Cross-Platform Buys Are 'Elusive’

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Monetizing content on multiple media platforms is happening today—but mostly as separate sales, not via single buys, a panel of experts agreed.

“At the present time, cross-platform is still elusive,” Lee Westerfield, managing director of Internet and broadcasting research at BMO Capital Markets, said during a panel session on the topic at the inaugural “B&C-Multichannel News OnScreen Media Summit” here last Tuesday.

Measurement standards across digital media are not yet well-integrated, Westerfield said, and multiple-platform ad buys are not happening in abundance yet either.

“I agree with Lee — we can do it, we’re not quite there yet,” said NBC Universal Digital Distribution vice president of sales business development Jennifer Pirot.

NBCU is still trying to “play everywhere” she said, and “experiment as much as possible. And then hopefully, as is often the case, as technology and metrics catch up, we’re in the position to monetize in the long term.”

Josh Freeman, executive vice president of digital media at Discovery Communications, said: “The answer is it’s not categorical. We will have several deals where we take programming cross-platform.”

Shows like Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch can be marketed successfully across TV, video-on-demand, mobile and the Web, Freeman said. But more needs to be done before advertisers in general start placing orders for ads across those platforms in an integrated fashion, panelists agreed.

In addition to measurement-standard issues, there’s a need to dynamically insert ads into VOD streams in order to avoid the long lead times that are now required to change ads. Also, ads on different platforms tend to be bought and sold by separate sales forces within the programmers and at media-buying agencies, Freeman said.

“There are times when we bring advertising onto the various platforms, but it’s not a true cross-platform buy in the way that we envision it working,” Pirot said, for the reasons Freeman cited.

Exceptions include last summer’s Beijing Olympics, which NBC sold across broadcast and cable networks and digital media. “The numbers were great, the advertisers were happy,” Pirot said. Others include Maybelline and Lipstick Jungle on NBC, as well as Nissan and the NBC hit Heroes, where advertisers were so “ingrained” with the show that they bought on multiple platforms, she said. “But they are few and far between right now.”

“We are monetizing on every platform,” Freeman added. “The question is, can we sell them as a single package to a single advertiser?”

He said “there are multiple but not a huge number of examples where we’ve been able to do that,” including Deadliest Catch, he said.

After the session, Freeman cited the VOD (and overall) success of TLC series Jon & Kate Plus 8, about the Gosselin family and their sextuplets, and said Discovery would make a strong cross-platform push for it at the next ad-sales upfront period.

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