Op/Ed 2016 – Pushing Publishers to Face Digital Convergence Head On

Blog   |   Lorne Brown   |   March 2, 2016

It’s been just over a week since our annual Op/Ed conference, and I’m thrilled with what a great turnout we had. As I look back at the event, I’m struck by the urgency of our discussions and that all of our publisher attendees agreed that the conference surfaced the most important aspects of digital convergence. Several publishers came up to me during the event to remark that Op/Ed was a necessary kick in the pants to prioritize tactics for not only surviving digital convergence, but to profit and thrive.

Theme of the day was taking back control of media and advertising across channels. Mike Welch, our keynote from AT&T served as a great voice of the market forces that are upon us. He spoke about the impact of short form content on live TV, addressable advertising & how a Telco can make a serious run at other MVPDs (multichannel video programming distributor) given their mobile first strategy.

Media execs have a realization that they need to unify all their offerings to keep their competitive edge. They then looked at how that can be done by unifying the yield curve, which is often broken into silos such as linear TV, addressable TV, pre-roll video and so on. These silos leave them vulnerable to 3rd party programmatic firms, commoditizing their inventory. Many publishers spoke about the complexity that comes with selling media & that they need to focus on is a unified offering for advertisers across channels.

In digital to date, third parties and aggregators have made a living out of breaking up publisher yield curves, profiting from their data and charging a large tax before sending the publisher a check. As publishers move their businesses toward unified TV and digital advertising, they all agreed that they need to avoid this model, where middlemen create too much cost, complexity and competition. A publisher’s best assets are their content and audiences, and by unifying these assets across channels, they can compete against companies like Google and Facebook without losing their control of the TV space.

I was especially excited by our power panel that included representatives from Univision, ABC, ESPN, and Turner. Univision’s president of ad sales told the audience to lean in, and not to let what happened in music industry happen to the TV and digital media market. All of the panelists agreed that media companies must do whatever it takes to maintain a market leadership position against the digital vendors and aggregators.

A big “aha” moment was when we brought in a whiteboard to actually draw the yield curve with Comcast, KBB, and Scripps. We saw that by bringing elements of the yield curve together, publishers can take control back, reduce the cost of working with so many third parties and create scale by using their OS or Operative System (Operative in most cases) as a wrapper to bring it all together.

The best attended session was the distributed publisher session, where we discussed how to best work with companies like Apple, Facebook and Snapchat, and Twitter which all offer new content distribution opportunities at the same time that they act as threats to the publisher business model. Many publishers agreed that these digital giants don’t yet have their act together. It was exciting to hear so many publishers say that they’re using Operative tie everything together at the product catalogue level, as they work on testing these new channels.

Everyone said that the event came at the right time. We’re still just ahead of the coming convergence. OpEd challenged companies to face reality on the offense rather than on the defense and to stop over-complicating issues. Our next steps are to write the playbook to unify the yield curves of TV and digital and simplify what we sell. Operative isn’t about to sit back and rest now that our event is over. Look for more thought leadership this year about how to lead the way toward a profitable converged market. We’ll have lots to say on how to best structure your yield curve, how to combine inventory pools, ad tech stacks, data, metrics and more.