Facebook wants to start selling TV ads — on TVs — via Apple TV and Roku boxes


Facebook is moving another step closer to getting its hands on TV ad budgets.

Facebook has wanted to get its hands on TV ad budgets for years. Now it’s taking another step closer, by selling ads that will actually appear on TVs.

Next week, Facebook will start delivering video ads on apps that run on set-top boxes like Apple TV and Roku through the company’s ad network.

Facebook is partnering with two publishers, A+E and Tubi TV, and will deliver ads to people who watch videos on those apps, on actual television sets.

Facebook says this is the beginning of a test, and that it hasn’t yet worked out many details, like ad formats and lengths.

But it has the broad idea sketched out: It will use its Audience Network ad network to deliver ads to “over the top” video apps, just like it does to other publishers’ apps and websites on desktop browsers and mobile devices.

“We are testing how to best deliver video ads through Audience Network to people watching content on connected TVs,” a company spokesperson said. “Our goal is to bring relevant ad experiences to people both on Facebook and off.”

Video apps on set-top boxes often include advertising, but Facebook’s experiment brings the promise of much more targeted ads than most apps have used in the past.

That’s because Facebook can use the same targeting data that powers the rest of its advertising network to the set-top boxes, even though those apps aren’t directly connected to Facebook.

Using IP addresses, Facebook will be able to tell that the Apple TV in your basement is used by the same person — or at least the same family — that logs into Facebook accounts at the same place, and will use that data to deliver relevant ads.

“The OTT/CTV space is expanding rapidly amongst content viewers, however the targetability for marketers and programmers alike is lagging behind,” A+E wrote in a statement sent to Recode. “The Facebook project is the type of progressive thinking to which A+E Networks is incredibly committed.”

But Facebook’s plans are still nascent. So nascent, in fact, that it’s not selling ad spots to actual marketers yet. Instead it, will serve house ads (like its new campaign for Facebook Live), or it will pay to deliver ads from some of its nonprofit partners.

One likely issue Facebook will have to resolve before its video plans can really get going: The reaction from set-top box makers, who likely have their own ideas about how advertising will work on their hardware. Facebook is trying to work with those makers, including Apple, but how this ends up being divided longterm will be interesting to watch.

All of this is good news for Facebook investors, though. The company just reminded everyone this week that it’s running out of places to put ads in its core app, which means Facebook needs to find other places to deliver personalized ads. Television could be one of those places.

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