Aishwarya Ramesh

"Want to engage users at the TV home screen itself, without being too intrusive": Prabhvir Sahmey, Samsung Ads

A chat with Samsung Ads' India marketing head about the advertising potential in the connected TV space.

With the COVID pandemic, home quarantine and working from home, there was an increase in the consumption of different kinds of online content. People spent more time watching cat videos on YouTube, binge-watching series and immersing themselves in movies.

A company that entered India bang in the middle of the pandemic, roughly six months ago, was Samsung Ads. It wants to redefine advertising in the advanced TV landscape.

It wants to help people discover relevant content and brands, while providing advertisers the opportunity to amplify their brand messaging and fully surround the Samsung audience. It aims to deliver meaningful experiences to reach the right audience across smart TVs, mobile and desktop.

Samsung Ads derives insights with the help of a proprietary dataset combined with third-party data from trusted partners. It offers advertisers real-time TV viewing insights from over 50 million devices in the US and a reach of over 200 million devices globally.

From native placements on millions of Samsung smart TVs to seamless activation across surrounding devices (such as phones and tablets), the company wants to help the marketers make informed decisions through reach, meaningful experiences and deeper insights. The company’s biggest strength is its breadth of data.

afaqs! reached out to Prabhvir Sahmey, marketing head and senior director, Samsung Ads India & South East Asia, to understand the connected TV (or CTV) space better. Over a video call, he first talks about the definition of a CTV. Any TV that can connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi is a CTV. With some CTVs, the ability to connect to the Internet is built into the set. With other TV sets, connecting them to an external device, such as an Amazon Fire TV stick or an Apple TV box, can turn them into a CTV.

Prabhvir Sahmey
Prabhvir Sahmey

Samsung Ads was founded in 2015. In an interview with Digiday , Tom Fochetta, SVP of Samsung Ads, was quoted as saying “Smart clients always want more space on the TV itself. As we own the hardware and the operating system, we have the ability to create unique ad experiences so the advertisers can engage their audiences, deliver interesting content and graphics.”

“It’s important that we don’t overload users with ads because, as a consumer myself, I too get frustrated,” Fochetta said in the same piece. “Because we own the hardware, the service, all the targeting and ad tech stack, we have full control over the ad experience.”

Back in April this year, Samsung announced a new first screen plus ad format. When a person first turns on the Samsung smart TV – provided it’s a 2018 or later model – an ad thumbnail will appear in the first slot in the home screen menu. The ad will appear on the user’s screen even before he makes the choice of viewing OTT content (on platforms such as Netflix) or DTH content (from providers such as Tata Sky).

However, advertising in this space is a little different from advertising on digital platforms. When users see an ad on a tablet or a mobile phone, they have an option to interact with the ad and click on it to learn more about the brand. Sahmey mentions that what makes this space challenging is the fact that TV wasn’t designed for that click through action.

"Talking about ads in the CTV space, we’re looking at engaging the users at the home screen itself, without being too intrusive."

“What has happened since 2015 onwards is that television sets everywhere have got a UI upgrade. Talking about ads in the CTV space, we’re looking at engaging the users at the home screen itself, without being too intrusive. If you take the example of an Amazon Fire TV device, you may see an ad after you plug the dongle in. But in the case of our CTVs, ads run irrespective of the content you’re watching. People will see it as soon as they switch the TV on.”

India CTV Report 2021 – Mapping Connected TV (CTV) Viewership in India and the Opportunities for Brands is a report from mediasmart, an Affle company. It highlights the changing media consumption patterns of the Indian consumer. Out of the select audience surveyed, 78 per cent own a smart TV and 93 per cent of these smart TV users access Internet-based content. Connected TV brands in India include the likes of Mi, OnePlus, Samsung, and Sony.

Sahmey informs that in India, there are roughly 210 million TV sets, of which 22 million are CTVs. (Note: CTVs are different from smart TVs, which don’t have an inbuilt ability to connect to the Internet – without the help of an external device). Of the 22 million CTVs, Samsung has a market share of around four million (as of the end of H1).

"CTVs will become an ad space opportunity across over 100 million devices. That number may also increase, since the prices of TVs are decreasing."

“These numbers are growing at an annual rate of 25-30 per cent. In approximately 2-3 years, CTVs will become an ad space opportunity across over 100 million devices. That number may also increase, since the prices of TVs are decreasing,” says Sahmey.

He adds that when it comes to the Samsung TV owners – most of them don’t watch linear TV or traditional DTH-powered TV. “In Europe, around 20 per cent of individuals don’t watch linear TV, but in India, that number is much higher. It’s almost 50 per cent of the audience, who spend their time on AVOD services.”

A challenge brought on because of the pandemic is information overload – making it more difficult for the company to engage with potential ad space buyers.

“There’s a heavy sense of Zoom fatigue setting in and it’s become harder for us to engage with our buyers over these calls. They’re constantly looking for new information and things to learn. The digital medium itself has seen such a huge explosion in usage as well as implementation. It has been a mix of challenges, from operations to logistics to product to technology and, more importantly, communication,” Sahmey signs off.

Have news to share? Write to us