Has the APAC market matured enough to handle programmatic TV?

Last week, NBCUniversal said it was expanding its programmatic media product by launching NBCUx for linear TV.

Advertisers can use data and automation to build media plans that include premium linear TV inventory across NBCUniversal’s entire portfolio of cable and broadcast entertainment networks. Currently, only a select group of advertisers and their agency partners in US are able to utilise this new offering. NBCUniversal told Marketing that it had no plans to extend the service into Singapore but did not clarify further.

NBCUniversal simply said: “While, as a company, we prioritise harnessing internal expertise and innovations – across all areas of the business – we have no announcements to make in Asia at this time.”

However with Asia Pacific quickly embracing programmatic capabilities, we ask several agency leads if the road NBCUniversal is treading on is the right one.

Grace Liau, GM of Vivaki APAC said the choice to not launch in APAC is not surprising. While it certainly makes sense in North America, where NBCUniversal’s audience would be able to go for a more premium strategy, advertisers and marketers in this region still have some catching up to do.

“We still need to do more on highlighting the value of digital data and getting them to be comfortable with the investment that's needed," she said, adding that:

The fact is that this market is still mired in print and TV with major local media houses still having a long way to go before they’re at a competitive level of maturity in comparison with North America.

Liau added that another major issue in the region is scale which NBCUniversal would likely look to scale in the US, where upfront buying is the norm and great shifts have been seen to extend TV buying. This cannot be immediately replicated in Asia Pacific or Singapore where programmatic adoption is still in its infancy.

The decision by NBCUniversal highlights the uncertainty of what level of scale the company would have in this region. Ideally, major local players would need to take a cue from the more mature markets and emerge from the comparative programmatic “stone age” before companies like NBCUniversal see viability for such a service here.

However sitting on the other end of the fence was Sanchit Sanga, chief digital officer of Mindshare Asia Pacific who was surprised they are not launching in the market given the opportunities that exists in the market.

“Considering Singapore is the regional hub for some of the most sophisticated marketers around the world, there is no reason programmatic TV will not take off here with aplomb," he said.

This region is crying for TV companies to become programmatically savvy and connect their inventory into automated pipes powered by data.

He added the marketing fraternity is ready and willing to invest behind multi-screen targeted campaigns to reduce the deficiency of TV around targeting. Specifically Singapore as a market, he explained, has reached a point of maturation and this can be seen by both cable TV operators Singtel and Starhub launching versions of their programmatic TV offerings last year. Now both the companies are working with different set of data and technology partners to build on this service layer.

“Data is liquid and accurate across Singapore, all the key technology partners have a base here to power these services, no reason to wait,” he said. Sanga added that infrastructure wise the region is ready in most markets, and now it is simply the case of TV and broadcast companies accepting the reality and moving fast to embrace it.

Read also: How to succeed in China's programmatic market

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