Sling TV is Adobe’s first linear TV partner for cloud platform

Dish Network’s Sling TV will be one of the first to take advantage of Adobe’s new Advertising Cloud platform for programmatic ad sales. The cloud product partnership enables Adobe’s marketer customers to bid on Sling TV’s premium ad inventory, in both linear TV and on-demand formats, in real time in an independent, private marketplace-type environment provided by Adobe’s platform.

Adobe announced the new Advertising Cloud product at the company’s annual Adobe Summit earlier this year. It’s an end-to-end platform for managing advertising across traditional TV and digital formats, and includes the demand side ad platform Adobe now owns through its acquisition of TubeMogul. Adobe closed on the deal in December 2016.

The idea is for Adobe to offer a product that essentially unites Adobe’s audience management platform and marketing products with media buying – giving its clients a one stop shop to create, plan and execute a media campaign across digital and TV. The cloud platform includes marketing tools from Adobe Media Optimizer (AMO), such as audience management data and analytics, as well as dynamic creative optimization, which enables marketers to make tweaks and adjustments to adverts in response to their performance.

“We are bridging longstanding media gaps – not just between TV and digital, but also between brand and performance advertising,” said Brett Wilson, VP and general manager of advertising at Adobe.

Adobe’s marketing business accounts for some $3.5 billion in annualized ad spend for over 1,000 global brands, many of which are big TV buyers. Adobe clients include brands such as Johnson & Johnson, L’Oréal, MGM, Ford, Kraft, Liberty Mutual, Nickelodeon, Allstate, and Southwest Airlines and others.

Sling TV is Adobe’s first linear TV distributor partner, and the company has characterized the partnership as an “industry first.” Sling TV’s Adam Lowy, general manager for advanced TV, digital and analytics for Dish media sales, said the partnership is “a total mind-shift in how TV can become part of a dynamic digital ad buy.”

“Through real-time bidding and delivery, an Adobe client could seize an opportunity to air a live linear ad during must-see events as early as primetime tonight,” Lowy said.

That includes ad spots for lucrative live tent-pole sports events, like the recent NCAA basketball tournament, for which Sling sold some of its national cable ad inventory using the cloud platform. “Within the Adobe Advertising Cloud, clients gained quick access to basketball fans during live tournament games and surrounding sports coverage on Sling TV,” Keith Eadie, VP of advertising revenue and partnerships at Adobe, said in a blog post.

That proposition is particularly exciting to marketers looking to tap into the reach of TV. While traditional linear TV ratings have eroded, live viewing of online video on the TV set have experienced a bit of a surge. According to FreeWheel’s 2016 Video Monetization Report, live viewing grew 36% year-over-year. That’s presumably in part due to the rising penetration of media players and TV apps that consumers can use to stream video to the TV set. And tent-pole events such as the NCAA tournament are still pulling in strong live audiences. Sling TV is benefitting from both those trends.

Sling is offering impression-based ad buying, and can target audiences using first party data, program genre and network, playback device, and geography. It’s also offering cross-channel addressable targeting by matching its subscriber lists with other data sets – like an advertiser’s.

“Advertisers can drill down to smartphone viewers during their daily commutes or only to those who are watching from their living rooms on Rokus,” Eadie said. “Adobe Advertising Cloud clients can also target specific Sling TV audiences by demographic, daypart, network, genre, and more.”

Adobe’s Advertising Cloud platform enables marketers to buy linear TV and digital inventory all in one place, which serves to help marketers to target audiences across channels more smoothly.

Sling TV’s parent company, Dish Network, was one of the first to offer addressable TV and programmatic ad buying for its satellite TV business. It launched last year what it claimed to be the industry’s first impression-by-impression programmatic marketplace for linear television, with demand side partners DataXu, Rocket Fuel and TubeMogul.

But Dish’s pay TV business is suffering the same fate as its cable and telco competitors. In Q4 2016, Dish added 28,000 video subscribers, though most of that was through Sling TV. The quarter was a marked improvement over Q4 2015, during which Dish lost 12,000 video subs. Those numbers indicate Sling TV must be gaining some traction as a pay TV alternative among some group of viewers. Sling TV has about 1.18 million subs, according to recent estimates from MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett.

Sling TV stands at a nearly perfect crossroads of premium linear TV ad inventory and advanced advertising technology. As such, it could prove to become an allegory for the future of programmatic and real-time bidding for IP-delivered linear TV. And one of the benefits of live streaming linear TV channels over the top to streaming media devices is that each subscriber is essentially now an addressable TV household.

FreeWheel predicts more premium TV ad inventory will be bought and sold in more automated ways. “As protected marketplaces grow and build new capabilities in the coming year, we expect the trend of more programmer deals flowing through automated channels via private marketplace transactions to continue,” the report said.