Connected TV Upfronts 2023: What we learnt

Posted on Monday 23 October 2023 | IAB UK

Our first Connected TV Upfronts brought together Formula 1, DAZN, NBC Universal, Rakuten Advertising and Vevo to showcase the very latest on-screen opportunities for advertisers

Connected TV Upfronts saw us delve into an “emerged and emerging area that everyone is talking about”, in the words of IAB UK’s CMO James Chandler. Opening the event at The Steel Yard, he welcomed “five companies brimming with product launches and possibilities” for an afternoon of cutting-edge insight and expert advice. Here are five things we learnt: 


1. CTV is supercharging ‘sportainment’

“I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to understand the shift in how younger audiences are consuming content”, said Matchroom Chief Eddie Hearn. This was reinforced by Damian Smyth, VP of Global Sales at DAZN, who highlighted how the rise of ‘sportainment’ is attracting “traditional boxing audiences but also reaching a younger demographic” across screens. And it’s not just boxing that is pulling in the fans - ex-Lioness Lianne Sanderson explained that “DAZN has always backed the women’s game, even before others did… and the players are receptive to that”. 


2. Reducing friction in a fragmented ecosystem is essential

The power of storytelling was central to NBCUniversal’s session, with Maggy Chan - the company’s MD & EVP of Global Advertising & Partnerships - telling delegates: “If you have the content that truly captures the audience and you have advertising that sits in harmony with that content, you have a winning strategy.” Reducing friction in a fragmented ecosystem was also on the agenda. OMG’s David Fletcher said that “we need to ensure we’re not unintentionally adding friction to the [buying] process” for advertisers, while Sky Media’s Karin Seymour discussed ways to seamlessly plan and activate campaigns to “follow the audience” and resonate with viewers at a local level. 


3. Content is everything for Formula 1

We’re a sport that has seen phenomenal growth, reaching over 500 million fans worldwide”, explained Formula 1’s Lisa Spencer-Hayes, Head of Digital Advertising & Content Partnerships. Yet with only 1% of fans actually getting to experience a Grand Prix in real life, producing high-quality streamed content for every fan is “literally the life blood” of the sport. Spencer-Hayes spotlighted how Formula 1 is harnessing different screens across TV, OTT, social and its owned digital channels to ensure that every fan gets the same premium experience no matter how they choose to follow the sport. What does that mean for brands? “It really is an advertising opportunity like no other.”


4. 66% consider CTV to be brand safe 

Rakuten Advertising focused on findings from recent research into brand safety in the CTV space. According to its study, ad fraud and invalid traffic are the most dominant concerns for brands investing in CTV, but 66% consider the channel to be brand safe vs 61% for linear TV. Publica’s Tom Page found that “slightly surprising, but CTV is benefitting from the trust that TV has built up over the years and a lot of the CTV advertising that is being transacted at the moment is in premium environments like Rakuten”. This was backed up by PHD UK’s Tom Stimpfig, who explained that the agency has a finite list of publishers that it works with, “giving clients confidence to invest in the medium”.


5. Music videos are creating must-see TV 

According to James Cornish: “Music videos have pervaded all channels and ultimately found their way back to the most important screen in the home - the television.” Cornish, who is Senior Vice President of International Sales & Partnerships at Vevo, went on to explain how the company is perfectly placed to help brands tap into 1 billion monthly viewers across markets. Crucially, Vevo works with independent partners like Nielsen and AudienceProject according to Rachael Philpot, Business Director UK & International, which helps advertisers have “the confidence required to extract the value from our content”. The quality of that content was brought to life by Mae Stephens, who rounded up the session with an exclusive performance of her hit If We Ever Broke Up

Find out more about Digital Upfronts 2023 here.

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