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GroupM, iSpot.tv Study Finds 8%-10% of CTV Ads Delivered When the TV Is Off

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NEW YORK—GroupM and iSpot have issued a new report estimating that CTV ad delivery counts are inflated and that 8% to 10% of streaming impressions play when the TV is shut off, primarily through ancillary devices.

Along with the new study, GroupM also announced a new initiative to develop better standards for streaming and CTV measurement. 

As part of that effort such media companies as Disney, Fox/Tubi, LG Ads Solutions, NBCUniversal, Paramount, VIZIO and Warner Bros. Discovery have committed to working at an industry level with agencies, advertisers, and standards-setting bodies to create a streamlined measurement framework and set of best practices to ensure ads are only counted when delivered to screens that are on, with people in front of them.

The effort follows GroupM's focus last year in pushing for greater implementation of "Are You Still Watching" end cards to help address potential inflated audience counts. That initiative was widely adopted by publishers and platforms – but does not fully solve the issue.

"The explosion of streaming is rich with opportunity to deliver smarter ad experiences across a wide variety of possible channels,” said Kirk McDonald, CEO of GroupM North America. “With any technological advancements, it's our job to close the gaps so all avenues of ad delivery are verified. As responsible investment stewards of our clients' media spend, this verification illuminates both the issue and the opportunity for our industry. Regardless of the medium, if an ad is running, we want and should be able to attribute, measure, and report that an ad was served and seen."

"This approach to verifying CTV allows us to quantify a complex problem in a comprehensive way, yet more importantly provides insights and a pathway for solving an important issue for the industry," added Sean Muller, CEO of iSpot.tv.

Key findings of the GroupM, iSpot.tv study include: 

  • On average, 8-10% of overall streaming impressions were delivered when the TV was shut off.
  • 17% of impressions delivered only through CTV streaming devices such as dongles, gaming consoles, and sticks were delivered when the TV was shut off. Gaming consoles generally had lower rates of continuous play than dongles and sticks.
  • Native Smart TV Apps—which account for about 50% of all CTV viewing—had virtually no incidence of overcounts across streaming ad delivery.
  • Depending on the configuration among the three components—TV make and model, streaming device and publisher app—the CTV impression overcount by publisher ranged from 2.5% to 15% across all CTV streaming activity.

"One of the most important findings was that there are dramatic variances in rates of continuous play, driven by the combination of TV set model, streaming device, and publisher app being used," said Adam Gerber, executive director, investment strategy for GroupM U.S. "This is one of many measurement challenges facing the industry as consumption continues to fragment across device, time and location. These realities make a unified industry initiative to set standards and measurement solutions that much more urgent. It is part of a larger need to ensure that measurement accurately reflects the number of people who have the opportunity to see an ad."

"Along with the growth of CTV and its tremendous opportunities comes new challenges – challenges in measurement, attribution, currency, and privacy-enhancing personalization. IAB and IAB Tech Lab have been at the forefront of the unique challenges of the CTV space across publishers, platforms, apps and OEMs," added David Cohen, CEO of IAB. "Trust, transparency and accountability are foundational to the continued responsible growth of CTV. Timed for Q3 2022, IAB Tech Lab will release the Open Measurement SDK for CTV, which will enable the industry to facilitate third-party viewability and verification measurement. It will also deliver a 'set off' signal and algorithmic assessment around the likelihood that a person is in the room viewing. We commend GroupM and others who look to quantify industry opportunities such as this one and look forward to continued education, best practice sharing, and technical standards to address these areas. Our Video Leadership Summit happening in just a few short weeks will tackle these issues head-on."

For the study, GroupM and iSpot evaluated hundreds of millions of aggregate and anonymized CTV impressions delivered across 20 million Smart TVs, various platforms and publishers between January 1 and June 30, 2021. The analysis was restricted to ad buying through programmatic channels, using a single Smart TV manufacturer's automatic content recognition data as the underlying match. iSpot verifies CTV impressions using various factors, including input source and its own proprietary system for verifying ad and content play directly on TVs.

The study was conducted to obtain top-level insights about a complex technology problem and to develop methodologies for establishing benchmarks on which the buy and sell-side can transact with confidence, the companies said. 

GroupM and iSpot are partnering to run ongoing measurement in Phase Two of the study with an expanded data set.

Responding to the study via email, Raghu Kodige, CEO, LG Ads Solutions noted that “as one of the leading providers of streaming ads globally, we are not surprised to hear of this problem, and will continue to work with our TV OEM peers to address it.  For our part, given the complete integration of the TV itself, the TV operating system (webOS), and our automated content recognition technology, we have full visibility into when ads are delivered and whether or not the TV was on. And given our streaming services are all app-based, whether LG Channels or any other streaming app, we have full confidence in the viewability of the ads we serve."

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.