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21 January 2021

Dish, ViacomCBS get wheels turning for broadcast addressability

In a significant step forward for addressability, Dish Media has partnered with ViacomCBS to deliver addressable advertising impressions within a live national broadcast via a set top – in this case those of Dish Media parent company Dish Network.

If rolled out nationwide, the technology would bring new value to an increasingly fruitless medium, and – perhaps more significantly – Faultline imagines that pre-existing advertising partner Comcast is involved in this new initiative, given that the Dish Media division has used FreeWheel in the past to optimize ad campaigns across addressable linear TV and demographic-based audiences.

ViacomCBS can now load its broadcast with markers, developed by ad tech vendor Adcuratio, allowing Dish set tops to replace broadcast ads with pre-downloaded targeted ads. If a set top has no targeted ads, national broadcast ads will play uninterrupted.

This was executed across a select number of live campaigns across Dish’s 9 million households within an unspecified subset of ViacomCBS owned-and-operated markets. There are plans for a wider roll-out in the future, although no timeline has been given.

For Dish Network, it is of paramount importance that the company is first out the gate when it comes to broadcast addressability, so that it can increase the value proposition of its dwindling satellite TV service.

Adcuratio, a new name on Faultline’s ad tech radar, provided its activation and signaling addressable technologies. These markers allow broadcast addressability across MVPD households, integrating with programmer and distributor infrastructure and signaling processes.

Founded in 2015, Adcuratio provides a suite of products to assist advertising across MVPDs, including campaign management, unifying and automating workflows from different partners, and addressability enablement.

Dish and Adcuratio have partnered on addressability before. A 2019 collaboration with A+E Networks enabled the delivery of custom ad spots on a household-by-household basis to Dish TV customers. What separates the new trial is that the ads were delivered via a national broadcast.

Involving Adcuratio marked a break from Dish’s traditional advertising vendors, although perhaps a necessary one given the technological spearheading at work.

Outside of addressability, Dish Media partners with a variety of ad tech vendors. Sling TV relies on Adobe’s Advertising Cloud platform and TubeMogul to enable programmatic bidding on its ad inventory, in both linear TV and on-demand formats. The virtual MVPD has also been signed up to Comscore’s cross-platform addressable measurement service since 2018, making Dish one of the first to offer addressable advertising measurement across digital and linear.

And while there is no formal mention in the press release, Dish’s GM of Strategy and Products, Tim Myers, also namedropped set top technology vendor Invidi as having been involved. Invidi looks well suited for the part, having worked on notable satellite deployments including one with Indian broadcast technology vendor Tata Elxsi in August of last year.

Viacom CBS’ SVP of Advanced Advertising, Mike Dean, expressed relief that addressable technology has finally crossed over to broadcast, after years of being confined to cable. “Addressable national broadcast has remained technically unreachable until now, making this a tremendous milestone for the industry and the future of television,” he said.

Broadly speaking, the project represents a good start in what many were predicting to be the year addressable TV finally takes off, as other US operators will be forced to follow Dish’s lead.

Such movements are already underway. AMC Networks announced in November that it planned to run multi-distributor, linear addressable TV campaigns across Charter and Comcast networks in partnership with Canoe Ventures.

Faultline reached out to Dish for more details on which specific set tops the trial was carried out on but has yet to hear back, although it would make sense for it to be the Hopper 3 DVR. Based on the 21,000 DMIP Broadcom 7445, Quad core ARM architecture, the Hopper 3 has a ton of power, and is quite different from previous MIPS-based Broadcom chips.

The rise of OTT video delivery has been an endless source of concern for Dish Network. A recurring observation within Faultline’s coverage of Dish Network is that the operator could churn out its entire pay TV customer base within the next decade – a window which is rapidly shrinking. This would leave Dish as a pure OTT player under its Sling TV and Dish Anywhere brands.

Dish TV’s satellite TV subscribers fell to below 9 million in Q3 2020, a fall of 5.6% from the 9.5 million in Q3 2019. This year on year subscriber drop of 7.7% in Q3 2019 marked a slight slowing of the rate of decline, but still shows a consistent exodus of pay TV subscribers.