Blog: The importance, and challenge, of TV Pixel

TV Pixel, loved by advertisers, needed by broadcasters, crucial for content owners, controlled by regulators (via e.g. GDPR). Read how the TV Pixel can be used to identify the TV, or viewer in the very best case.

“But of course, its a pixel”, you might think, “we’ve been using pixels with our online advertising, what’s the fuzz?” The challenge comes with the nature of TV, both technical and how it is watched. To avoid any misunderstanding, by TV Pixel, I mean a pixel or means to track the usage of a connected TV. Usage can mean watching TV, seeing advertising, using applications and so forth. All this information can help broadcasters, operators and CE manufacturers to enhance their service offering.

Let me explain in a bit more detailed way. TV space can be split technically to three pillars:

  1. Operator market,
  2. broadcaster market and
  3. Connected TV market

All have their unique technical characteristics when it comes to a TVPixel. For instance, there can be several Unique Id’s (UUID) for each Connected TVs, and this is where the difficulty comes:

  • one for each broadcaster via HbbTV +
  • one for the connected TV platform (via broadcaster SmartTV application) +
  • one via Smartcard or Operator Application.

How can you build a sellable ad inventory from this which has enough reach and unity to really tick all the boxes of an advertiser?

To add to the technical challenge, you cannot trust that your cookie or session is persistent, it can be flushed on every channel change, generating tens of unique Ids per day per device. CE manufacturers priority seems to be to get to the market, not necessarily the software.

Above is the worst for open Free-to-air (FTA) networks.

Operator environments are more consistent

Compared to Free-to-air networks, operator environments are more consistent as they usually have access to subscriber information, provide persistent storage and control over the set-top box. All this simplifies the device management, but at the same time decrease, advertisers/broadcasters reach to only one operator.

Why are we in this somewhat unwanted situation? In my opinion, the top three reasons causing the unwanted (from the advertiser/broadcaster perspective) situation:

  • On horizontal markets, TVs don’t get updated after they’ve been sold, not for long at least. It’s not good business for CE Manufacturers, whose business is to sell new TVs.
  • Every operator has its own platform to support. They have built it for years with proprietary solutions and moving to a standard solution cannot happen overnight. Advertisers need to ask whether there are economies of scale available.
  • Each Connected TV manufacturer has its own platform and from a technical perspective, it is two separate sandboxes: HbbTV and SmartTV portal. CE vendors also want to protect their own service offering; in both technical and business means.

However, solving the TVPixel challenge is paramount to maximize broadcaster’s inventory. A TV is the anchor for a household and could be used as the basis for many advertising concepts, e.g. re-targeting and building a household device graphs. Not to forget that the ability to target TV viewers increases the value for the eyeballs significantly.

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer and you will need to rely on multiple sources and algorithms to pinpoint the same TV (remember the 3 pillars), and audience.

For these reasons, building own first-party data becomes more and more important to broadcasters.

First Party data becomes more valuable than ever

A good starting point is to start building the first party data by collecting audience measurement data from all pillars and start matching patterns. Adding the first party data with identity resolution providers such as LiveRamp, Lotame or Nielsen DMP for instance. Hooking up Device Graph databases from Drawbridge and Tapad into your data can take you even further.

Combining broadcaster knowledge with 3rd party data will finally tell you the details of your audience.

… and Knowing your audience makes advertising more fun (and effective).

To Summarise #TVPixel

TV is the anchor of a houseld, it doesn’t move. Using it as base to build device graphs is worth the trouble.

To maximise broadcaster’s ad revenues identifying unique TVs is paramount.

Single TV may have several unique Id’s depending from which pillar it comes.

Unifying all UUID into a single sellable TV is possible, broadcaster/publisher must have the first party data and combine it with 3rd party data.

Further reading

We are constantly tackling these challenges in our Audience Measurement and Addressable TV projects:

Blog: Top 6 Take-aways from the 7th HbbTV Symposium

Top 6 Take-aways from the 7th HbbTV Symposium. Read my view on where the market is going.

HbbTV is seeing a steady growth and the industry commitment is there. Operators start to embrace it with the new OpApps spec. Addressable TV will have the biggest impact on the industry over the next 5 years.

