Head of YouTube questions Total TV as VOZ launch looms, media owners counter the argument

As the much-anticipated upgrade to Virtual Australia (VOZ) looms, Google’s head of YouTube & programmatic media, Caroline Oates, questioned how the market could talk about Total TV without including players like itself.

“We start here today, and we talk around TV at a TV event, but I’ve heard it used to refer to several things,” she told the crowd at the Future of TV Advertising event in Sydney.

Caroline Oates

“Is it broadcast content? Is it the screen that you’re watching on? We kind of gloss over it, but we’re actually talking different languages.

“I don’t understand how we can talk about Total TV in the Aussie market, not inclusive of YouTube.”

When asked about whether the solution to this problem is for YouTube to join a system like OzTam, Oates said it’s not quite as simple as that.

“I think we need to stop new silos kind of springing up as the market develops. Is OzTam the answer to that as it currently stands? I’m not sure … and even if we’re just talking technically, could we just incorporate YouTube into OzTam with its volume of data?”

OzTam’s Total TV measurement system VOZ has been on a hiatus since January in preparation for a relaunch later this year. After many pushbacks, it is understood that new datasets can be expected as early as May.

However, it’s not likely to instantly become the unified currency, as the legacy OzTam ratings are expected to run in parallel until the beginning of 2024.

Sitting on the same panel as Oates were Foxtel Media CEO, Mark Frain, Nine Entertainment Co’s chief sales officer, Michael Stephenson and SVP of revenue and distribution operations at Vevo, Natalie Gabathuler-Scully. The chat was moderated by Paul McIntyre.

Nine’s masthead, The Australian Financial Review, reported last month that free-to-air broadcasters Nine, Seven and Ten were in talks with media agencies and adtech companies about an initiative known as the “BVOD project”.

Michael Stephenson

Led by OzTam, which all three networks co-own, the project aimed to facilitate cross-network buying on BVOD platforms in a bid to grab more video advertising shares, potentially from places like YouTube.

In response to Oates’ point, Stephenson said: “Oztam’s not a secret club. It’s not a closed shop that no one else can come and join … You just need to be measured the same way that everybody else is.”

“With all due respect to Google, they said no to that.”

Upon the return of VOZ, Stephenson said there are two ways to look at things. “You can stand there and throw pebbles on the outside and say it’s two years late, it’s not this, and it’s not that.

“But next year on 1 January or thereabouts when it becomes the currency, we will be one of the first markets in the world that has created a cross-platform measurement system that is gold standard, third-party verified, and is used by the entire industry.”

Ryan Ambrose

Meanwhile, media buyers are cautiously optimistic about what VOZ will bring for their buying and planning.

Group investment director at PHD, Ryan Ambrose, said there’s a lot of work and testing to be done not only on the agency side, but also for clients, broadcasters, third-party suppliers and auditors. They would need to “evolve structures to help drive the shift to total TV buying”.

“While there was some debate at the recent Future of TV event around how we define CTV and what viewing falls within the CTV landscape, for example, YouTube, a clear takeaway is that as an industry we must align on how we define total TV audiences within a CTV ecosystem,” he told Mumbrella.

“A viewer watching live TV via a Smart TV is no different from a viewer watching via aerial, they hold equal weight to the total TV audience.

“At this stage, my advice would be to focus energy on Metropolitan/Regional/BVOD video pillars within the unified total audience measurement currency, that would be a game changer and hopefully that’s soon.”


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