The Future of TV Briefing this week looks at how the competitive playing field changed between Amazon, Roku and YouTube versus traditional TV network owners for advertisers’ dollars in this year’s upfront market.

Streaming-only sellers step up
2021 was a leap year for streaming-only sellers in the TV advertising upfront marketplace.

While the annual dealmaking cycle remains dominated by traditional TV network owners, streaming-only sellers like Amazon, Roku and YouTube are no longer taking a backseat to their linear counterparts. Amazon, Roku and YouTube may not have seized the wheel from traditional TV companies, but they have their hands on it now.

The key hits:

  • Streaming-only sellers like Roku and YouTube began negotiating with advertisers and agencies in this year’s upfront earlier than in prior years.
  • The upfront approaches of Amazon, Roku and YouTube this year bore greater semblance with traditional TV network owners in some respects but contrasted starkly in others.
  • In a shift, the streaming-only sellers are beginning to sign upfront deals with individual advertisers instead of at the agency level.
  • The streaming-only sellers sought to exploit TV network owners’ linear inventory limitations and juxtaposed their more flexible cancelation terms with TV’s more rigid options.

Historically, advertisers and agencies dealt with the TV network owners before negotiating with the major connected TV platform owners and ad-supported streaming services. But not this year. Disney and NBCUniversal may have jump-started the upfront market in May, but the streaming-only sellers were right there with them, according to agency executives.

“We saw Roku and YouTube be more aggressive early than they have historically,” said Stacey Stewart, evp and managing partner of integrated investment at UM Worldwide.

Case in point: On July 12, Roku announced that the CTV platform had wrapped up its upfront deal-making with the seven major agency holding companies.

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