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Streaming’s Beachfront Property, The Home Screen, Draws Interest From Advertisers

S. Charles Lee, the architect of hundreds of ornate Art Deco movie theaters, had a famous saying about his goal of engaging audiences before they settled into their seats: “The show starts on the sidewalk.”

A century later, streaming services are taking a similar tack, leveraging their new place in the American living room by welcoming viewers with home screen advertising. As they anticipate the start of their streaming programming, viewers are generally considered by marketers to be more open to ad messages. Early purveyors of home-screen ads include several platforms invested in free, ad-supported streaming, among them Roku, Vizio and Amazon Fire TV. And as ads become a more crucial part of the strategies of top subscription players, they are also starting to pop up in some of those formerly brand-free settings.

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For both viewers and advertisers, “There’s nothing better to put on your home screen than video when you’re coming to watch video,” said Sweta Patel, VP of marketing and merchandising, in an interview.

Home screen ads were a prominent theme at the NewFronts earlier this spring and have been on the menu this week at the Cannes Lions marketing confab. It is not a discrete category in any reporting of ad revenue, but the premium rates it is said to command add to the overall momentum of the streaming ad business.

In a report this spring, the Interactive Advertising Bureau said total digital video advertising spend, including connected TV, social video, and online video (OLV), is projected to grow 16% in 2024. That’s nearly 80% faster than total media overall. In the last four years, the share of ad spend has shifted by nearly 20 percentage points from linear TV to digital video, which is now 52% of the total market share. CTV, the category includinf streaming, is expected to grow by 12% to $22.7 billion in 2024. That’s 32% faster than total media overall, and 31% of the increased spend comes from overall expansion of ad budgets.

At Roku’s NewFronts presentation to advertisers last April, Patel took the stage to tout a new part of the company’s inventory: “marquee ads.” Traditionally a static position, the spots reaching households with roughly 120 million people now will be able to include video. Thus far, feedback has been positive, Patel said, though she acknowledged that keeping them “delightful” to viewers rather than intrusive remains a key objective. A number of blue-chip advertisers have come aboard, with Coca-Cola sponsoring the “All Things Food” hub, including home screen and “marquee” positions. An integration in “Roku City,” the company’s signature screensaver, featured a Spotify plug for Taylor Swift’s latest album.

The larger premise fueling Roku’s interest in using the prime real estate of its home screen is the company’s billing of itself as “the lead-in to television.” Content chief Charlie Collier opened the NewFront standing next to Archie Bunker’s chair from All In The Family, noting that the lead-in on CBS to a massive hit like that would automatically benefit from the show’s weekly audience, in turn boosting advertiser reach. Roku, he maintained, functions similarly. “Viewers in the Roku experience are engaged in our uncluttered, elevated ad environment well before dispersing to apps, networks, and paywalls,” he said.

As platforms explore new horizons for ads, subscription players are similarly looking to innovate. One ad sales chief at a major streaming operator whose primary business model is subscription believes ads will soon be more noticeable on many pay services. “If you look at how many brand integrations there are, especially in the unscripted space, it just seems inevitable that the home screen becomes a sweetener in those discussions,” the exec told Deadline, requesting anonymity given that the strategy is in an early stage.

Hulu has a significant position on its home screen, below its main carousel, reserved for sponsored material. Fox game show The Quiz Show with Balls has had a position there recently, with rolling stock ads served before viewers see a trailer.

Top smart-TV makers Vizio and Samsung have also been emphasizing their scale and home screen opportunities. Allison Clarke, head of General Market, National Advertising Sales at Vizio said during the company’s NewFronts presentation that sponsor relationships have become “so much more than just a logo placement – they are opportunities to be integrated into the viewer journey.” The home screen, she told advertisers that the Vizio home screen is “your new distribution vehicle, giving you premium placement alongside Hollywood heavy hitters.” The company, which is in the process of being acquired by Walmart, is also taking advantage of a branded content studio it launched last year. Home Depot backed a holiday-themed renovation series hosted by singer Jordin Sparks, with episodes promoted on the Vizio home screen.

One streaming player whose entire consumer premise is predicated on combining ads with programming from the moment the “on” button is pressed is Telly. The startup, founded by one of the co-founders of Pluto TV, makes dual-screen TV sets with a main screen devoted to programming and a smaller companion panel dedicated to ads. Telly gave away half a million 55-inch sets for free when it came out of beta in 2023 as a bid to rapidly gain scale.

Dallas Lawrence, the company’s chief strategy officer and a former exec at Roku and Samba TV, told Deadline that Telly research attests that consumers have “embraced a dual screen lifestyle when it comes to watching TV.” More than 8 in 10, he noted, “regularly use a mobile device to look up movie reviews, shop for goods or services, order food delivery, check sports scores or the catch up on the latest news while watching TV.” Instead of leaving those interactions on a mobile device sitting on the couch, Telly brings them to “the biggest screen in the home,” Lawrence added.

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