MarTech360 Interview With Ashwin, Co-founder and CEO at Samba TV

95% of all linear ad impressions now reach only half of American television viewers and only 1 of 2 U.S. adults having a traditional TV subscription today. It has become a business imperative for the advertising market to evolve away from the legacy practices that are leading to significant waste and missed opportunities.”

Ashwin Navin, the brains behind Samba TV, sheds light on all his entreprenaurial feats and how he has been living and breathing “Web 2.0” before its genesis. He talks about his goal to create a huge global repository of TV data to support media publishers and their advertising clients in decision-making and how he plans to improve viewing experience everywhere with his latest venture

Hi Ashwin, can you give us a background of your professional journey?

I have always been inspired by the opportunity to connect people globally with technology that allows them to overcome collective pain points, disrupting markets that operate inefficiently and without transparency. That company I co-founded and run today is Samba TV, the global leader in television technology. Our independent currency-grade measurement has future-proofed advertising for the next generation, empowering advertisers to more deeply connect with their audiences on any platform, across every screen.

Prior to Samba, I co-founded BitTorrent, Inc., where we leveraged an open-source protocol to create a very popular technology platform for peer-to-peer content distribution, which had a profound impact on the media industry. 

By eliminating the cost of servers, bandwidth and infrastructure, we tore down the barriers that existed on the Internet and enabled the free-flow of information globally, even in parts of the world where free speech was restricted.

My very first experience with a venture-backed startup was with Epoch Partners, a fintech company that exposed me to the potential of crowd-sourced data to disrupt investment banking and the capital markets function of underwriting IPOs. This was so disruptive that Goldman Sachs actually acquired the company in 2001 to shut it down.

I feel like I have been living and breathing the principles of “Web 2.0” before that term even came into existence. Harnessing the collective intelligence of millions of people is a game-changing, transformative force we have seen disrupt many industries over the last couple decades. Throughout my career, I’ve aimed to democratize data and replace the finger-in-the-air, guess work that businesses undertake when serving their customers.

I have leveraged technology-driven solutions and scaled-up datasets to accelerate innovation, drive efficiency and automation. Looking back on my professional journey, I’m grateful to have had this kind of impact on various industries.

Tell us about your current role at Samba TV.

I co-founded Samba TV and serve as its CEO. We are the global leader in television technology that powers omniscreen advertising and analytics. In the last year, Samba TV worked with 500 of the top brands which collectively spend over $5 billion in annual CTV spend, expanded to top international markets all over the globe, and partnered with some of the world’s top influential companies like Disney, TikTok, Google, Amazon and more. We provide these partners the most representative TV data set out there that improves performance and value to advertisers and enhances the TV viewing experience.

Our vision is that television needs to be more integrated into our digital lifestyle, bridging together two worlds – TV and digital media – that were operating independently of each other: one rapidly growing with innovation at internet speed, and the other one a massive 70-year-old paradigm still operating mostly offline but with an audience of billions of people consuming for several hours a day. I’m proud to say we are doing just that. I remain even more excited about the future of the company today than I ever have been.

What drives the purpose of Samba TV to gather data that powers TV innovations?

Using the technology we invented, we are on a mission to create a massive amount of TV data globally, becoming the source of truth for major decisions being made by media publishers and their advertising clients. Our data powers a more scientific model for advertising and a better viewing experience for everyone.  

Samba TV pioneered the development of ACR technology at massive global scale, enabling currency-grade, cross-screen measurement across more than 48 million opted-in televisions from two dozen different brands sold in more than 100 countries today. This provides the most representative first-party TV data set available today. We enable any partner to use our data across any screen or platform to enable their own measurement and targeting needs. Rather than building a walled garden, we believe in democratizing access to data. 

Considering the rapid digitalization of businesses, do you think TV advertising has lost its charm?

We are currently in the golden age for premium television content. With that comes the responsibility to measure effectively across platforms including streaming, which can be challenging. We have reached a tipping point for television and advertising more broadly. 95% of all linear ad impressions now reach only half of American television viewers and only 1 of 2 U.S. adults having a traditional TV subscription today. 

It has become a business imperative for the advertising market to evolve away from the legacy practices that are leading to significant waste and missed opportunities to embrace new solutions that do not oversaturate the same potential customers with the same costly ads while leaving tens of millions of households largely ignored.

