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2 May 2019

OpenAP 2.0 rushed to market after WarnerMedia jumps ship

Two years since unveiling the audience measurement platform OpenAP, pegged as the industry’s first open platform for cross-publisher targeting, the trio of founding members – NBCUniversal, Fox and Viacom – have released version 2.0. But the three media firms will have to push wave 2 without fellow founding member WarnerMedia since AT&T pulled the unit from the alliance just 10 days before news of OpenAP 2.0 landed.

Coincidence? Nope. We bet OpenAP 2.0 has been rushed to launch in the face of negative press since WarnerMedia fled the scene, a move AT&T attributed to the evolution of its own advanced advertising strategy, strongly suggesting the Xandr ad tech division has left OpenAP in the dust or potentially a conflict of interests has emerged.

But let’s at least give OpenAP 2.0 a chance to sell itself. The project is positioned as something of a TV network-backed open market for advanced audience targeting across publishers, with version 2.0 recruiting Accenture and FreeWheel for extra clout. What’s to bet the addition of Comcast-owned FreeWheel was the last straw for AT&T?

So, OpenAP 2.0 will be available via APIs for agency planning systems and approved DSPs as of Fall 2019, providing cross-publisher analytics for a more omniscient approach to viewing audience campaigns. The addition of pre-campaign performance projections and post-campaign delivery metrics sound like neat new features, covering total unduplicated reach, overall tCPM and total audience impressions.

Ultimately, modernizing the TV upfronts benefits both the TV networks and the brands advertising there. Content owners can charge more for inventory that can be guaranteed to reach more granular audiences, while advertisers can maximize bang for their buck by targeting audiences more precisely. That was OpenAP’s pitch two years ago and fundamentally this remains the same today, except the initiative has expanded into a “centralized premium video marketplace with workflow automation for linear and long-form digital video.”

“With competition rising in every industry, marketers need new ways to define their audience and engage viewers across all platforms. Expanding OpenAP can help turn that vision into a reality,” said Linda Yaccarino, Chairman, Advertising and Client Partnerships, NBCUniversal.

So why doesn’t AT&T see it that way? Well, despite not specifically entering any advertising alliances as such, the Xandr executive team are due to enter discussions with advertisers next month – scheduled to pitch at the likes of Disney and CBS, as well as NBCU and Fox, who will get a better look at what OpenAP 2.0 is up against.

But above all else, WarnerMedia’s withdrawal from OpenAP 2.0 again highlights how the era of OTT video viewing has muddied the waters of the audience measurement industry – with networks struggling to settle on a single method for monitoring across broadcast and streaming mediums.

Interestingly, networks from Disney, CBS, Turner, NBC and Discovery have all recently joined the newly formed Open Addressable Ready (OAR) consortium, alongside major ad technology units like Comcast’s Freewheel, AT&T’s Xandr among others. The group is pledging to build a technical platform for ad inventory holders, distributors or programmers to enable improved monetization of TV impressions through segment-based targeting of audiences and addressable ad insertion.

The need is clear, with station viewing figures down across the board, some by as little as 5% but up to 35% in extreme cases depending on which channels you look at.

“Advanced targeting, transparency and simplicity are critical to our clients. OpenAP enables advertisers access to advanced audiences at scale with the highest quality TV content available across screens. Fox and the other members of OpenAP are committed to driving open standards that are essential to the success of our brand and agency partners,” said Marianne Gambelli, President of Advertising Sales at Fox.