A Primer on Automating TV Buying

A Primer on Automating TV Buying

Television Update, Q2 2019

Executive Summary

Interest in automating the TV ad buying process is high, but it's still early days for programmatic. This report covers the first steps to infuse automation in legacy TV transaction process systems to move the speed of TV buying closer to digital standards.

How far off is a programmatic TV market that compares with digital?

Programmatic TV ad spending growth is expected to be healthy during the next few years. However, the programmatic TV transaction process is lacking in speed and automation compared with digital ad placement.

What have buyers and sellers done to move TV closer to automation?

Decades-old TV systems that keep track of available ad inventory, order management, and tracking and billing are now being overlaid with technological workarounds to facilitate automation. This transformation will enable more streamlined communication between systems in the process and is expected to significantly speed up workflow.

What aspects of TV ad buying are still not automated?

Local TV ad transactions are most in need of automation to relieve the largely manual processes of buying and selling across 210 markets. One example of automation progress is the centralization of TV station inventory avails through electronic data transfer into a pre-buy repository. Other labor-intensive process points that require technological attention are audience makegoods and audience estimates.

Where is automation furthest along for TV ad buying?

National TV systems for evaluating advanced target audience inventory avails offer some automation, as supply-side platforms (SSPs) and demand-side platforms (DSPs) are used to transact select amounts of programmatic and linear advanced target TV inventory. Some DSPs also offer systems for cross-platform planning of TV and digital video ad campaigns.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report examines the state of TV buying automation, which enables programmatic TV and advanced TV buys.


Estimated US programmatic TV ad spending in 2020.

eMarketer, July 2018

KEY STAT: We forecast programmatic TV spending will increase 70.9% to $4.73 billion in 2020, compared with $2.77 billion this year.


Gerard Broussard


Chris Bendtsen
Senior Forecasting Analyst
Blake Droesch
Junior Analyst
Lauren Fisher
Principal Analyst
Sharon Tan
Paul Verna
Principal Analyst