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Liberty takes on GAFA and BARB with AI-influenced data platform

Liberty Global is going on the offensive against tech giants Google and Facebook by working collaboratively with broadcasters and the veracity and scale of data harvested from its own platforms.

“There are lots of fears about how big the threat GAFA has become and how regulation doesn’t seem to apply to them but they don’t have the rich data about how customers behave which we do,” Laurence Miall-d’Aout, VP, Data and Advanced Advertising, Liberty Global told Cable Congress. “That is our data and it is up to us – and the cable industry as a whole – to harness this data better.”

The cable giant is developing Liberty Insights, presented as a single platform encompassing aggregated consumer data from its 24 million customers, accessed over 14 million devices and uniting 15 billion viewing hours combining customer and viewing data with third-party data.

It will use Machine Learning to offer insights on advertising and programming to broadcasters within its stable on a local and macro level.  

Broadcasters are increasingly looking to exploit data from user sign-ins and subscriptions in the hope this will lift their fortunes in an advertising market dominated by the major tech platforms. This data will be used to generate the kind of personalised content recommendations that are familiar to customers of streaming services, while it will also allow for more relevant advertising, according to Liberty Global.

“Our first party data can measure against GAFA,” Miall-d’Aout declared. “We are an alternative to Facebook and Google.”

It is one of a multiplicity of industry initiatives seeking to fill the void left by standard TV audience measurements which have struggled to keep pace with advertiser demand for accurate and reliable cross-platform metrics.

“We cannot replace Nielsen and BARB,” she said. “They still use very small panels which really tell you nothing about what people are watching. We think with data we can compliment it.

Like commercial TV broadcasters, the cable co. is looking to turn the concerns marketers such as P&G and Unilever have about brand safety into its advantage.

“A lot of brands turning away from digital money and we are pushing that money back to DTV,” she said.

She said Liberty offered the attributes which had enticed brands to digital platforms in the first place, namely: scale, data, attribution (accountability) and the ability to trade easily.

The company is rolling out addressable advertising in its various territories. With TV3 Group, the Irish commercial broadcaster it owns, Liberty will likely launch TA this year, through the partnership between Virgin Media and rival Sky [Sky AdSmart] announced last June. [TV3 is on track to rebrand its three channels – TV3, 3e and Be3 - as Virgin Media Television in the second quarter of 2018].

“We have opened up Virgin Media in the UK and Ireland where addressable ads are the beginning of the creation of a new marketplace [for addressable ads].”

It has made similar moves in Belgium with cable broadband services provider Telenet.

“As an ecosystem we need TV to stay relevant,” insisted Miall-d’Aout. “We need those TV broadcasters to make money and to that they can recoup some of their traditional business [from the tech giants] and that’s where our data can play a role.”

“We have been historically very poor in creating a unified data sets. The data sets in our organisation have been collected in silos making it difficult to change overnight to a culture based around AI and ML.

She added that the Liberty’s advanced advertising and data unit was on the hunt for ‘data scientists’ to help it adapt.

“I believe if we create our own data platform we can defend ourselves against GAFA,” said Miall-d’Aout. “We can use the data to launch new product, gain new audiences, derive new data and drive innovation.”

She added: “Seventy percent of the Big Data initiatives are not profitable. We have the opportunity to change that at Liberty.”

Liberty Global has operations in 12 European countries under the consumer brands Virgin Media, Unitymedia, Telenet and UPC. In addition, it owns 50% of VodafoneZiggo, a joint venture in the Netherlands, as well as significant content investments in ITV, All3Media, LionsGate, Formula E racing series and several regional sports networks.

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