TV Networks Line Up Behind Open AP’s New Audience-Segment ID in Weeks Before TV Upfront

TV Ad Sales Upfronts
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Open AP, the media consortium that hopes to broaden the practice known as “audience buying,” will unveil a new “identifier” aimed at facilitating the placement of commercials across linear TV and digital video — and a significant chunk of traditional TV and advertising companies are lining up to support the venture.

AMC Networks, A+E Networks, Crown Media, Discovery, Disney, Fox Corporation, NBCUniversal, Univision, ViacomCBS, WarnerMedia and The Weather Channel have all pledged to support “Open ID,” a defined audience segment that can be used to help pinpoint where commercials should go in order to attract a consumer with a group of specific characteristics, such as likelihood of buying a new car or interest in seeing a new movie. GroupM, Dentsu, Omnicom Media Group, Haworth Marketing + Media, and Horizon Media will all take part in the project as well.

“The level of participation and collaboration across the industry is pretty historic,” says David Levy. Open AP’s CEO, in an interview. “We have got every major programmer, all working together to activate audiences against advanced advertising.”

The company makes its new offer as the TV industry gears up for its annual “upfront” sales session, when U.S. media companies try to sell the bulk of their commercial inventory for their next cycle of programming in advance.

The new offering illustrates how quickly the practice of buying TV advertising is changing. Thanks to a dizzying array of new mobile and streaming technologies, advertisers now can utilize new kinds of consumer data to place their commercials more precisely than in years past, when they were largely concerned with making sure the biggest audiences saw their pitches. Madison Avenue remains big on size, as anyone paying top dollar for ads in the Super Bowl or the Oscars can attest. But advertisers are now growing more enthralled with identifying the crowd most likely to be interested in the product they have to sell,  beyond the usual explorations of age and gender, and making sure their commercials reach that narrower crowd more effectively.

More media companies have said they are working toward a day when so-called forms of “advanced” advertising become the bulk of what they sell, particularly as consumers adopt ad-supported streaming video outlets ranging from Hulu to Discovery Plus more readily.

The Open ID is essentially a definition of the type of person an advertiser wants to reach, no matter whether they watch linear TV or its digital counterparts. Once established, the definition of audience applies across different media companies, helping a marketer coordinate buying no matter the media conglomerate with which they are doing business.

Open AP said it has partnered with TransUnion to help create its identifiers.

The company, which Levy took over as CEO in 2019, has begun to expand. Open AP was founded in 2017 by Viacom, 21st Century Fox and Time Warner, and was primarily devoted to helping marketers figure out ways to buy advertising based on reaching segments of audience that aren’t defined as easily in current negotiations with TV companies. But now it it also helping facilitate transactions more directly. NBCUniversal and Univision are also board members, while WarnerMedia exited the alliance after it was purchased by AT&T.