Nexstar’s Next Step In The Digital Ad Tech Realm

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In May 2017, Nexstar Media Group officially christened a newly created position at the broadcast TV company’s digital-focused subsidiary by announcing the hiring of a “proven ad technology and business strategy” executive.


Today, Anthony Katsur is riding high as Nexstar Digital’s SVP/Platforms. 

Katsur is responsible for leading Nexstar Digital’s technology teams, with a focus on on enabling digital marketing solutions and services to national and local media companies, advertisers, agencies and brands.

It’s an important role for Nexstar, given the complexities and dynamics of the converging digital technology, media and broadcast marketplaces.

Katsur is also in the captain’s chair on how Nexstar, and other television broadcasting companies, are evolving around critical audience platforms such as streaming and social media.

In the past 7 months on the job at Nexstar Digital, what is Katsur’s biggest takeaway in terms of the digital growth opportunities that exist for a broadcast company?

“What I’ve noticed is that there is a real appetite to embrace some of the core tenets of digital, as well as some of the sub-tenets of programmatic, in the broadcast landscape,” he says.

The embrace of programmatic and digital capabilities in the TV industry is a net positive ahead of what could truly revolutionize the way advertisers reach viewers: the next-gen TV standard that broadcasters can now voluntarily adopt.

In fact, Katsur believes getting ATSC 3.0 adopted is “a transformative event for broadcasters, because it provides true addressability.”

Data-driven advertising has been one of the key pluses for the digital world, he says.

Now, small businesses — as well as national brands — can benefit in ways with broadcasters that digital has been able to present to clients for some time.

“Small businesses will be able to become more data savvy when it comes to advertising,” Katsur says. “And, rolling out the ATSC 3.0 standard is a good foundation for broadcasters to provide a data-driven advertising focus.”

That’s not to say national brands that Nexstar Digital works with won’t also benefit from the tech benefits Katsur and his team are bringing the broadcast TV company in myriad ways.

Interesting, for Katsur, the learning is a two-way endeavor. With 25 years in the digital realm, he brings working knowledge to an industry player that has decades of focus on broadcast. “There are oceans of things that I don’t understand about TV, so Nexstar bringing in digital and programmatic veterans shows a commitment.”

Along with Katsur at Nexstar Digital is its President, Greg Raifman. He was a Rubicon Project board member, and has a history of investment in the digital ad tech space.

A DATA STORY

Why should TV stations be at the forefront of streaming and social media, in particular as Nielsen recently revealed it has SVOD ratings and metrics for such OTT players as Netflix?

It’s all about data, Katsur says.

“This industry needs to become much more data savvy than it has in the past,” he believes. “Not that the GRP hasn’t been a metric in the past, but when you look at a metric where you can understand your audience in digital, compared to that of TV, it’s night and day.”

Regional and local small businesses are going to become data savvy — following the curve of national brands, he says. “They set the table for the innovation in a certain medium,” Katsur notes. “GMs need to be hyperfocused, and their sales teams need to be hyperfocused in the area of data.”

With an ability to look at data-driven KPIs, the need of broadcast TV’s sales executives to have a comfort level with what technology is bringing is essential.

“Tech is pervading every element of the media ecosystem,” Katsur says. “It’s now entering radio. It has entered TV. Aside from data, they need to get comfortable with technology. Yet, technology is steeped in physics, and it has always been a part of TV. The sales rep of yesteryear needs to have the understanding of the value of premium media in local markets against great content, but the technology knowledge needs to be there. You become a type of a hybrid.”

The veteran broadcast TV AE who has been in a “spots and dots” environment since ALF was in prime-time need not worry about losing their job tomorrow. However, training for the future and learning about programmatic and data-driven ad buying is likely essential for tomorrow’s next crop of sales pros.

“It’s an evolution — a gradual change over time,” Katsur believes. “Local won’t change overnight, so that protects some of the traditional broadcast media salespeople.”

Thus, the knowledge train starts with a digital media specialist — a subject-matter expert — at the TV station. Then, the station evolves to understand the best ways to embrace programmatic and data. This will take several years, Katsur says.

Are there “beta” markets? No, but he admits that some markets are much more digitally savvy than others. Take, for instance, Albany, N.Y., where Nexstar owns WTEN-10, the ABC affiliate, and WXXA-23, the FOX affiliate.

“I was actually blown away by how digitally savvy they are,” says Katsur, who grew up in nearby Schoharie, N.Y., and grew up watching the two stations.

Albany is just 1 of 172 markets Nexstar operates in, and he’s yet to evaluate other stations.

That’s an exciting opportunity for Katsur, who studied criminal justice and chemical engineering at State University of New York at Albany. That experienced helped him in 2003 take a role as Engineering Director in the marketing division of online ad company DoubleClick. He stayed there until the end of 2005, exiting as VP/Engineering.

Since then, he’s been Chief Technology Officer of Travora Media, a global travel ad platform, and several other online operations — including the Rubicon Project, where he departed as head of buyer cloud. Katsur was, prior to joining Nexstar, President of ad tech developer and direct audience company Sonobi.

NO FEAR OF ‘OTT’

With much discussion across the TV industry about the rise of “over the top” choices for viewers, Katsur echoes many broadcast television leaders who believe cord-cutting won’t come at the expense of their stations. Rather, it will lead to increased viewing as individuals discover free-to-air channels and their DT multicast offerings.

It is why he thinks of TV as a “scarce resource.”

He also believes the arrival of ATSC 3.0 is not too late. Instead, it could up-end how viewers watch television — once MVPDs figure out how to deliver the next-gen channels or risk losing even more subscribers.

“OTT is a reality, but there is clearly an appetite for local and regional information,” Katsur notes.

Then, there is the viewing of local content via Roku, or online. This includes local news. To best monetize viewing across all platforms, Katsur is high on integrated packages that can deliver both OTT and traditional consumers. “This is going to become table stakes,” he says.

This future thought is indicative of the efforts Nexstar founder and CEO Perry Sook has laid the foundation for at this company.

“Perry is of course looking at the next quarter, but he’s looking three years out, and five years out, and eight years out, and creating some serious investment,” Katsur says. “He’s asking what’s next in digital, and how do we build ourselves out for the future of Nexstar.”

In fact, Nexstar Digital may be the company’s cornerstone to the future. Katsur says, “Perry has been highly inquisitive and has brought ideas to us, asking, ‘Does this work in digital?’ He is excited and has definitely embraced it.”

 


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