HbbTV Symposium was in Berlin, #HbbTVBerlin, this year with 300 delegates from 27 countries, 26 broadcasters&operators (587M population), 8 Manufacturers and 60 tech companies. It was the biggest event so far. HbbTV is clearly gaining traction and seen as a key component in broadcasters future plans. I tried to write on things you cannot necessarily find for the presentations available here.

1. Viewing habits are changing

Graph how HbbTV consumption won Mobile+Web for Children content at TV3 Catalonia. Source: Francesc Mas / TV3

Viewing habits are changing. It was pointed out in several presentations and statistics show that younger audiences watch more and more online video content. Could it be “young and poor” watch YouTube, you still have time to look for content, “more money and less time” mean you want more relaxed experience.  One driver is also video gaming, which is hot content for younger audience, and is not available on linear TV. It remains to be seen what happens in the future as digital native habits do last and move along.

Nevertheless, a TV Series can become an event and people want to watch it LIVE on Linear. BBC’s Bodyguard is a good example where people who came late to series watched first on catch-up, but moved to linear as soon as they could.

Similarly Francesc Mas from TV3 Catalonia told that kids watch more on-demand on HbbTV than on mobile+website. TV increased 8x in just 12 months. 55% of kids online content is via TV now. This is backed by BBC iPlayer as well, where SmarTV is by far the biggest online platform for video viewing. Who do you believe?

2. TV Device Market is Smart

IHS Market Paul Gray’s data show that average TV size is 45´ and is growing. 4K is driving the market, although content is not available. The marketing message of 4K is mainly pushed by Netflix and Amazon Prime. It is good news as 4K TVs always have HbbTV.

Train viewers to use your service on mobile, it will move to TV

Linear TV is over 75% of all viewing all over Europe, has been constant for past 6 years (IHS Market 2018). So, people watch on SmartTV, but since UI is better on mobile many cast to TV. Advice: train viewers to use your service on mobile, it will move to TV. 63% of households by 2022 will have smartTV and the average amount of TVs per household is going down although cable and satellite subscriptions grew in Europe.

It should be kept in mind that TV manufacturing is a low margin business and manufacturers are not interested in providing much software updates on legacy devices, but selling new terminals. This was clearly stated by LG’s Stuart Savage.

3. HbbTV adoption is growing

Germany is clearly the leading market for HbbTV with 67% market share of all HbbTVs. Germany has reached the critical mass for HbbTV, but two features are critical for operators to use it as a platform: DASH streaming protocol and DRM. On the other hand German broadcasters see HbbTV as a cost-effective and best platform for the market to harmonise the tech stack.

Latest hot markets are Italy (Tivú, Mediaset, …) and Spain (LovesTV) where nationwide HbbTV services have been launched by main broadcasters. In Italy Tivú has introduced its OpApps based platform, a migration from MHP. Also e.g. Deutsche Telekom wants to get rid of STBs and move more for virtual STBs and OpApps specification offer a good platform to achieve this. Actually they were with TNO and DTAG the ones who initialised the OpApp requirements.

Freeview Australia’s Liz Ross told that HbbTV is growing almost 50% per year and have reached 46% of households. To succeed in a market she had found out that it is vital for broadcasters to educate viewers via TV spot campaigns on how to use HbbTV. CE Manufacturers support support the national initiative/platform is a key element to drive TV sales and consequently the market.

Freeview believe to be at 11,1 million devices by 2022, at which point they would be U.K.’s biggest TV platform

U.K Freeview is already reaching 5 million devices, 54% of new sold TVs are FVTV devices, and CE manufacturers see the value in using Freeview brand in their devices. Freeview believe to be at 11,1 million devices by 2022, at which point they would be U.K.’s biggest TV platform. They are basically winning market share from other TV platforms. The approach is clearly working, they believe in broadcaster co-operation and they have more content partners coming in.

Stefanie Luedecke from ProSiebenSat.1 felt that the global (OTT) market is lost and broadcasters need to concentrate on local market together with other broadcasters. She believes that HbbTV will offer economies of scale for this move. Based on these assumptions they have initiated a “LovesTV” of Germany and several other content providers and broadcasters have already joined them.

