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Canada’s biggest broadcasters on the future of CTV

A group of businesspeople approach an oversized connected TV and pull back the red maple leaf curtain on the screen.

Illustration by Dave Cole / Getty / The Current

Nearly half of Canadians watch TV on a connected or smart TV, and advertisers have realized some of that potential.

Connected TV (CTV) ad spend is expected to hit $1 billion this year, accounting for 25 percent of total TV ad spend in Canada. Compared to the US, which is expected to surpass $4 billion in new CTV ad spending this year, Canada is still a small market. And the UK is estimated to reach about $1.9 billion in CTV ad spending. But Canada’s biggest broadcasters see a unique opportunity

Executives from those top broadcasters — Corus Entertainment, Bell Media, Rogers Sports and Media, and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) — gathered in Toronto on Thursday to discuss the future of CTV in Canada at Forward ’23, an event hosted by The Trade Desk.

Among the biggest takeaways? Digital and linear TV can coexist, and will continue to. Aligning programmatic strategies with this in mind will maximize the value for advertisers and broadcasters alike.

Harnessing CTV and linear strategies

While CTV has grown in Canada, traditional linear TV viewing is still huge in the country, the panelists said.

“When I look at the Canadian landscape compared to others, the cable ecosystem in this country is not imploding on itself like it is in some other countries,” said Alan Dark, senior VP of revenue at Rogers Sports and Media. “We’re still close to 70 percent cable penetration and our audience through those linear platforms is still very strong.”

The panelists agreed that broadcasters and advertisers have to find ways to complement their existing linear TV strategies with their programmatic digital strategies.

Dark added that “you can’t plan one without the other.”

“If you are really focused on a video strategy around premium video in this country, you need to be focused on both channels and not over-tilt towards one versus the other,” Dark said.

Perry MacDonald, VP of advertising sales and partnerships at Bell Media, said that the company is readying an initiative to “streamline that process” and to “help significantly with targeting both linear and nonlinear, and providing a much-improved experience not only for viewers of the content but also for brands that are placing their message in that content.”

Flexibility and data abilities can win advertisers

Because CTV is growing, but linear TV is still so much of the media ecosystem in Canada, it could give advertisers more flexibility in their approach.

Executive VP and Chief Revenue Officer at Corus Entertainment Greg McLelland said that cable rates in Canada are half of what they are in the U.S. He added that the four broadcasters represented at the panel account for at least 80 percent of the share of TV viewing in the country.

For advertisers, he said that means: “We have all of our segments, whether it’s of linear television or VOD [video on demand] or direct digital or programmatic, all aligned with different data segments that we have in all of our ecosystems, and in some cases we share those. So you can actually buy common segments across all of our inventory, which in the U.S. is absolutely impossible.”

“Canada is quite ahead in a lot of this technology and how you can buy holistically,” McLelland added.

Education will be key to CTV growth

When it comes to real-time ad bidding, Canadian broadcasters are enthusiastic about the opportunities.

Dark said, “Because we’re opening up impressions literally to the postal code, the opportunity is immense for us to bring new marketers into that ecosystem, through programmatic.”

“With the power that we bring to the table for connected TV, we’re actually disrupting the old programmatic way of doing business, and there’s an interesting opportunity there,” said Julie Kerr, senior director of digital ad product and revenue management at CBC and Radio-Canada Media Solutions.

She added that broadcasters need to educate and train their teams on programmatic, and a platform like Forward ’23 was a great way to get the conversation going: “We need to do it from all sides together to have that sustainable ecosystem.”