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"TV’s great power is its ability to adapt and evolve," says Sky Media's Dan Cohen

When it comes to premium inventory, British broadcaster Sky has made its content worth paying for. To be sure, such content runs the gamut from award-winning originals, to entertainment, documentaries and live sports, which includes the English Premier League and Formula 1.

This week, Sky Media, the advertising sales arm of Sky — the largest European television group — announced a new partnership with The Trade Desk to make its video-on-demand inventory available programmatically to advertisers via the platform. This will give marketers and brands access to its premium content, starting with select channels via its over-the-top (OTT) streaming service, connected TV and mobile offerings. The move is another indication that the future of TV in Britain and Europe is evolving, as more consumers embrace the idea of accessing content via streaming platforms. It also underscores that viewers are open to the idea of watching favorite shows and live events via ad-funded platforms, or AVOD.

“The partnership will evolve to give advertisers full access to Sky Media’s portfolio of content, as well as enable buyers to reap the benefits of the targeting and flexibility of programmatic with privacy at the forefront,” Dev Sangani, director of capabilities at Sky Media, tells The Current. Sky Media represents over 130 Sky channels — including all the company’s premium channels — but also sells on behalf of Viacom (Channel 5, MTV), Discovery, FOX, Sony, A+E Networks, AMC and Star TV.

Sky Media’s move will allow marketers and brands to reach new, highly engaged viewers who may have been previously inaccessible through digital channels behind paywalls. The partnership also means that The Trade Desk’s clients will now have access to ad inventory from two of the three biggest U.K. broadcasters—Sky and Channel 4.

The integration means advertisers will benefit from a simpler, easier ad-buying process with Sky Media, enjoying real-time reporting, transparency of impressions, reach and frequency, as well as having access to ad frequency control and capping which is new to broadcaster video-on-demand advertising.

To dig deeper into this topic, The Current spoke with Dan Cohen, director of advertising innovation at Sky Media, to talk about the significance of this partnership for the company, advertisers and consumers.

What’s the size and scope of Sky Media’s audience?

With over 130 channels, the Sky Media portfolio reaches 93% of UK adults every month and reaches key audiences better than any other sales house. Our partnership with TTD kicks-off with access to My5 with new inventory being added throughout the year as the scope of audience expands to all IP enabled inventory in time.

For the first time, Sky’s VOD will be available programmatically. Why is this significant?

The ability for our buyers to buy brand safe and high-quality Broadcast VOD in whatever way they choose, including via their preferred demand side platform is very significant in making buying simpler for our partners. We want everyone to be able to access the same value from Sky’s portfolio whether it be via their DSP, directly or via One Campaign. Programmatic Broadcast VOD is an important piece in that choice for the buyer.

Tell us more about Sky Media’s programmatic platform and how this partnership will allow brands to access audiences on CTV and connect platforms?

From today, brands can access quality long form Broadcast VOD via The Trade Desk. This offers even more control over premium long-form VOD purchasing, with all the real time and reporting benefits that come from programmatic. You can buy across our simplified audiences as you would on your traditional VOD buys. We have some exciting developments in the roadmap through the year to build scale and make things even easier for our customers.

Why is it valuable to reach people beyond the traditional linear channels? Are there new audiences, different demographics of consumers who are otherwise unreachable?

More than ever, TV has played an important role in keeping the nation entertained, connected, and informed over the last year – but TV isn’t just the big screen in the corner of the lounge anymore. It’s being consumed in many ways across a range of different devices and adding programmatic makes it even easier to connect with audiences through premium content whether they are watching it live or on demand.

More globally, as more people shift their viewing habits to streaming platforms/connected TV/OTT — how important is ad-supported content in this context?

There’s a place for many different TV models offering choice for consumers – Sky’s aim is to not only provide our own world class content but to be an aggregator of choice. Ad supported models help invest greater sums into production allowing Sky to produce shows and films like Gangs of London, I Hate Suzie, Save Me and Promising Young Woman, and be home to great sporting moments like the Premier League, Lions Rugby and The Ryder Cup.

What kinds of signals will you be looking for as you seek to expand Sky Media’s programmatic inventory later this year?

We’ve got exciting plans of our own to expand across Sky Media’s portfolio through the year with movements across sport and entertainment, and a focus on Big Screen devices. We know that direction as we’ve had that great feedback from our initial buyers, and we understand what hasn’t previously been available to programmatic buying teams. There will always be an element of performance, we need to know that it works and meets the KPI goals of the agency, but we also need to know that it’s efficient and will give buyers a reason to buy programmatically.

Based on evolving viewership trends, do you anticipate another year of dramatic change in the TV landscape?

TV’s great power is its ability to adapt and evolve. From the Premier League, Game of Thrones, Bake Off or Line of Duty, TV brings us together and will continue to be part of our cultural conversations however it’s consumed.

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