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Aden Zaman of Samba TV Talks Advanced TV Measurement and a Tipping Point on the Sell Side

  • - Allison Metcalfe
  • 5 min read

With data offering advertisers greater ability to understand audiences and what they’re watching, we’re finally at a tipping point for how TV media is bought and measured. 

Aden Zaman, SVP of Strategy and Business Development at Samba TV, sat down with Allison Metcalfe, head of LiveRamp TV, to chat through current TV data and measurement trends and what this means for the buy side, sell side, and viewers.

Listen to our podcast below or read an excerpt of our conversation:

Allison: What is the vision for Samba TV? 

Aden: When I joined the company, it was called Flingo and the core product was a platform for smart TV users who wanted to find content that they loved and then be able to ‘fling’ that to television. So this was even before Chromecast and AirPlay were available. 

What we quickly realized is that we needed a good understanding of what people watch on TV and what they like to engage with in order to recommend new content. So we developed what we call Content ID technology, which quickly and accurately recognizes virtually anything that appears on the screen of a smart television. 

Over the years, we worked with TV manufacturers to embed this technology into their chip sets and it still continues to provide a consumer value. We enable various types of personalization and recommendations on smart TVs that use our tech, but the byproduct is very valuable data that enables advertisers, marketers, and programmers to get a better understanding of who’s watching their content, how they should optimize their media, and where they should be targeting on television. 

Allison: Can you elaborate on what challenges you are seeing in TV today? 

Aden: The biggest challenge with TV today is also an opportunity. There’s more fragmentation than ever before, and it’s getting harder and harder to reach your target consumers. 

If you look back 20, 30 years ago, you could buy time on ABC, CBS, and NBC during prime time and probably reach 80% of the country. Today, you can reach exactly who you want to reach, but it’s much harder to find that person, and there’s a myriad of different ways that you can actually reach them. 

So I think the challenges are, how do you target on television and how do you measure it? You want to be able to measure the effectiveness, because every year, even with fewer and fewer people watching linear television, the cost for that time is actually increasing. 

Allison: I’d love for you to talk about that a little bit. I think that that’s kind of a head-scratcher for a lot of people. We’re hearing so much about viewership declining on traditional TV and set-top boxes, so how are networks able to charge a higher CPM, and what’s the justification? 

Aden That’s a great question. I think the headline at the last Upfronts was that year-over-year, prime time was down about 20%, yet advertisers were being asked to pay a similar amount for that time. I think that networks are realizing the only way to compete is to be able to provide the same type of measurement and the same type of addressability that digital has. I think a lot of networks were resisting that five, ten years ago—or it just simply wasn’t possible—and now they’re starting to embrace it. 

Allison: While we are definitely seeing growth in adoption of things like addressable TV and alternative measurement, I wouldn’t say it’s a landslide. It’s not as much of a rush as some would expect. What do you think is holding things back and what can we as technology partners do to help accelerate the adoption of these more sophisticated strategies? 

Aden: Five years ago when we discussed the possibility of changing the way McCann or others buy television and measure television, the answer was simply that it’s not possible because everything is based on an age-old Nielsen, age/gender formula. 

I think what’s exciting is that people are finally embracing alternative measurement strategies, but in order for this to go from test-and-learn to the way everything’s bought, we need standards around what datasets are used and how the data is matched. I think the industry is shifting from a counting model—where you’re just counting eyeballs—to an outcome-based model. There’s going to be a number of different ways that people can measure, but there has to be some agreement on which datasets should be used. 

Allison: To your point earlier, I don’t believe traditional reach frequency ever goes away. How are you seeing that change as well? 

Aden: I think reach frequency is extremely important. Measuring it is becoming harder and harder, as there’s walled gardens who don’t want to participate, and fragmentation creates challenges in the traditional sense. 

We’re investing heavily in being able to measure across screens and look at linear television, VoD, on-demand, OTT—all the different digital touch points that folks have. I think at the core of the future of reach frequency is understanding the optimal measurement required to achieve the conversion that someone’s looking for and leveraging proper identity resolution.  

Allison: Outside of reach frequency, are there any interesting metrics that you can share? 

Aden: In terms of interesting metrics, I think some of the first customers of our conversion reporting were D2C or e-commerce companies that historically didn’t spend a massive amount of money on television. But as we brought the type of measurement that they were used to in the digital world to television, they started adopting and increasing their TV budget. Lyft is a good example of a partner we can mention. Lyft was able to look at how TV ads converted to new riders. And for their existing riders, they were able to see the increase in number of rides or spend that was attributable to television. Then it moved to, how should they optimize? Should they be spending more at certain times of the day? Which networks should they buy? Which programs were driving the greatest lift? 

Allison: That is very interesting. It’s hard to get those types of case studies, so it’s great that you were able to get that. I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us and share a little bit more about the exciting stuff going on at Samba. 

Aden: It’s always great working with LiveRamp. You’ve been a key partner of ours for many years. 

Allison: Thanks, Aden. 

To learn more about modern TV measurement, read this blog: Four TV Targeting and Measurement Myths and Realities.