Ten pledges better ad experience for online video, admits it made mistakes

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 27 November 2015

Channel Ten is taking steps to improve the advertising and user experience on its TenPlay catch up platform after admitting that it got some things wrong and compromised on user experience for revenue goals.

Speaking to AdNews at a lunch hosted by Ten CEO Paul Anderson this week, Ten's chief digital officer Rebekah Horne said that the network's digital platforms are in constant evolution to make improvements for both advertisers and audiences. She said that it is aiming to build an experience more like that of its recently launched app on Apple TV across all its digital platforms, so that the advertising experience is better for users.

Anderson commented that Ten is getting strong online numbers for shows such as The Bachelor and Bachelorette but that there was more to do to balance customer experience and revenue considerations, agreeing with the premise that when the pendulum swings too much towards the revenue side it becomes counter-productive because it starts to erode customer experience.

“We need to take a leap of faith. It can't just all be about revenue, otherwise you lose the customer experience. We've started that journey,” he said.

Viewers on TenPlay would regularly be served the exact same ad up to four times in a row when watching shows, such as The Bachelorette, on the catch up player.

Horne said: “Advertising is our only revenue source so there’s this nice sparkly relationship between user experience and revenue – I’m all for the user experience but at some point we had to be able to fund a fairly heavy investment in TenPlay. We've got to keep investing in the platform, you don’t just build technology and then leave it of course.

“We need to be able to generate revenue but to be fair, we did a few things wrong. We probably compromised on user experience a bit, pushing too many ads.”

One reason for that was that under the former Ten sales team there were just four digital sales people which meant that it had to do what Horne called “fairly large bulk deals” with the likes of GroupM to reach advertising volumes. In order to serve the number of impressions those deals required, the same ad was served multiple times when viewing programs on TenPlay.

Now though, under the new sales arrangement with MCN, there is a team of more than 80 digital reps which will mean more variation of ads across the platform.

It is also looking to adopt server side ad insertion (also known as ad-stitching) to create a more “broadcast-like” advertising experience.

Horne also said the network is having an internal discussion about how to create the “ideal ad experience” on digital platforms looking at ad-loading and frequency of ads, and where the balance between user experience and revenue has to sit.

“We're making great CPMs, so we added more ads – when you see money coming it's hard to slow down.”

Lou Barrett, GM of Network Ten Sydney, pointed out that the issue is not Ten's alone – all the broadcasters are struggling with the ad experience across online platforms.

The lack of premium video inventory in the market is still an issue according to Horne, as is maintaining a premium, ad-funded model, when there are non ad-funded competitors in the space, such as Netflix.

“We've got this brand safe environment, but what we've got to get better at doing is the ad experience, and have more variation of ads, and test the ultimate ad load. The assumption has to be: better experience; more users; more revenue.”

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop me a line at rosiebaker@yaffa.com.au

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