How Does CTV Reach More than Half of TV’s $100M by 2027?

By John Ruvolo, CEO, Nomology

We all know that the ad market is anything but a zero-sum game. That said, when one media segment grows, it’s usually at the expense of an adjacent segment.

Long the most lucrative segment, television provides an ongoing example of this. For over a decade, industry observers would point to the continued growth of the linear TV advertising market as proof of its resilience versus the growing number of digital platforms. However, the recent rise of CTV (connected television) is beginning to take more of the overall TV ad market by share. According to eMarketer, we can expect this trend to continue, flattening the growth of linear TV as soon as this year and then starting its decline.

If, as the eMarketer analysis suggests, the overall TV ad market continues to grow for the foreseeable future as linear TV stays relatively flat or declines, the reason will come down to transparency. For buyers, transparency is the key advantage that CTV has over linear—transparency in campaign execution and delivery and transparency in post-campaign attribution.

Look at how resilient YouTube remains versus all other streaming platforms. Even though the vast majority of its audience is on small screens and smartphones, YouTube’s ad market share remains one of the strongest among all providers, behind only Hulu – predominantly viewed on larger screens. As Dave Morgan pointed out in his April 4th column, as much as $9 billion in CTV ad spend remains unaccounted for in the eMarketer numbers, which place all other providers – in aggregate – having a smaller share than just YouTube and Hulu. Could this be due to the many third-party programmatic video platforms doing business all over the web? Is there such a thing as a long tail in CTV?

You better believe there is. And it’s going to get even longer.

According to the Samba TV H2-23 US State of Viewership Report, with over a year having passed since Disney+ and Netflix released ad tiers, their popularity has continued to grow. Data shows that in October 2023, over half of Disney+ sign-ups were on the ad-supported tier, and 30% of Netflix sign-ups were.  Younger viewers consume more and more content on their smartphones and smaller screens, and if you have kids under 16, you probably caught them watching ad-supported short-form videos on sites you’ve never heard of – and no, I’m not talking about TikTok.

It’s Transparency, Stupid

Matt Wasserlauf of Blockboard said that “the future of programmatic marketing is a system that reaches real humans at reasonable prices for better results.” He continued that we’ll know this system has arrived because it will be “completely transparent.”

While the CTV landscape promises enhanced targeting and tracking, the reality often falls short. Many third-party platforms still operate as “walled gardens,” where data is obscured and access is restricted. Not quite the transparent environment Wasserlauf and the industry at large have been calling for.

Meanwhile, over the next four years, TV and CTV ad inventory is expected to fall by 24%, per Brian Wieser of Madison and Wall. This will be largely due to the migration from linear to digital, where fewer ads are being served.  Higher CTV ad price points will help offset the drop in ad inventory. And Retail Media, according to eMarketer, will grow far more quickly – perhaps by a factor of seven in the next three years – than any other sub-segment within CTV.

This trend promises to only complicate the transparency narrative. Consider the slew of retail media CTV partnerships that have already rolled out, from Roku with Kroger, Instacart and Best Buy; to Walt Disney with Kroger and Walmart and NBC Universal. These partnerships typically result in bespoke ecosystems where data is siloed, making it harder for advertisers to get a full view of their campaign performance.

Although not a partnership, Amazon’s streaming platforms Prime Video and Freevee also offer the e-commerce giant a massive CTV ad opportunity. It hasn’t been so long since Amazon launched its in-house programmatic stack. This more than $45B display behemoth – and still growing – is a must-buy for anyone selling there.  Walmart spent $2.3B to buy Vizio and will create its silo through its hardware and software to provide a transparency-enabling, walled garden for buyers. For Kroger, and others attempting to build similar, dependable silos, the dollars will come – as long as buyers can maintain transparency in their campaigns.

There’s a reason why companies like Blockboard are taking so much share from the programmatic players utilizing that $9 billion in long tail video. That reason is transparency for buyers.