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Where is CTV headed? 8 big predictions from media and marketing execs

Illustration by Holly Warfield / Getty / The Current

Last week, many of the world’s largest media companies gathered with brands like Hershey and L’Oréal at Forward ’23 in New York to discuss the television ecosystem, its ever-evolving buying structure, and how programmatic technology is pushing connected TV (CTV) into larger ad spend buckets, speeding up progress on identity and measurement.

With so much consumer change on the horizon — for the first time in July 2022, Nielsen found that audiences spent more time streaming CTV than they did watching cable — there was much to discuss. At the standing-room-only event hosted by our parent company, The Trade Desk, advertising stalwarts at legacy media outlets (including NBCUniversal, Paramount, Warner Bros. Discovery, and Fox) peeked into their “crystal balls” to forecast where the industry could be in a year.

In case you missed the action, we’ve rounded up eight predictions for the year ahead, edited for clarity and length. From the growth of CTV to progress on identity solutions, cross-platform measurement, and clean-room technology, here’s what executives hope will come to pass this year.

Leo O’Connor, SVP of advertising, Paramount
“There will be more programmatic direct. We’ve seen that continue to be a really nice marriage of the good things about the traditional way things are bought and sold, and the good things about data and identity, and optimization. Threading that in bigger ways into the upfronts is going to continue.…People are going to watch the TV they want to watch. What can be automated is going to be automated, and we have to figure out how to operate as buyers and sellers and still run our business.”

Vinny Rinaldi, head of media and analytics, The Hershey Company
“I’m really most excited about the unknown because there’s not a lot of predictability in the marketplace right now. We were so comfortable with 60-plus years of a smaller household panel, and now we’re trying to test all these new currencies. So to me, there’s a lot of opportunity to learn and grow and roll our sleeves up as an industry and get better. But if we think the perfect outcome is going to come in the next 12 months, I think we’re all going to be really disappointed by the end of it. It’s time to lean in and fix, or make better, what we use as an industry currency.”

Dan Callahan, SVP of data strategy and sales innovation, Fox
“It’s the opportunity. There’s never been a time like this with measurement challenges, the competition, alternative currencies, the streaming services, the boom of FAST [free ad-supported television] channels. So I think, again, 2024 is going to continue to be this rising tide. Premium and transparency will start to become bigger buzzwords. Not that they’re not already, but a bigger requirement in supply path optimization. There [are] so many different things that are on the table at the moment that this is really the year to shake things up, try things differently. So the opportunity in 2024 is to get some stuff right, and maybe some wrong, but hopefully celebrate more failures.”

Lisa Valentino, EVP of client solutions and addressable enablement, Disney Advertising
“A year from now, we’ll still be talking about a lot of the same stuff in television because we’re undergoing a multiyear transition that’s happening in TV. I do think we’ll start to anchor more to addressable. It’ll be a conversation about value versus price. All of that is possible because of all the work we’ve all done together over the last couple of years to build the foundation to make all of that come true. So I think we’ll be a little bit further down the freeway because there are a lot of on-ramps into this new world, where I can activate data and create an environment, where I can decide I want to serve this ad across the Disney portfolio and then see whether or not that drove a sale.”

Jim Keller, EVP of digital ad sales, Warner Bros. Discovery
“This time next year we’ll be spending a lot of time taking a look back and ask[ing]: ‘Did the marketplace change around the world of measurement?’ We’ve all spent a lot of time talking about cross-platform measurement and alternative currencies and ways that we can do things differently. The next couple of months will really determine what cross-platform measurement really mean[s] to each individual marketer, advertiser, agency, and media company. We’ve been leaning forward with doing a lot of testing, learning, and proof of concepts with all the major players in this space.”

Shenan Reed, SVP of head of media, L’Oréal
“This is going to be the year of clean rooms. We’re going to have a lot, a lot, a lot of conversations about clean rooms this year, and we won’t get it completely right. I think the true value of the ultimate clean room is probably still three years out. But this year is going to be the year that we start to really put them into a motion test, try to build those muscles, until we get the industry strong enough and connected enough to truly get full value out of them.”

Joe Cady, EVP of advanced advertising, NBCUniversal
“We’re going to see thousands and thousands more marketers using CTV as a main part of their buy. It’s just so much more targetable now, so much easier to activate, and the results are so proven and have worked for many, many years for the largest marketers. Maybe [CTV will attract more] small and medium-sized brands instead of large businesses, but I think we’re going to see much more participation and that’s going to be a great thing.”

Jeff Green, CEO and founder, The Trade Desk
“We’re not going to be talking about walled gardens much. I believe that the walls will mostly have come down, and that is really going to be because of the one-two punch that’s happening right now, which is CTV and retail. We’ve talked a lot about measurement today. The role that retail plays in making it possible to measure in conjunction with CTV makes it so it doesn’t make sense to be a walled garden for anybody, but especially anybody other than Facebook and Google. So those will be the last walls standing, if you will, but 10 years from now, we’re not talking in terms of walled gardens versus non-gardens. We’re talking in terms of efficacy and how do we spend as well as we possibly can. And we’ll move on in the same way that the financial markets moved on from talking about real-time stock buying.”