Facebook wants to see if it can bring its big ad business to the big screen.
Next week Facebook plans to start a test that will have its Audience Network ad network sell video ads within apps on internet-connected TV platforms like Apple TV and Roku, Recode reported earlier on Friday. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the company’s plan to Marketing Land.
“We are testing how to best deliver video ads through Audience Network to people watching content on connected TVs. Our goal is to bring relevant ad experiences to people both on Facebook and off,” said the spokesperson in an emailed statement.
For now, A&E and Tubi TV appear to be the the only publishers handing over some of their TV app inventory to Facebook, and Facebook won’t be selling the ads to typical brands like a Coca-Cola or Procter & Gamble. Instead, according to Recode, Facebook will sell the ads to itself, filling the slots with video ads promoting Facebook or non-profit organizations that work with Facebook.
Minor as the test appears to be, it has major implications. Facebook and Google have all but eaten up the digital ad pie, to the point that any new digital ad dollars appear to be going only to them. But the digital ad pie is growing as more forms of media go digital. Right now that means TV, because TV is no longer limited to the content coming out of a cable box. If you can watch it on your TV, it’s TV, and these days just about anything you can see online can be watched on TV. And if the content can be piped just as easily to your phone screen as to your TV’s screen, then so can the ads, so TV becomes the site of next digital ad land grab.
But the digital TV ad land grab is already underway. Google and Verizon-owned AOL have already put stakes in the ground. Facebook could bide its time and wait for its rivals to settle the frontier, then come in later and try to uproot them through the size of its audience and the data it has on them that can make it easy for advertisers to buy those audience members’ attentions wherever those attentions may be. That’s what its ad network is trying to do on mobile and desktop, though it’s unclear how successful that strategy has been.
But maybe the competition has gotten wise to Facebook’s ways, so the social network’s opportunity window isn’t as wide. Or maybe Facebook has decided it wants to play a more pivotal role in mapping out the digital TV ad landscape, to take the flood of demand it already attracts from advertisers and use it to water the new land. Or maybe there’s enough infrastructure in place that it’s almost trivial for Facebook to add digital TV ad inventory to the mix. Or maybe Facebook just needs some more places to host its video ads because it’s running low on new real estate.