4. HbbTV Markets are moving towards platforms

It is interesting that in many countries broadcasters launch common offerings to compete against OTT providers;

  1. Australia Freeview
  2. Spain LovesTV
  3. U.K Freeview and Freesat
  4. ProsiebenSat.1 initiative in Germany
  5. Italy Tivú
  6. France Salto (to be re-launched)
  7. Finland HybridiTV
  8. Estonia TasutaTV
  9. Hungary MinDig
  10. and so on.

I think it is the right move as it generate a halo effect in marketing and differentiates from OTT services without Linear offering. They all should also follow the Freeview’s (both U.K. and Australia) example to require CE manufacturers to add a link to Freeview portal in the native TV UI.

Audience Measurement via HbbTV will be crucial for especially small broadcasters

Andrea Duerager from RedBull explained how they use HbbTV Audience measurement (with one second interval) to drive all their programme decisions. For them HbbTV is the second source of measurement along with the GFK TV Panel. She showed how generally the reporting is similar from both the TV Panel and HbbTV, but sometimes TV Panel is totally incorrect. The Gfk TV Panel in Germany is problematic for especially small channels as it may show incorrectly zero reach due to the panel’s small size. This is a major issue especially for commercial channels as they are unable to sell contacts to advertisers.


GDPR compliancy: it is enough to offer an opt-out option to viewers.


The question of GDPR and audience measurement was naturally raised and the common approach (verified by several broadcasters in different countries)is that it is enough to offer an opt-out option to viewers (if you don’t combine 3rd party data on the household level). It is also advisable to discard TVs IP address once it’s been used for e.g. geolocation information. Ms. Duerager also pointed out that they see many opted-out TVs returning to measurement after some time.

5. From understanding the audiences to Addressable TV

First poll at the event found that Addressable TV will change hybrid broadcasting the most in the coming 5 years. Delegates voted low latency streaming and voice control as runner-ups.

Dynamic Advertising Substitution. Source: Presentation of Angelo Pettazzi

The finding wasn’t a surprise, DVB and HbbTV have already setup a Task Force to standardise some aspects of addressable TV to drive the market adoption. Angelo Pettazzi from Mediaset  told that groups focus is in delivery and execution, not on ad decisioning or profiling. Why do we need task-force? Broadcaster opinion differ what user/ad experience is enough. E.g. some require frame accuracy of a 30s ad and timing is variable and not tested in HbbTV test cases. It works for early adopters, but for a large multibillion business it is not enough, thus Task Force. It will be individual specification like HbbTV OpApps and the work target devices on the market in 2020.

Google loves HbbTV.

Yes you read right, Google want to be able to provide their Ad Manager for various Addressable TV use-cases to target e.g high income household with kids or mid-income single male. From their perspective HbbTV as standard bring various benefits for advertising: Enhanced targeting, reduced waste time, new niche advertisers, smarter ad scheduling and programmatic advertising. At the same time Jean Semere highlighted the technical challenge in delivering online video ads in linear environment cue to the huge and instant capacity requirement. Based on Google data there is a 100M€ market for Addressable TV in 2018 in Europe and it will grow to 1100M€ by 2022.

6. Video replacement or DAS, VideoSwap, was a hot topic

The Addressable TV focus this year seminar was on Video Replacement or DAS (Dynamic ad substitution) as it is called by the DVB Task Force. Lessons learned from various speakers could be summed up:

Replacing Programme Trailer with Addressable TV video ads, Source: ElCartel Media

  • You can do it in HbbTV 1.5
  • To have enough reach you need to do it in HbbTV 1.5
  • HbbTV 2.0 can make the user experience better
  • Frame accuracy will not be there in the near term
  • Replacing single TV Spot on a commercial break is not viable, but better to replace complete ad-breaks or  broadcasters own programme trailers like ElCartel Media is doing in Germany

El Cartel Media (Florian Löw) wanted to offer clients AddressableTV commercial that are 30 seconds. It means less production cost as advertisers can use the same video as for linear spots. They offer 8-12 video replacement slots every day on a single channel and main use reason is to do regional targeting and frequency capping on ads. Based on feedback viewers don’t separate TV broadcast ads or addressableTV advertising, its advertising.

