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Targeted ads are ramping up on cable via your smart TV

Targeted ads are ramping up on cable via your smart TV
[Photo: rawpixel/Unsplash]

Nielsen is expanding a pilot program that can replace cable TV advertising with targeted ads from the internet. After announcing a partnership with CBS in May, Nielsen now says it’s working with A&E and with MediaTek, whose chips power more than 50% of smart TVs.

The plan is to use content recognition technology from Gracenote, which Nielsen acquired in early 2017, to figure out when an ad is playing through a cable or satellite box. Nielsen would then replace that generic ad with a targeted one based on the viewer’s age, gender, and other demographic info.


RelatedHow smart TVs are targeting you


“Dynamic ad insertion,” as it’s known in industry lingo, isn’t a new concept, and it’s already being used in live TV by several streaming services such as YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, and FuboTV. Smart TV makers also watch what users are watching through automatic content recognition, and either sell the data to marketers or use it for ad targeting. (Yes: This is kind of gross, more people should know that it happens, and Vizio was fined by the FTC last year for not being transparent enough.)

What’s interesting here is how Nielsen is putting all the pieces together to bring online targeted ads to offline cable and satellite TV feeds. Still, this remains a pilot program, and it’s unclear when Nielsen might expand it to more networks.

But as we’ve reported, targeting you through your TV is nothing new. Last year, “addressable” political ads were part of the TV offerings of Donald Trump’s infamous data firm Cambridge Analytica.

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