SMNYC 2024: Paramount's Steve Ellis Talks Premium Content, Ads, and Measurement

At Streaming Media NYC, Tim Siglin, Founding Member, Help Me Stream Research Foundation, sits down for an exclusive interview with Steve Ellis, Chief Operating Officer of Paramount Advertising. They discuss the growth of ad-supported streaming and Paramount's role as a pioneer in this space, and Ellis highlights the importance of full-episode programming in reaching and engaging audiences effectively. He and Siglin also talk about the new Nielsen gauge measurement that shows the total reach of audiences across all premium publishers and YouTube, and he emphasises the need for effective ads that align with the objectives of awareness, consideration, and last-click attribution.

Siglin begins by asking Ellis to talk briefly about the fireside keynote chat he had with the conference’s Program Chair and Host, Evan Shapiro, CEO, ESHAP. “It's always great to talk with Evan,” Ellis says. “He’s one of the better commentators on the evolving media space. We covered the reality of streaming in ad-supported universes and how much it's grown. I shamelessly told him that Paramount was the first mover in ad-supported streaming, which is true. We talked about the scale of our ad-supported streaming stats when looked at in its entirety. We touched on the new Nielsen gauge measurement that shows the full reach of audiences across all the premium publishers and YouTube and shows Paramount for the first time appropriately in an aggregated light. And then we touched a little bit on the creator universe, which I have a long history in. I started a company called WhoSay, which is how I ended up at Paramount. They acquired that business. And we talked about how the creator world has obviously exploded in principle, but really, it's still mostly about the platforms benefiting from creators, creating really more effective ads.”

Why full-episode programming is the most effective format for Paramount

Siglin asks Ellis how he defines premium content. “I was actually doing a presentation to some seventh graders, and I explained professional content versus user-generated, and they understood that,” he says. “But premium is sort of a different phrasing as well.”

Ellis emphasises that Paramount thinks of premium as full episode programming of half an hour to a full hour because those formats monetise the best because they most effectively reach audiences. “We have over 10 shows that reach more than 10 million people at the same time,” he says. “This is not easy to do. You need the combination of a broadcast cable and streaming footprint to be able to reach those kinds of numbers of scale. So we're aware that platforms, such as YouTube and others, have hundreds of millions of users. But the truth is that Paramount also reaches across those platforms, with almost 200 million [users] a month. So if we're all reaching the same 200 million people in America, it really comes down to the content itself and how people are sitting, watching, and engaging. To your point, there are many millions of people watching a few seconds of this and a few seconds of that on platforms. And then there are millions of people watching half-hour and hour-long shows. And so premium for us is full episode programming, and we are particularly focused at Paramount advertising on it being supported by 30-second non-skippable ads.”

Nielsen and the issues with accurate audience measurement

Siglin wonders what Ellis thinks of Nielsen regarding the overall accuracy of audience measurements in the new multiplatform streaming landscape. “Do you feel we're at the point where the measurements are relatively accurate in aggregate across the multiple viewing experiences?”

“I think there's always work to do,” Ellis says. “It is difficult and complicated when you have multi-platform worlds. But I want to give appropriate credit to Paramount Advertising for taking the lead in making sure there was more than one measurement option and partner out there. We're much closer to having an accurate view of [aggregation users] across all the platforms. But I also said yesterday that those of us in the television space, like Paramount, are held to a slightly different standard than the platforms that can measure and grade their own homework. Paramount's invested a lot of time, money, effort, and man-hours into ensuring there were alternatives and getting closer to an accurate view of the aggregate reach.”

The importance of matching premium content with premium advertising

Siglin asks, “What does a premium ad look like? Because on some platforms, the ads don't match the content, or worse, the volume level is so much higher.”

Ellis says, “I would love to see people compare like-for-like, and what I mean by that is, in the end, you want the ad to be effective. [That depends] on your objective awareness consideration, [and] last click attribution. You want the ad to be effective in the world we live in today, and you have to engage in all formats. No one's pretending that they have the one solution.” Still, he once more highlights the effectiveness of the traditional 30-second ad, especially compared to ads on social media platforms and shorter form content. The 30-second ad, he says, is the “Most effective ad format in history, 70 plus years old now, and it’s proven itself for decades. And you compare it to platform ads…90% of an audience on social content is gone by the fifth second.”

He notes how these skipped ads can be big issues considering brief engagement combined with the full price paid for longer ads. “We've looked at the data,” he says. “If you thought about it on a cost-per-second basis, in many cases, you're looking at 10 or 20 times the price. Now, for some products, a three-second ad can tell the story. For others, you need much longer to do that. So I think we would love to see effectiveness and price be the two things people consider because measurement has become at least trusted and standardised. Here's the reach, we know the formats, so let's talk about was this ad effective for my objective and did I pay an appropriate price relative to my alternative options?”

Ellis further outlines what Paramount is doing to enhance advertising performance and measurement. At this year’s upfronts, he says, Paramount announced that they have “Invested in identity and in multiple measurement partners to give our clients a choice…we're now investing in partnerships with EDO and MasterCard to provide performance measurement in an ‘always on’ way for all of our customers who buy our inventory. So, I think that helps bring us up to the point where you can compare us to platforms. There shouldn't be a difference in a premium format just because you can't put your thumb on the screen, which you can on a mobile device.”

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