Disney expands Luminate ad sales offering to Hulu for 1st time

Linda J. Dodson

Dive Brief:

  • Disney expanded its Luminate advanced advertising suite to include video streaming service Hulu for the first time, one of several new capabilities highlighted as part of the Disney Advertising Sales Virtual Roadshow. The company is now working with Samba TV, a content recommendation engine and viewer tracking application for smart TVs, on ad performance metrics, according to details shared with Marketing Dive.
  • Samba TV can help to measure key performance indicators like offline conversion, foot traffic, digital engagement, brand lift, tune in, reach and frequency among linear, digital and connected TV outlets. The solution links cross-platform activity among Disney’s properties, including ABC, ABC News, Disney Digital, ESPN+, ESPN Networks, Freeform, FX Networks, Hulu and National Geographic Networks.
  • To support Luminate’s expansion to Hulu, Disney Advertising Sales is also participating in Nielsen’s test of an addressable TV platform to study how targeting works with existing systems. The pilot seeks to optimize ad delivery on linear addressable TV with the flexibility to activate and deactivate targeted ads, the announcement said.

Dive Insight:

Expanding Luminate to Hulu is a significant step in Disney’s efforts to sell advertising on the streaming service, while doing so in a way that creates greater unity with its broader suite of platforms. The news arrived as part of the Disney Advertising Sales Virtual Roadshow, a digital event that is part of the upfronts season for TV advertisers, where networks and publishers try to secure large ad spending commitments for the months ahead.

Disney has put a bigger spotlight on Hulu’s advertising capabilities as the entertainment giant’s other streaming offerings, such as Disney+, are ad-free. Last year, Disney acquired Comcast’s stake in Hulu, giving it full control over the streamer that has 32.1 million subscribers. About two-thirds of Hulu’s audience receive its ad-supported version, while the remainder pay $12 a month for the ad-free tier, Deadline reported. That mix gives Disney a significant audience of households that have connected their TVs to the internet, possibly with a streaming device like Roku, Amazon’s Firestick, Google’s Chromecast or Apple TV.

Hulu has in recent months introduced several ad formats that attempt to address the needs of streaming in ways that traditional commercials can’t. Innovations have included ad units that reward binge-watching and “pause ads” that only play when the user hits pause to take a break. At its presentation at the Digital Content NewFronts last year, Hulu said it plans to eventually drive half of revenue from “nondisruptive and nontraditional” ads.

Other announcements made at Disney’s virtual roadshow key into a blurring divide between digital and traditional media. The collaboration with Samba TV is another part of Disney’s effort to appeal to marketers by offering more addressable advertising, a tactic that’s stepped into the spotlight as brands try to make their dollars go farther amid a pinch from the coronavirus pandemic. Samba TV has audience segments based on first-party consumer data to help improve targeting.

Disney is taking other steps to demonstrate its value to advertisers, including its participation in Nielsen’s test to measure addressable TV viewership and a collaboration with Xandr, the advertising and analytics division of AT&T’s WarnerMedia whose programmatic services include its Invest TV demand-side platform.

Disney’s myriad sales efforts come as broadcasters face considerable disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic. The health crisis led to the cancelation of live events — including upfront presentations that traditionally were a chance for networks to showcase their programming to advertisers — and to replace them with virtual events. Studio production and live sports have also ground to a halt, giving networks less programming to showcase.

The consequences are expected to be significant. Advertisers, on average, plan to spend 33% less on the upfronts this year, and more have questioned the value of the sales presentations broadly, a recent survey by Advertiser Perceptions found. However, the lifting of lockdowns in many cities and states could spur a rebound as people get back to work and have more money to spend on goods and services, giving marketers a reason to boost their media spending, especially as the key holiday shopping season approaches.

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