To Summarise #HbbTVBerlin

Sale is made online. The DEAL is made at dealership. The need to drive viewers to shops is as evident as ever and addressable TV can help in that. Broadcasters need to unite to push HbbTV as a platform, otherwise it may never be adopted by operators. HbbTV penetration is growing steadily and new projects are launched, critical mass starts be there and it is commercially viable.

All in all I would say that the future for hybrid linear TV looks bright.

Blog: Addressable TV @dmexco 2018


dmexco, the event, meeting place & a community for key players in digital business, marketing and advertising. We went to see how addressable TV market is doing.

Shortly: TV is still seen as THE media to build brand awareness and reach. Addressable TV must happen.

Connected TV, or CTV, were a platform on which many were involved in projects monetising applications and content within CTV portals. However, none worked with linear broadcast content, it was all streaming and in-app advertising. Whether this is addressable TV or not, ..? The challenge pointed out by many is the number of platforms and versions to manage and support.

Analysing advertising performance is crucial for advertisers and media agencies in their campaign planning. It is just as important to broadcasters to optimise their inventory. As companies become more and more familiar of real-time reporting and KPIs the TV audience panels and “two week reporting delay” is seen as “outdated”, especially when talking with the digital only businesses like Zalando and others, who have big TV marketing campaigns. TV spot reporting has been addressed mostly with audio finger-printing in order to know when the spot runs. It is missing the real-time audience data, which can be added once the panel data is available. Check our Audience Measurement -solution for data gathering.

Data, data is king say some, is another interesting topic at DMEXCO and many considered TV as the anchor for a household that can be used to link other devices to be used for cross-device re-targeting, especially with the spot run-times. None of the current data providers was however able to offer the data input in order to achieve this in large-scale. Solutions based on HW are on offer, but are usually limited to a single CE manufacturer, limiting the reach considerably. It is a deal the providers need to make directly with the CE vendors and not all of the even offer that, e.g. Samsung.

Not to forget Addressable TV, it was clearly a hot topic for digital savvy advertisers.
Back to Addressable TV in linear, which is a daily business in Germany and Czech. From both markets we got input from media agencies that the demand is there. Broadcasters are unfortunately quite slow in deploying these new ad-formats, but as advertisers demand is there, the situation is forecasted to change soon.

Many seemed to fear on the technical risk, that something unwanted will happen on the TV, black-screen being the worst case scenario. However user surveys by a broadcasters have shown that frame-accuracy is not a requirement on video replacement. Viewers have gotten used to some “black” in their video experience, thanks to online video I would guess. Another commonly approach to start with Addressable TV was to begin with broadcasters own program promotion, but using addressable TV formats. This way they can gather experience and peace-of-mind before introducing these new ad formats to advertisers.

There is clearly a lot of happening under the radar. What we need to do to convince the broadcasters to open their inventory is to offer un-parallel risk free technical platform. TV works, period, and the user experience must be paramount.  This is something we have been working hard to achieve and I believe we are there. More on our solution can be found here.

All in all DMEXCO was a very fruitful trip and recommended to anyone working with addressable TV. I believe it will be a topic on almost every booth in 2019.

all tv is digital, all digital is addressable

Blog: Making Addressable TV happen

Data driven advertising is making it’s way to broadcasters’ linear offering and offering clear benefits to all parties: viewers, advertisers and broadcasters. Addressable TV is changing TV Advertising and the time to jump the bandwagon is now.

As we all know TV advertising has been stagnant or experienced only minor growth during the last years, while digital ad spend have been growing rapidly and have finally in 2017 overtaken globally TV advertising in terms of spending. Magna’s ( the research arm of media buying firm IPG Mediabrands) research shows us that in 2017 digital ad spending reached $209 billion (41%) worldwide , while TV brought in $178 billion (35%). Addressable TV is just a fraction of that now with huge growth potential.

Youtube just copied broadcasters way of doing advertising

Thanks to their simplicity and reach Facebook and Google take lions share of the digital ad spend. Surprisingly In-stream Video is the only Desktop digital ad form that is growing, and look what YouTube did to it, they copied the advertising business model from broadcasters. Brands can now pay per impression not per completed in-stream ad. They call it TrueView for Reach. I think it is a big change on the way digital video advertising has been marketed until now, as an accountable, addressable ad-form. It is clearly targeted to lure major brands from TV, a way for them more easily compare the TV ad spend agains in-stream video ad spend.

