Tired of Data Interoperability Headlines? Roku and FreeWheel Expand Partnership to Improve Inventory Fragmentation

Tired of reading countless headlines about data interoperability? Too bad, because inventory fragmentation on connected TV (CTV) is still causing seemingly unavoidable hurdles for cross-platform campaigns and ad repetition for TV viewers.

On Wednesday, Roku and Comcast-owned FreeWheel expanded their partnership in the name of data collaboration.

Roku has already been working with FreeWheel for audience-based targeting. Now, Roku will be able to see programmers’ full inventory from across their portfolios in FreeWheel’s supply-side platform (SSP), which should light up other channels where ads are being duplicated. FreeWheel will also use Roku’s clean room to match publisher first-party data with Roku device IDs, in addition to implementing Roku’s latest fraud detection watermark.

A Programmatic Peek

The idea is to streamline the process of selling Roku ad inventory. Previously, ad sales teams would deal with Roku and other distributors separately to track ad requests and impression delivery, which made it «quite manual and hectic,» said Youssef Ben-Youssef, Roku’s senior director of technology partnerships, in an interview with AdExchanger.

Interoperability is something Roku programmers have requested for a long time, Ben-Youssef said. And by integrating directly into FreeWheel’s SSP, which is the default for many major TV programmers, Roku can gather information about a programmer’s full catalog of available inventory and fill rates from competing distributors. Roku is putting this information in its demand API, an in-house tool it uses to manage inventory agreements with publisher clients.

Publishers plugged into the API can now relay a better sense of inventory availability to advertisers in real time, Ben-Youssef said. Plus, a direct pipeline into FreeWheel’s SSP should bring incremental new demand for publisher clients.

This integration is live as per Wednesday’s announcement, though FreeWheel’s usage of Roku’s clean room and watermark are still in development. Roku expects those integrations to be publicly available in 2024.

Cleaning House

Comic: Mr. Clean Room

Roku’s clean room is the necessary next step for making ad sales more efficient, according to Ben-Youssef, because it allows for more data matching in a privacy-friendly fashion.

Using Roku’s clean room, FreeWheel will be able to match first-party data from its publisher clients with Roku device IDs to link ad exposures to specific audiences without disclosing personally identifiable information. This helps advertisers and publishers improve targeting and measurement capabilities while respecting user privacy.