience Network, but that counts on publishers opening their inventory and letting Facebook handle the relationships with advertisers. Publishers opt in to the audience program, and advertisers can expand campaigns outside of Facebook to those partner properties by just clicking a button.
But publishers care about keeping their relationships with advertisers. Audience Direct is Facebook's version of an increasingly popular way of buying digital video ads, so-called programmatic direct.
The direct sales let the publisher set up the deal, and the programmatic part automates the execution. Facebook claims its data helps target ads with 90% accuracy compared to 50% to 60% at other networks. Higher accuracy means publishers waste less inventory serving ads to the wrong person. And Facebook's massive volume of data on logged-in consumers certainly has an advantage over systems that rely on cookies and other methods to infer consumers' characteristics.
Facebook is trying to open new sources for advertising as its News Feed runs out of space for additional ads. It's competing with Google and YouTube to bring media partners into its orbit and create ad transactions in which it can play a role.
Google just introduced YouTube TV, a digital bundle of cable channels distributed online, and Facebook has been trying to get more publishers to develop video for its platform.
"This is Facebook's attempt to take away traditional TV dollars," said one publisher familiar with the new program. "It's their way to gain access to more original programming."