A+E Expands Its Programmatic Opportunities

By Upfronts/NewFronts Archives
Cover image for  article: A+E Expands Its Programmatic Opportunities

A+E Networks has increased the number of ways to leverage its established content properties programmatically. Now advertisers can target their desired consumer groups across the full range of A+E Network platforms and properties. It's what Tyler DeNicola, Vice President Programmatic Revenue and Partnerships at A+E Networks, calls "flexibility with guardrails," which also offers "expansive opportunities of scale."

The company has come up with a solution that offers both programmatic and traditional inventory buys using curated channels and measurement through a range of strategic partnerships.

Programmatic capability on A+E is not a new feature. In fact, the company has been offering forms of programmatic buying for at least a decade. "A+E was one of the first publishers to put long-form mobile app inventory within the programmatic space," DeNicola explained. "We started working with a partner that was then acquired by Facebook. Programmatic was predominant in the display and pre-roll spaces. A+E wanted to understand how this can be leveraged."

From there, a great expansion took place that encompassed a range of technological advancements. A+E currently works with "six SSPs [supply side platforms], as well as supply side integrations directly with the largest CTV platforms," he added.

From the start in mobile, the company also moved into desktop where measurement was more seasoned thanks to the use of cookies. At the same time, mobile "expanded overnight and came with the ability to have persistent identifiers outside of the cookie," DeNicola noted. "Mobile identifiers offered the capability for audience targeting on a programmatic level moving into the mobile app space. CTV [connected TV] followed suit. We continue to see this massive push into the connected TV environment that is also tied to these persistent identifiers like IP address, device ID, etc.

"From the viewership end, CTV has seen rapid organic growth as a result of consumers shift in viewing behavior, as well as an increase in DTC and FAST [free ad supported television) content," he continued. "Several years ago, if you looked at our viewership breakout by platform, CTV sat at around 40%. Now in 2022, CTV is +70% of our overall consumption."

As a result of all the groundwork, A+E became one of the first publishers to offer its entire ecosystem programmatically to direct agency- and demand-side platform (DSP) clients. "Buyers were starting to look on a KPI [key performance indicator] basis, where they only wanted to target specific users that align with their brands," DeNicola said. "We utilized programmatic to provide flexibility but also help them to see a more tangible return on their investment. Now, buyers are looking beyond targetability as a use case for programmatic transactions. Measurement [i.e., reach and frequency), consolidated reporting across one-to-many publishers, and a more streamlined and efficient workflow have made long form OTT programmatic buying more enticing."

The main goals for A+E Networks are ease of use, flexibility, transparency and simplicity. "We push everything across our networks and the three transaction paths," DeNicola explained. "We have our traditional, non-guaranteed private marketplace deals; we have our programmatic guaranteed deals, and we are currently working on availing biddable guaranteed deals. We have very niche brands that perform incredibly well contextually so we can break things out on a channel level as well. We create customized packages for tentpole events and specials, and we can bundle packages based on series, depending on the criteria of our partners."

As far as measurement is concerned, in addition to standard impressions data, "we work with partners like Live Ramp so we can layer in first-party data as well as other third-party audience segments," he said.

As the technology continues to advance and the demand for programmatic grows, A+E is seeing future opportunities. "We are working with one of our largest virtual MVPDs as well as traditional STB [set-top box] VOD partners to incorporate their inventory into our programmatic offering," DeNicola noted. "[A+E is pushing for greater flexibility] to target granular audiences on the back end where needed, or to hit necessary efficiencies, while still maintaining a very premium living room experience mirroring traditional linear TV."

DeNicola's advice for advertisers is straightforward. "The entire ecosystem is available, and we offer a very transparent and level playing field for all of our buyers," he said. "[For example], this is what you can get if you bid at these levels. We also strive to be agnostic, working with a wide range of SSP partners, to ensure we have an integration path that best suits our buyers' preferences. In a world of walled gardens, we feel options create the most efficient and streamlined opportunities for the buyside."

Doing what is best for the advertiser is paramount. "We want flexibility, but with guardrails, knowing that programmatic does have its nuances," DeNicola said. "For us, that means setting expectations up front. Yes, we want to offer programmatic as a means for flexibility, but it will depend on the use case or the scale that's needed.

"It's all about fine tuning to our partners' strategy, asking a lot of questions, educating, understanding and doing a lot of listening," he concluded.

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