As the TV ad ecosystem grows more complex, with an ever-increasing number of content creators and platforms, some of the inherent efficiency in TV ad buying has been lost. Executing a media plan can be cumbersome, particularly for last-minute changes, and it can be challenging for a company like AMC Networks -- with several hits across networks like AMC, BBC America, SundanceTV, WE tv and IFC -- to recapture that efficiency. Hence AMC's decision to form a partnership with inventory management platform MASS Exchange to offer programmatic linear TV buying.
The AMCN-MASS Exchange partnership began nearly a year ago, according to Adam Gaynor, Vice President of AMCN Agility. "There was a need to bring tools on board that allowed us to move into the future," he recently told MediaVillage. "That's also what spurred the development and launch of AMCN Agility." Created in March 2018, AMCN Agility is the data-driven arm of the AMC Networks Ad Sales team, and data and programmatic go together like peanut butter and chocolate.
"'Programmatic' can be such a dirty word because people have different uses and definitions," Gaynor said. "A lot of the pain points around it have been that it's actually been more like programmanual."
For Habib Khoury, Chief Executive Officer of MASS Exchange, the partnership is an opportunity to claw back some of the antipathy the industry seems to have towards automated TV buying. As he points out, the entire $70 billion TV ad marketplace was completely manual, and old habits die hard. But die they do, particularly when the business goes from three networks to literally hundreds and 25 spots become 25,000.
The result of this partnership gives both AMCN and buyers a truly automated system, from start to finish.
The MASS Exchange platform will plug into the platforms of various holding companies, agencies and DSPs, giving the demand side of this economic equation the ability to see exactly what inventory is available and what it costs -- across all of AMCN's properties. If a client decides on a Monday that they would like a spot in Wednesday's Brockmire on IFC, this platform will not only show them what's available, but also execute the sale.
"My vision is that our platform gives you the ability to package and price what you have to sell in ways that were difficult for you to sell before," Khoury said.
In practice, that means if an advertiser that buys a spot in The Walking Dead and later decides to narrow the constraints in their buy, AMC can make that happen much more easily now since the platform will be able to adjust pricing for just that sort of demand. It's a more efficient, agile system, Khoury noted.
For Gaynor, the MASS Exchange partnership isn't just about finding a better way to sell inventory to current clients. "Think about all these direct-to-consumer brands that are born in digital and move to TV," he said. "Here's an opportunity to earn their business in the way they want to transact." When that garage start-up that grew itself on the internet finally has enough money for a TV spot, allowing them to buy that spot by using a process similar to what they're already used to is good for everyone.
Don't worry too much about the robots taking over -- at least, not yet. Yes, the AMCN-MASS Exchange product is automated. But Khoury and Gaynor said that this tool doesn't work without the pre-existing relationships between buyer and seller. "It's just a new way of capturing demand," Gaynor said.
"Clients have been asking for this," Khoury explained. "'We want to access your supply this way.' It's not a mystery."
The companies are finishing up the "pipe-laying" phase, making sure they have created programs that can hook up AMCN's inventory catalogue to all of the major holding companies and agencies on the buy side. Sometime in the next couple months, those pipes will light up and handle trickles of transactions. With the new year will come the scale.
"This is our first step," Gaynor said.
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