MCN launches world-first programmatic TV platform - $30m investment

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 12 June 2015

The sun is setting on spots and dots, and the day of selling audiences is dawning. Today MCN has announced the launch of a world-first programmatic TV platform, AdNews can reveal.

In a nutshell, the arrival of MCN Programmatic TV is an industry first which allows media agencies to buy broadcast linear TV inventory through a private exchange. It allows advertisers to trade against what MCN says are the most highly targeted consumer segments in television.

MCN brings its Multiview behavioural and audience data as well as Quantium data sets to power audience buying decisions. It is the first global broadcaster to offer data-led audience buys across all its channels – which also includes hundreds of websites, apps, mobile sites, IPTV services, OOH sites and Qantas in-flight entertainment. It means agencies can buy broadcast linear TV inventory for all MCN channels including Fox Sports, The Lifestyle Channel and MTV.

It's been in market six weeks and four agencies are already using the platform: IPG Mediabrands' UM and Initiative, Carat and OMD. It has traded five advertisers across six campaigns, in three core data audience segments including telecommunications, travel, and snacks and confectionery.

National sales director Mark Frain said the targeting capabilities translate into more effective and powerful campaigns. To demonstrate what it can do – already MCN has booked a million dollars for a car brand across a three-month period and transacted that from brief to confirmation, back to the agency in 30 minutes.

“I’m proud to say we’re the first to market to address this need and deliver on it. With the car example, we did the same thing last year and it took 30 hours. So the MCN account managers are going, 'This is the best thing I’ve ever seen',” Frain said.

Frain, who said MCN has never seen such rapid follow up from agencies following the upfront-style presentation it made to launch programmatic TV to the market, said there has been high demand for greater efficiencies in the trading market and to use automation and data to drive better decision making in the value of TV buys through highly targeted audiences.

So far, trading through the MCN Programmatic TV platform made up 1% of MCN’s total revenue for May. It exceeded expectations and is projected to reach 5% by the end of 2015. Agencies are already planning to book subsequent campaigns for different clients, across different Multiview consumer segments.

MCN CEO Anthony Fitzgerald said the shift is a significant evolution in traditional TV trading and that advertisers are now able to purchase highly targeted television audiences, rather than be “bogged down in spot-by-spot trading”.

“The last four weeks’ results have demonstrated the profound shift in the Australian TV trading industry,” Fitzgerald said.

Combining video

MCN's head of programmatic trading, Cameron Dinnie, said the future vision is to bring in other video sources through one platform.

AOL powers MCN Programmatic TV and while MCN trades digital video programmatically, this is not through the AOL Platform yet. It will be by July.

Within the MCN programmatic interface, you can buy against the Multiview segment or you can buy against an OzTAM demographic, but the real strength is in utilising Multiview consumer segments "which is a real consumer segment,” Dinnie said.

Advertisers and agencies are at different stages along the journey towards buying TV this way, and it's not for every advertiser or every campaign, yet. But Frain reckons it's probable that at least half of its business in the next two years will be traded through some form of programmatic. The model is being set up with “flexibility in mind," he said.

Ahead of the programmatic TV launch MCN rolled out its dynamic model in March. In just eight weeks MCN saw 10% of its revenue being traded with dynamic model. Frain expects this to be at 25% by the end of the year.

“It was so significant we just didn’t think we’re getting there that fast – we can’t stop it. It’s just like a runaway train,” Frain said.

MCN is innovating fast and it's an example of Australia being ahead of the curve.
Senior director for programmatic TV Australia at AOL, Yasmin Sanders, said other markets do not have this level of integration in terms of their infrastructure.

The belief is that it’s going to shift the mindset of how advertisers plan their TV and will encourage more digitally inspired thinking by including a “smarter data-led audience tier to their traditional sponsorship and contextual strategy”.

It's about thinking about TV not as the traditional medium, but in terms of video and screens – no matter which. The point was made by Channel Ten's Rebekah Horne at the Media Summit last month.

“It brings TV and digital buying closer together by shifting methodology from contextual trading to utilising Multiview data to buy pre-qualified audiences. It also enables a more agile trading model that better responds to external factors,” Sanders said.

The challenges

In terms of the challenges around linear programmatic TV, Sanders said it's the challenges that also represent the biggest opportunities.

“The existing TV infrastructure provides a strong legacy, however these systems were designed to be standalone products. Now we are looking to add layers on top of this infrastructure utilising best of breed programmatic capability,” she said.

“This level of integration will prove to be one of the biggest barriers to further adoption.
Another huge challenge is availability of data sets that can be used to inform free-to-air TV viewing behaviour at a user level.”

See here for what the media agency honchos think of this move: The market is hungry” - agency bosses weigh in on TV's next big step.

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