WideOrbit aims to make broadcast advertising more like digital

WideOrbit, which touts itself as one of the largest ad management software providers in the traditional TV space, is taking linear advertising to the next level.

The company last week launched ZingX, a buy-side platform that gives advertisers direct access to broadcast TV inventory across the U.S. Essentially, ZingX simplifies the ad buying process so that it’s more similar to a digital advertising approach, according to Brian Thoman, WideOrbit’s SVP of Software Engineering.

“It’s buying that TV inventory in the way you’d normally buy digital,” he told Fierce Video. “It makes it a lot more accessible, especially to digital DSPs [demand side platforms] and digital agencies who are used to buying through DSPs for CTV or for display ads.”

This method is also better aligned with performance-based advertising channels, Thoman continued. Meaning advertisers are less concerned about buying specific time slots for broadcast ads or “negotiating with 1,000 stations across 210 markets.” Instead, they can focus more on reaching key demographics in local markets.

ZingX taps into local TV inventory from 184 designated market areas (DMAs) in the country. All of that inventory is located on WideOrbit’s sell-side platform, WO Marketplace, which launched back in October. Within those markets, Thoman said WideOrbit’s footprint spans over 90 broadcasters, who reach “about 95% of U.S. households.”

“On the buy side, campaigns look like audience campaigns. You’re using Comscore age and gender breakdowns to define your audience. You can use local DMAs as geographies, control budgets by dayparts, by markets, include program genres,” he explained.

As for WideOrbit’s sell-side clients, Thoman said all U.S. owned-and-operated stations – NBC, CBS, Fox – use WideOrbit’s platform as well as companies like Paramount, Gray Television, Tegna and Sinclair.

Linear vs. digital ads

Many ad tech companies are focusing on fine-tuning their platforms to better reach audiences on streaming and other digital platforms. But Thoman pointed out linear advertising’s main advantage is its “pure, unduplicated reach.”

“Like Netflix’s streaming platform, Google’s streaming platforms, they are all vastly smaller than the reach of broadcast TV,” he said. “And if you’re using video as a top of funnel technique to get activation on your customers, TV is the broadest reach.”

Thoman explained even though more consumers are watching TV on digital platforms, those who are watching local news or sports, for instance, are mainly getting it through a broadcast system, like a virtual MVPD. Buying on linear is typically cheaper than buying digital inventory, he noted.

“If we’re talking about addressable ads, filtering down that massive reach audience into an addressable ad gets very expensive,” said Thoman. “You can buy millions of impressions on a broadcast footprint for a much more cost-effective reach.”

WideOrbit is bolstering its advertising arsenal by leveraging data from Comscore, which has pointed to local TV as a growth path for its alternative currency.

“Our platform takes the Comscore data and projects the audience for future program instances,” Thoman said. “And then we use that forecast to buy the media from a TV station…when the ads actually air, we use Comscore data to measure the audience.”

Thoman also delved into some of the broader trends he’s seeing in the advertising space, particularly the convergence of linear and digital audiences.

“The discussions have evolved into, how do we create a complementary audience between the broadcast signal and addressable signals,” he said, similar to what Warner Bros. Discovery exec Steve Silvestri pointed out at Advertising Week last year. “I don’t think linear signals are going away, particularly in local news and sports. I think they’re here for the foreseeable future. But pieces of that audience will be carved out for higher paying CPMs.”

A local sporting event, for instance, would have a number of broadcast ads that everyone sees as well as another set of ads “in that same stream” that are addressable.

“I think these two worlds continue to converge and they converge on both sides,” said Thoman. “You’ll have station, broadcaster, publisher sales teams learning to sell both of them through NextGenTV, ATSC 3.0.”

“On the agency side, you’ll have buyers combining their DSP digital buying with programmatic TV buying,” he added. “I think it’s going to be very interesting.”

As for the future of broadcast advertising, Thoman said while the delivery mechanism will change over the next few years, “the need for a broadcast medium is going to stay.”

“Whether that’s delivered over ATSC 3.0, mobile devices or it’s delivered over an antenna, cable…virtual MVPDs, that broadcast signal is still going to be needed,” he said. “And each of those segments is working on their own ways to handle addressable inside of that broadcast signal.”