Dish makes linear TV inventory available programmatically with Dish Connected

Dish Media is making its live linear TV inventory available in the programmatic realm with the introduction of Dish Connected, which delivers real-time targeted advertisements to internet-connected Dish TV set-top boxes executed in the same style as a digital CTV campaign.

Using Dish Connect, advertisers can access Dish TV inventory the same way as a campaign on virtual MVPD Sling TV, with inventory from both on a single platform.

“We are effectively bringing linear television into the digital connected TV marketplace. And from a buyer's perspective, it will look and feel and execute exactly like CTV does in a programmatic environment,” said Kevin Arrix, SVP of Dish Media, in an interview with Fierce, noting the effort was no small task. “We're super excited to grow our supply footprint in the biddable programmatic marketplace.”

In terms of supply, Dish Connected significantly expands – in fact triples – the number of programmatic avails that Dish Media provides monthly, going from 1 billion to 3 billion, according to Arrix. That figure includes 1.2 billion ad avails from Sling TV and 2 billion ad avails from Dish TV once fully ramped.

Programmatic advertising is an automated method of buying and selling digital advertising that speeds up and removes manual elements of the process, and can involve real-time software-driven bidding and private marketplaces, among other types of ad buying. While programmatic first gained favor in the non-TV online digital world, it’s since been making its way into the CTV arena. It’s pegged as more efficient and scalable approach, along with benefits like targeting. However, traditional linear inventory hasn’t existed in a biddable, programmatic environment as it’s not digital and therefore can’t work within the way a programmatic system is designed, Arrix said.

What Dish has done is bring IP ad insertion to connected homes within the Dish subscriber footprint, he explained, essentially converting its linear inventory to digital. It’s an undertaking that required a lot of tech and development efforts, “not trivial work” to make it happen, Arrix added while noting that Dish was able to lean on its programmatic experience with Sling TV.  

In converting a linear ad break – which is typically one spot seen by many – to an impression-based ad break, the Dish TV inventory will “look and feel exactly like CTV in a programmatic environment” and can be accessed in a private auction the same way advertisers and agencies buy against CTV today.

The move gives a boost to the programmatic approach overall by pulling in premium TV inventory, which as mentioned, previously couldn’t be accessed within that biddable environment. It also comes at a time when digital video advertising spend is projected to increase, with IAB forecasting a 17% bump to $55.2 billion in 2023, following a 21% year over year increase in 2022.

Advertisers can execute Dish’s premium set-top box inventory programmatically through private auctions operated by demand-side platforms (DSPs) such as The Trade Desk and Yahoo DSP, as well as sell-side platform (SSP) Magnite. According to Dish, as viewers watch TV on connected set-top boxes, marketers can bid and deliver ads in real-time, enabling them to extend reach to an expanded footprint.

Arrix told Fierce that this move makes programmatic equal to managed services, something that’s important to Dish as it aims to be buy-solution agnostic and leave decisions about how to buy to the advertiser or agency.

“If we believe in being agnostic to buy-side solutions then we need to make every effort possible to ensure that the supply that is offered on both managed service and in biddable programmatic are as equal as possible,” he said. 

More top-quality supply

While he acknowledged that there are still a lot of advertisers that operate in a managed services environment, Arrix emphasized that for those that have embraced programmatic, Dish Connected means there’s now more tier one TV supply on that market.

“There's more top-quality supply, more opportunity to buy against an expanded audience, expanded scale,” Arrix said. “So we think it only makes biddable programmatic, more scalable and more attractive for the advertisers and agencies that are already in that in that world."

It also offers an opportunity to buyers who are new to the ecosystem. While Arrix said it’s fine that a lot of advertisers still prefer managed services and IO execution methods there are “anywhere from five to 10x the number of advertisers that have opted in for a programmatic solution,” as it’s a more turnkey method.

Dish Connected is something that Arixx thinks will increase Dish’s share, but he said it’s ultimately about bringing more supply to programmatic and a more robust offering that clients have been seeking.

“We know that advertisers and their ad agencies want more-slash-better supply in the biddable environment, so we always like to listen to our customers and hear what they have to say. And we think we’re delivering on something that they’ve been asking for for a while now,” he commented.

Single buy for Dish, Sling in the pipeline

Another upcoming feature is that advertisers will eventually be able to make a single buy programmatically across both Sling and Dish inventory.  For the remainder of 2023 Dish TV and Sling TV will likely remain distinct in terms of deal IDs, Arrix said, but affirmed the capability is in the pipeline.

“That is 100% on our roadmap, and we feel confident that that will be available come 2024,” he said of the ability to buy across Sling and Dish at the same time. He noted there “really is no overlap between a Dish subscriber and a Sling subscriber,” meaning distribution and reach is complementary to each other.

Dish Connected has several charter partners at the onset including Horizon Media, Havas Media, Stagwell and Camelot Strategic Marketing & Media. Arrix said that as the rollout scales those parties will be involved, with the offering opened up to other interested partners in Q3.

Alexander Stone, SVP, Advanced Video & Agency Partnerships, Horizon Media, said in a statement that company continues to put strong emphasis on programmatic, “recognizing it as a powerful tool for delivering targeted and effective ad campaigns.”

“Having invested heavily in programmatic buying across premium CTV inventory, we’re excited to take advantage of this new offering from Dish Media,” Stone continued. "Dish Connected allows us to open up a larger inventory pool for our clients, making the buying experience more accessible than before.”

In a statement Verna De Jesus, VP of CTV at The Trade Desk, called out the ability to use advanced data to inform linear TV buys.

“Linear media buys have historically used endemic metrics to inform their decisioning,” stated De Jesus. “Now with Dish Media creating this innovative solution, media buyers can use today’s advanced data ecosystem – including a brand’s first party data – to make the most informed buy possible on linear TV. As the level of impressions scales through tools such as Dish Connected, consumers will enjoy a better ad experience that is more consistent with their streaming counterparts.”