July 24, 2020

State of the streaming wars

Brad Warm

Media Director

As the COVID-19 pandemic has us home-bound for the better part of 2020, streaming services are entering the arena for the latest battle in the “Streaming Wars.” For the first time ever, TV upfronts and Digital Content NewFronts are featuring streaming-only events this year, amid the coronavirus outbreak. Upstarts and veterans slug it out for our viewing time, entertainment and advertising dollars; with the winners solidifying their positions in a very expensive, yet lucrative media landscape. For consumers, this means more original content,  old favorites, and streaming live sports (when they come back). For advertisers, benefits include consolidated ad buying, better attribution, and more engaging, creative options.


National brands were early adopters and heavy investors in OTT. Now, we’re seeing smaller, local and regional advertisers dive in as platforms and programmatic offerings have been streamlined and are less labor-intensive and confusing to buy. While increased spending in OTT in 2020 is not a surprise, the abundance of new content makes streaming video the platform to watch for the remainder of the year and into 2021. Stay at home orders across the country are driving streaming consumption to all-time highs. Not surprisingly, this will drive more advertisers online as they scramble to reformulate their media plans, reducing OOH and traditional radio and TV in a virtually commute-free world.

Hulu, who has always been on the cutting edge of streaming ads, will be folded into the Disney+ ecosystem from the ad purchasing perspective, with Disney Hulu XP. This allows advertisers to purchase placements across all Disney-owned digital properties. It benefits advertisers by allowing them to make one buy, at one price (CPCV) and to control frequency across a much broader range of properties. For the first time ever, we’ll hear fewer people saying “you work in advertising, why do I see the same commercial 100 times when I watch…”  


Hulu also led the way this year in new and more interactive ad units. They’ve developed transactional ad formats that allow users to interact with ads on a second screen or receive push notifications. The goal is to move streaming ads from the top of the funnel, where they have lived since the 1940s, to the bottom of the funnel to drive immediate impact. Hulu also introduced two new ad units: pause and binge. The pause ad appears when a viewer presses pause when watching content. The binge ad format is launched when the user reaches their third episode in a row and Hulu has determined that they’re binging a new favorite. Users are rewarded with an ad-free episode or a personalized offer.


Many programmatic and streaming platforms have partnered with third-party data companies to measure metrics like foot traffic, geo-based data, and purchase behavior. For example, Samba TV is able to measure impact across both streaming and linear TV buys, and how these two affect each other. These metrics will prove invaluable as businesses begin to reopen post-pandemic.


At Curiosity, we recommend that brands take a serious look at OTT in 2021, as planning is almost upon us. While cost may be a concern, OTT more than makes up for it with superior targeting, flexibilities in buys, better attribution, and actionable ad units.


While the year 2020 may go down in the history books as our generation’s version of walking uphill both ways to school in the snow, it has been a spectacular year so far in the “Streaming Wars.” In 2021, expect to see more of the same advancement, with 5G networks coming online, consumers will no doubt stream both long and short-form content on their phones and devices. This allows for even more opportunities to create engaging experiences for customers, who already have their finger on the buy button.



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