Interactive Advertising Bureau
08 September 2023

Guest Member Blog Post with Freewheel - Video’s Million-Pound Question: What Does ‘Premium Video’ Really Mean?


In this week’s member guest blog post, we hear from Emmanuel Josserand, Senior Director, Brand, Agency and Industry Relations at FreeWheel on what we really mean by ‘Premium Video’.

The ongoing proliferation of video channels and content, combined with the convergence of digital and linear, is redefining the premium video ecosystem. With established channels advancing and new ones emerging, there is increased industry discussion around how to define the term ‘premium video’. 

Strict definitions in the advertising industry can come with the risk of being too restrictive. But not clarifying terms such as premium also risks undermining standardisation and damaging advertiser trust in this inventory. 

While there is still no industry-agreed definition of what constitutes ‘premium video’, there are a number of attributes that video inventory must typically meet to be considered premium, including: 

  • Brand safety and fraud

Brand safety is an especially prevalent issue in digital advertising due to the widespread use of audience-first targeting models. These models prioritise reaching the audience over selecting the best inventory (and its context) to reach the right audience, a nuance that creates a level of uncertainty over the kinds of inventory advertisers purchase. Buyers therefore run the risk of their ads — and consequently their brand — appearing in environments that contain harmful content.

The kinds of content, and in turn, inventory, that is available via premium video marketplaces are thoroughly vetted, ensuring brands only access quality environments. Some advanced TV channels, for example, broadcaster video-on-demand (BVOD), must meet the same regulations as linear TV. This means BVOD platforms follow robust guidelines around inappropriate content and rising concerns such as misinformation.

Alongside regulations for TV-like environments, Stefan Havik, General Director and CDO DPG Network, believes that: “Fraud verification is an integral safety measure for protecting investment and campaign performance. Clarity is key to prevent wasted spend on fraudulent or poor-quality inventory that doesn’t deliver value.” 

  • Trust and transparency

Across all channels, advertisers and agencies are demanding visibility over where they invest their media spend. When buyers purchase premium video inventory, they have transparency around the sellers they purchase from, which is a necessity for maintaining trust in premium video inventory.

Transparency is also important for sellers in terms of which buyers they trade with and which ads they run, as they must ensure ad creatives meet regulations to preserve the quality viewing experience. For this reason, premium video is usually traded through direct sales and private marketplaces (PMPs), which gives media owners greater control compared to alternative transaction methods such as open auctions and exchanges.

  • Quality viewer experience

Audiences have a particular emotional investment in the premium video content they watch because they select precisely what, when, and where they tune into it. Studies from IAS have also found the quality of advertising environments has a significant impact on audience engagement and brand perception, with high-quality environments being more engaging and low-quality ones presenting a risk to brand objectives.

“Through the emotional connection between viewers and content, premium video delivers a superior advertising experience. This is further amplified by high-impact ad creatives and the big-screen devices audiences use,” commented David Rasmusson, Product Manager at ViaPlay. 

  • Metrics

Buyers need to be assured that the inventory they invest in works, making accurate verification and reporting essential. Advertisers and agencies require correct and complete metrics, such as viewability, for their video campaigns to understand the impact of their spend and justify maintaining or increasing budgets. 

Furthermore, attribution remains critical for learning how media delivers against brand goals. Premium video measurement can tie audience actions to specific ads, meaning buyers can trust their spend is driving real value for brands.

  • Professionally produced

Audiences are moving between many different channels to watch their favourite shows. To achieve sustainable growth, brands need to drive incremental reach. Six in 10 UK CTV viewers who took part in the AudienceXpress consumer study now watch more ad-supported streaming platforms than linear TV and 46% use free streaming platforms daily. 

Audiences continue to have a huge appetite for long-form, professionally produced entertainment. However, premium video is now not just focused on that type of inventory. Due to changing user viewing habits, it also now encompasses a broader range of content — including short-form clips and immersive, high-quality shows. The quality of the production is what remains unchallenged as the most likely content to capture audiences and is therefore the most valuable environment for brands. The rapid and widespread audience adoption of premium video channels makes them effective at helping advertisers connect with audiences that could otherwise be difficult to reach.

Proving premium’s worth: Does it truly deliver stronger performance?

Identifying value brings the conversation back to measurement, which is perhaps the biggest challenge of a diversified ecosystem. New video measurement frameworks place a lot of emphasis on reach, which remains highly important, but doesn’t capture all premium video’s value. 

Premium video measurement goes beyond baseline viewability standards and instead incorporates attention metrics and completion rates, which according to the forthcoming FreeWheel’s The Delicate Art of Balancing Ad Load report, stands at an impressive 94% for long-form premium video content. With the right tools to combine delivery metrics with attention, this is where premium video really shines, meaning buyers can be assured of premium video’s effectiveness. 

As Ralf Hape, Managing Director, Sky Media Germany puts it: “‘Premium’ means quality, and measuring quality is not an easy task as there is no standardised measurement criteria in place yet for BVOD and CTV. There are some indicators that come close to a standard, such as VTR, Completion, and Viewability Rates, but they are not a “single currency” for non-clickable inventory. When measured against all these parameters, however, premium video is uniquely positioned and at the forefront of quality.”

A major reason for this is that broadcasters and premium video providers are carefully crafting their ad loads to create the best viewer experience, an endeavour that requires them to consider factors such as ad duration, ad break duration, and the number of ads included in a break. Refining this practice across screens, for different lengths of content, all whilst maximising revenue and enabling brands to achieve their upper and lower-funnel goals is no small feat, but it is one that’s vital.

Ultimately, premium video is inventory that puts the viewer experience first, which is equally beneficial to brands and premium video providers. Premium video drives quantifiable results for advertisers, whether they are looking to drive awareness or sales, and buyers need to carefully explore which video channels best enable them to achieve this. 

As they do so, it’ll be crucial to remember that brand safety, transparency, engagement, trust, and quality reach are the core attributes that define what premium really means.

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