Also Read: MarTech360 Interview With Heni Hazbay, Vice President of Marketing and Growth at Pipedrive

With streaming services and streaming platforms being an absolute hit these days, do you think there is a division in the audience base of TV lovers and OTT lovers?

People love TV regardless of where it lives, however, we know the migration to streaming is consistently growing and younger audiences in particular can only be reached through streaming. The big shift recently is the growth of ad-supported streaming which has gone fully mainstream with significant expansion across new platforms, including industry leaders like Netflix and Disney+. We are now fully immersed in the fight for consumer attention. Though the market has never been more fragmented and rife with challenges for streamers and advertisers, we believe there are also unprecedented new opportunities to drive engagement and ultimately market success for those who embrace a streaming-first, data driven mindset.

How has advertising technology changed in the last decade?

Television was the frontier for the digital media industry, and we pegged the connected TV as the consumer device platform that would finally bring these two worlds together. While the TAM of Television has lured hundreds of entrepreneurs who raised billions of capital over the last 20 years, I’m proud that our team has thrived in this space where most have failed.

Where does CTV advertising stand in today’s ever-changing advertising landscape?

Connected TV (CTV) is the fastest-growing segment of advertising and has become a hotbed of innovation in the ecosystem. It is the logical platform where a majority of the $170 billion of global TV advertising will transition over the next decade. As traditional linear TV campaigns struggle to provide their historical reach, CTV advertising provides an exciting opportunity for brands to engage with viewers on the big screen married with the power of personalization. Given over 90% of streamers watching ad-supported options, CTV advertising is well-positioned to recreate the massive reach TV has enjoyed for decades.

However, CTV advertising is not without its challenges. One of the key issues facing this format is the lack of holistic measurement that reveals incrementality and performance. This can make it difficult for brands to optimize their CTV campaigns, and worse yet, it creates tremendous waste. Brands are rightfully hesitant to invest heavily in this relatively new channel.

To overcome these challenges, it’s essential for brands to partner with a neutral, third-party measurement provider like Samba TV. Such a partnership can help brands navigate the complexities of the CTV landscape, ensuring they have accurate and actionable insights to support their decisions. 

While TV advertising offers immense potential for reaching diverse audiences at scale, brands should maximize the value of their TV and digital advertising spend with partners who can de-duplicate these platforms and optimize them in real-time. 

Can media measurement rightfully assess the effectiveness of ads along several dimensions? How does SambaTV’s media measurement help businesses?

Businesses have long known that advertising works, but rarely knew just how well it worked, or what pieces worked best. Samba TV’s data helps brands drive real-world outcomes, as well as understand and measure how advertising led to those incomes.

Can media measurement rightfully assess the effectiveness of ads along several dimensions? How does SambaTV’s media measurement help businesses?

Historically, businesses understood that advertising worked to build a brand, but lacked precise measurement of each of its component parts contribute to brand lift or effectiveness. Samba TV’s data enables brands, within a single source of truth, to drive real-world outcomes and determine how specific advertising tactics individually contribute to those results.

What would be your advice to all the advertisers out there?

The pace of innovation in Artificial Intelligence cannot be underestimated, as it will transform the way we live, work, and interact. AI will soon become a cornerstone technology for the entertainment industry, and when combined with real-time viewership data, it will be a gamechanger for brands and media companies trying to win the battle for consumer attention.

In the next 12 to 24 months, with tighter budgets and fiercer competition, data and AI will be essential for winning the hearts and minds of viewers one by one, efficiently and at a global scale.

Thanks, Ashwin!

Ashwin is the cofounder and Chief Executive Officer of Samba TV. Entrepreneur with over 20 years of leadership expertise and a deep understanding of starting and scaling successful startups in the media technology industry. Former President and Co-founder of BitTorrent, Inc., Ashwin launched Samba TV in 2008 with the aim to create ripples in the television and digital advertising spaces.

He is an Active investor in Invisible Commerce, Klarna, Cameo, GGWP, Convoy Inc, Impossible Foods, vidIQ, Touch of Modern, Crunchyroll, and more than more world-changing start ups.

Samba TV enables marketers to build engaged audiences, and empowers viewers to spend more time with programming and brands they love. Samba TV believes data should be independent, not monopolized by walled gardens that measure their own media.

Samba TV‘s technology is built into Smart TVs and easily maps to smart phones and tablets. By recognizing what’s on screen, Samba TV learns what viewers like and using machine learning algorithms, enables discovery of shows and actors in a whole new way.

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