Amazon, Disney+, Netflix, Vevo and Warner Bros Discovery join Thinkbox

Amazon, Disney+, Netflix, Vevo and Warner Bros Discovery join Thinkbox

Thinkbox, the marketing body for UK commercial TV, has announced that Amazon, Disney+, Netflix, Vevo and Warner Bros Discovery (UK and Ireland) have joined as associate members.

As associate members, the five companies will help fuel Thinkbox’s marketing activities on behalf of TV advertising.

The streaming service providers will now support Thinkbox’s research programme and its engagement with the media and marketing industry in the UK.

Lindsey Clay, Thinkbox’s CEO, said: “This is a hugely positive way to start 2024. Commercial TV is growing and stronger together. We’re delighted that Amazon, Disney+, Netflix, Vevo and Warner Bros Discovery have decided to join our mission and work with us to continue making the compelling case to businesses about why TV remains the most effective marketing investment they can make.”

Founded in 2005, Thinkbox works with the marketing community to help advertisers “get the best out of today’s TV”. Its shareholders and board members are Channel 4, ITV, Sky Media and UKTV.

Kelly Williams, managing director, commercial, at ITV and Thinkbox chair, added: “TV has transformed in recent years and nowhere has this been more evident than in streaming. All the commercial TV companies in the UK have been successfully developing streaming capabilities; it’s natural to welcome Amazon, Disney+, Netflix, Vevo and Warner Bros Discovery on board.

“It means that Thinkbox better reflects today’s commercial TV, which now has even more high-quality, emotionally engaging advertising inventory. As commercial TV expands, so should the investment from brands.”

Analysis: Big moment for TV trading

A few years ago, the idea that some of the world’s biggest streaming providers would enter into a marketing body controlled by the UK’s incumbent TV sales houses would have been unthinkable.

Streaming TV has upended the very notion of what TV is, whether that’s the fragmentation of audiences to different platforms, the rise of ad-free subscription options or a greater variety of content-delivery tactics.

This trend was accelerated during the pandemic, when a housebound nation turned to its TV set, and this led to a surge in demand for subscription VOD services.

As a sign of how quickly things change, ITV — the UK’s biggest commercial broadcaster — now regularly releases shows first on its VOD service, ITVX, instead of its many linear channels. Channel 4 releases many of its programmes on YouTube after striking a revenue-share deal. Sky, which has its own streaming service, Now, has also experimented with different windowing strategies while having to offer value as a pay-TV provider.

All of this has meant that the standards, regulatory system and trading model that UK TV broadcasters had benefited from for years has become, frankly, under threat. The likes of Netflix and Disney+ have amassed huge content libraries and possess a war chest to commission even more in the future.

And, since 2022, streaming services have been direct competitors for advertising budgets, as Netflix and Disney+ announced the launch of cheaper, ad-funded subscription tiers. Last month, Amazon began showing ads on Prime Video unless subscribers paid more to go ad-free.

Behind the scenes, media agencies that represent advertisers have been clear with the streaming companies that they need to sign up to existing structures, including Thinkbox, according to several sources that have spoken to The Media Leader in recent months.

And so today’s announced included a telling passage: “Thinkbox’s shareholders and associate members are united by their investment in high-quality TV content that creates a premium advertising environment and their commitment to the quality standards which make TV advertising so trusted and effective — such as ensuring restricted ads aren’t shown to the wrong audiences, agreeing to Barb’s independent measurement and having a rigorous ad clearance process.”

That should be music to advertisers’ ears if marketers are concerned about brand safety and wasted money — issues that have dogged online advertising, including video-sharing platforms.

Google’s YouTube, which has found difficulties in becoming part of the Barb ecosystem as it aims to become more TV-like as a media owner, is a notable absentee.

Channel 5 owner Paramount is in effect represented because its TV ad sales are managed by Sky Media. A Thinkbox spokesperson confirmed that no discussions have taken place with Paramount about associate membership, despite the company having launched streaming service Paramount+ in June 2022.

Streaming chiefs: Membership is important step as commercial TV innovates

Phil Christer, managing director, UK, at Amazon Ads, said: “Thoughtfully integrating advertising into streaming video offerings provides brands an opportunity to engage effectively with audiences. We look forward to working with Thinkbox to make TV even more compelling and relevant for advertisers as we continue to deliver premium experiences for viewers.”

Deborah Armstrong, UK and Ireland country manager and general manager, media networks and advertising EMEA at Disney, said: “Disney is a leader in quality storytelling for television audiences and advertising has always been part of our DNA. As the industry evolves, we fully support collaboration and the development of consistent standards, so we are honoured to join Thinkbox as they continue to do a brilliant job of reinforcing the unmatched benefits TV brings to advertisers.”

Warren Dias, managing director at Netflix Advertising – UK, said: “As we continue to expand our ads offering and build our engaged audience, we are committed to innovation in the advertising industry. Our Thinkbox associate membership is one part of this. We look forward to collaborating with the Thinkbox team and all its members to help the industry innovate and prosper in a rapidly changing media environment.”

James Cornish, senior vice-president, international sales and partnerships, at Vevo, said: “We are really pleased to join Thinkbox. They are an organisation that uphold all the values we fully believe in when it comes to delivering a true TV experience. The timing is critical for Vevo as we continue to navigate the best ways to serve our viewers, however they decide to enjoy our content on the big screen. Our business is built on our distribution of official content within premium environments and we are committed to ensuring our music videos thrive across TV endpoints. We are excited to work with Thinkbox and their members for the betterment of the industry to protect and deliver the very best for advertisers and TV viewers alike.”

Katie Coteman, group vice-president, ad sales strategy and growth, UK and Ireland, at Warner Bros Discovery, said: “We recognise the importance of consistency in high advertising standards everywhere and we are delighted to join Thinkbox as an associate member. We look forward to working with Thinkbox, their partners and our industry colleagues to continue to champion, evolve and innovate the power of TV for brands whilst always serving our viewers and subscribers.”

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