Vizio, the controversial TV manufacturer that since 2017 has settled two separate legal challenges against data-mining practices through its smart TVs, said Tuesday that it has formed a partnership with nine media and advertising companies to develop an industry standard for smart TVs that target advertisements to users.

Dubbed “Project OAR,” which stands for Open Addressable Ready, the consortium of partnering companies includes a host of major media and broadcasting powers including: Comcast’s NBCUniversal, CBS, Disney, WarnerMedia and advertising technology companies including Xandr, which is owned by AT&T.

The standard is planned to tackle a host of issues including delivery of enhanced advertising products to brands, streamlining the ad-supply chain, and providing audiences with advertising content they might actually want to watch.

The technology in the standard will be developed by Inscape, which is a TV ACR data company owned by Vizio. It was also the subsidiary named as a party in Vizio’s now settled data-mining legal challenges.

As part of the OAR format, the consortium said it has “the initial pledge from Vizio” that once the standard is developed it can be deployed on its “opt-in footprint of connected TVs, though the protocol will be open and designed to enable any internet-connected TV maker and connected-device company to leverage it.”

In 2017, Vizio settled a complaint by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the New Jersey attorney general for $2.2 million for allegedly tracking consumer viewing data on 11 million smart TVs sold since 2014. As part of the settlement, the TV maker admitted to no wrong doing but agreed to delete all data collected up until March 2016, improve its privacy policies and disclose its data practices to purchasers.

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Late last year, Vizio similarly settled a consumer class action lawsuit for $17 million over the alleged data-mining and disclosure practices through its smart TVs. It also agreed to change its viewing data collection policies by providing an “accept” or “decline” express consent to smart TV owners.

The statement announcing Project OAR said that the technology developed by Inscape will have oversight by “a committee comprised of representatives from Disney’s Media Networks (ABC, ESPN and Freeform), Comcast’s FreeWheel and NBCUniversal, Discovery, CBS, Xandr, Turner, Hearst Television and AMC Networks.”

The use of “addressable advertising” that targets television-delivered ads at viewers based on their interests, has been an aspiration among marketing interests for a while. But unlike personal computers and mobile devices that store cookies on web browsers, tracking consumers’ television viewing patterns has been more problematic. This has resulted in varying technologies and platforms limiting industry growth, according to Jodie McAfee, Inscape sales and marketing senior VP.

The intention is also to help TV programmers and platforms deliver more relevant advertising on linear and on-demand programming delivered by smart TVs.

The consortium members said Project OAR allows ad-inventory owners (programmers and distributors) “the technical means to better monetize every TV impression through segment-based audience targets and addressable insertion.”

“TV programmers reach a massive and passionate audience, but have lacked the precision targeting of digital,” Mike Dean, CBS advanced advertising and automation senior VP, said in a statement announcing the consortium. “Through OAR, CBS will combine relevance with our reach to deliver a better experience to our viewers and better ROI for our advertisers.”

The member companies plan to use OAR to enable media companies to deliver ads that are more relevant to a household and “improve the linear viewing experience for consumers.”

“We all recognize the most important goal of this initiative is to drastically enhance the TV experience for people at home,” stated Vizio founder and CEO William Wang.

“Project OAR aligns well with FreeWheel’s objective of supporting the industry to deliver scalable, addressable advertising solutions that will help make television an even more valuable platform for brand marketers. Bringing an addressability standard to Smart TVs nicely complements solutions already available from MVPDs,” said Dave Clark, General Manager of FreeWheel, a Comcast company.

The consortium said its OAR standard will be designed to “implement a technologically sound, dynamic ad-delivery system while utilizing industry privacy best practices.”

“The standard will define the baseline for ad delivery, impression verification and privacy compliance, but networks will have plenty of room to create unique and enriched advertising experiences,” said McAfee. “We are making this flexible enough to enable interactivity and other bells and whistles that have yet to be imagined.”

“Project OAR complements our strategy around new data-set development supportive of our own company insights,” stated Jesse Redniss, WarnerMedia Innovation Lab GM and EVP of Data Strategy. “It’s important for us to come together as an industry and create connective experiences that matter to fans, and that includes how we use data to inform and broaden spaces like addressable TV.”

The consortium hopes to have a working product available this Spring, and deployment ready as soon as early next year.


By Greg Tarr


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