Whenever an opportunity arises, you can be sure that someone is maximizing it for their own benefit. The media landscape is no exception. Recently the desire to maximize profit while sacrificing quality has manifested itself in the CTV/OTT landscape. Due to the tremendous growth in user base and revenues, the streaming TV space is quickly becoming one of the cornerstones of digital media. Those of us in the industry have been keeping a close eye on how the supply of inventory is keeping up (or not) with the demand for space. The story here is a little concerning.
The amount of available CTV/OTT inventory quickly outpaced the demand of the advertisers, and in response, the amount of available inventory has sharply increased over the last two years. Global OTT viewer growth is up 16.9% in 2019, and time spent by US adults watching digital media (lead by CTV and set-top boxes) has surpassed time spent watching traditional media.
More users + more time spent by users = more inventory. Everyone wants in on the hot ‘new’ thing, and it would be foolish for any publisher or platform to turn down the potential huge revenue boosts. The phenomenon of massive increases in inventory has continued without much regard for the validity of the actual supply. Due to the lack of standardized governing body, it’s up to advertisers to hold publishers and platforms accountable for the quality and validity of their inventory. This is a problem.
For instance, Roku is in a fierce battle for dollars while their platform is very open. Today, they allow publishers to easily create a channel without much friction. This ease to launch a channel invites bad characters to create an APP and spoof traffic as if it is OTT. We all know many data protection and verification services are playing catch up in a difficult video environment due the execution methods.
Using our experience in the CTV/OTT space we’ve noticed some trends in the data. We’ve discovered that the largest single issue is CTV/OTT supply being spoofed when in actuality its general mobile app traffic. A recent emarketer report exposed that 19% of worldwide OTT impressions were invalid.
It isn’t the minor leagues that are having issues adapting to the trending OTT marketplace. Major players such as ROKU, Apple, Amazon, and others have fallen behind on locking down their platforms and implementing better security measures to entice advertisers to work directly with them. None of these platforms support the new app-ads.txt, a recent anti-fraud initiative aimed at reducing the amount of imposters taking advertisers OTT dollars. Google, on the other hand, supports it.
Nor does there seem to be a formalized framework with DSPs to check the validity of a ROKU channel. A perfect example is the APP “HONKY TONKY.” You might see it on a report as a ROKU bundled (channel); however, you can’t even access it on ROKU’s platform. You get an error message (see below); however, ROKU’s site has it listed which helps validate the channel.
We identified over two dozen channels operating in this very nature. To combat this we have actively searched out and found ancillary data to immediately spot red flags, where we then conduct a manual review. In addition, we only partner with trusted fully vetted sources that offer full transparency. The quality and value of an ad space is dependent on that ad reaching the right audiences. If the inventory is phony, fake, illegitimate, and of general poor quality we can be guaranteed that the overall reputation of the space will decline, and revenues and profits along with it. The land of CTV/OTT is murky so buyer beware.