Video advertising is really changing and fortunately broadcasters still have the best tool in their arsenal: quality content (that meets brands’ safety requirements). It is still the main driver for people to spend hours watching their screen, TV, Mobile or Desktop. It just lures the big audiences.

TV is unbeatable for delivering brand value

Besides, linear TV still has it supporters as it is unbeatable, as found by  Neustar research studyvehicle to convey corporate brand value and an effective means to reach big audiences, and it is the last ad platform not dominated by the duo-poly Facebook/Google. TV is not going anywhere, regardless of what the “digital gurus” are saying.

Data is the crown-prince

Pre-rolls and other in-stream formats have long been daily business in broadcasters’ online services but linear TV has been missing what other platform offer, addressability and “tracking” to put it bluntly. Data is becoming the crown-prince and it is a must to move linear advertising to the digital personalised era. Using Data in linear TV specifically helps marketers to optimise their TV spend between different TV type, networks and times.

Data would also surely enable broadcasters to justify an increase on ad prices, even while audiences are declining. Broadcasters should not look no further that Addressable TV to re-launch their linear ad offering, the era after the 30s spot.

Addressable TV should help broadcasters to protect them from the giant Internet companies for the un-seen future as it can offer various benefits for them :

  • detailed analytics of linear ad-views as viewers behaviour can be monitored per second
  • growing revenues by adding big data to linear TV inventory
  • bringing new advertisers to the TV ad market by offering affordable personalised niche segments
  • generate increased revenues by applying rich consumer data to TV inventory
  • enable new ad-inventory and ad-formats to increase total revenues

If the benefits are overwhelming and clear, the implementation may be a struggle to many, especially as advertising is based on reach. And honestly speaking, it hasn’t been there due to the lack of common distribution platform that support client side ad-insertion and would enable us to combine reach, real-time consumer viewing data and TV inventory. The variety of platforms have made it very difficult to deploy Addressable TV economically and to offer advertisers big enough audience.

Technical obstacles are meant to be beaten

Sun is shining upon us, HbbTV as a CE manufacturer supported platform is steadily growing and building a fan base around world to offer a common framework for broadcasters to build addressable TV offering. It holds all the key requirements usually only seen on vertical operator owned platform:

  1. broadcasters control of their ad-invetory, both linear and addressable tv -formats
  2. client side ad-insertion support
  3. hybrid environment enabling collection of real-time consumer viewing data
  4. standardised technical platform available on all receivers, HbbTV
  5. reach, 90% of new SmartTVs that are sold have HbbTV built-in

Addressable offers various formats that be either synchronised or non-synchronised with linear TV, such as

  1. SwitchIn 
  2. ActiveAd 
  3. VideoSwap
  4. ScheduledAd
  5. Retargeting campaigns

You may have never heard about the above formats, but the addressable TV best practices and industry ad-formats are still in making, the market is just starting with the most innovative broadcasters. A lot of first-in-the-world is taking place. My recommendation is to jump the bandwagon now to be part of the defining moment of TV advertising. It is also a good time to learn before the market is mature and it may become very expensive to make mistakes.

Addressable TV benefits everyone involved

The real take away from this blog is that Addressable TV benefits everyone involved:

  1. For advertisers it gives reach, but also enable them to target niche groups within linear TV
  2. Based on our research viewers value the fact that they get more relevant and informative advertising
  3. Broadcasters benefit as they can offer new advertising formats and show their advertisers exactly how their ad investment works. And Addressable TV opens new revenue streams for broadcasters.

I believe strongly that Addressable TV should have extremely high strategic importance to any broadcaster who wants to stay alive the tsunami of digital advertising; follow the lead that ProSiebenSat.1 is a setting by stating the importance also in their 2017 annual report.

We are at a turning point, there is no return to the linear TV advertising as we know it today.


Icareus Addressable TV Technical Specification


This document provides detailed technical details on Icareus Addressable TV Formats, +Activations and Creatives

Formats are: SwitchIn, ActiveAd, VideoSwap and Promote
+Activations are: Long-form video, Coupon, 1Pager and Microsite
Creatives: Leaderboard, Medium Rectangle, L-Banner, Video

For additional information please do not hesitate to contact us!

updated: 08.11.2018