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: