MediaWave Actionable Insights and Industry News for Media Professionals
Digital buyer using a technology platform dashboard to purchase local TV inventory through programmatic buying

To Adopt Programmatic Buying, What Steps Do Local TV Stations Need to Take?

December 13th, 2018   ||    by John R. Osborn

MarTech Today pointed out that “TV ad buying is undergoing a rapid evolution away from a one-to-many to a one-to-one addressable, audience-based and cross-screen approach.”

Though TV ad buying is evolving, local TV is falling behind digital local media due to a lack of investment, according to MediaPost. Local TV brand awareness remains strong, but it alone may not be able to overcome challenges in competing against digital content providers. Investing in programmatic buying technology is key.

So, what steps should local TV stations take over the next two years to fully adopt programmatic buying?


  • Communicate the value of programmatic solutions: Many local TV stations use outdated technology or continue to rely on manual buying and selling processes. The first step to enabling programmatic buying is to communicate its value to the technology decision-makers in your organization.
  • Adopt automated buying and selling: This step is necessary for streamlining buying, and also for expanding into new marketplaces (national, local, addressable, programmatic, over the top (OTT), video on demand (VOD), etc.).
  • Develop and employ standards: Top local station groups and technology companies are developing TV Interface Practices (TIP), open standards APIs designed to translate current best practices for automated spot buying into a universal method for future ad commerce.

Within the Next Year

  • Cross-platform measurement capabilities: While full cross-platform measurement is still evolving, some capabilities will be in place by early 2019, and this is not an area around which stations should just “wait and see.” Many buyers are looking to digital video solutions that sellers need to be ready to plug into to expand measurement resources and evolve quickly. These are also necessary for opening automated guaranteed programmatic buying.
  • Data management automation: Setting up a data management platform (DMP), and connecting it to station first-party data collection and outside partner platforms, now allows stations to address demand for digital-style targeting and grow with the marketplace. An industry DMP partner organized around programmatic TV is the type of investment that pays off sooner rather than later.
  • Data targeting phase 1 (probabilistic data): While two-way internet connectivity and viewer-based targeting is coming with ATSC 3.0 technology, it is not ready today. However, now is the time to strengthen audience data by adding probabilistic (attitudinal, contextual, segmentation, etc.) data to more general demographic buying currencies, offering more options to all buyers.
  • Programmatic T/V via supply-side platform (SSP) partnering: Programmatic TV is not just about local broadcast and cable delivery. It opens up new buying platforms such as streaming services, OTT, mobile, etc. Unlike real-time bidding auctions, automated guaranteed, or Private Marketplace (PMP), programmatic buying makes pricing predictable and builds the seller/buyer relationship.
  • Dynamic ad insertion: Whether the viewer of the content is on a linear, VOD, or digital platform, stations must be able to quickly and reliably match an advertiser’s message with an audience. Digital competition is collapsing timelines for buying to real-time ordering. And even traditional unit lengths are changing, as digital video pre-rolls are moving toward a 6-second unit.

Within the Next Two Years

  • Data targeting phase 2 (viewer-level data): Automated content recognition (ACR) with ATSC 3.0 will bring interactive viewing data tied to personal opt-in identifiers; however, this is moving more slowly than other technology advances. Still, it may well be the most important to invest in with its tremendous upside, placing local TV content and advertising, for the first time, in the center of the digital buying marketplace.

TV NewsCheck reported on a panel at the 2018 NAB Show, where Wendy McMahon, president of ABC Owned Television Stations Group summed up the attitude traditional TV sellers need to embrace: “I’d encourage all of us to think like start-ups.” Use this time line and these tips to stay on track and ahead of the competition.

Tags: , ,

Share this page:

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share via Email