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How Streaming is Promoted Via Ad Tech

How Streaming is Promoted Via Ad Tech

The entertainment scene changed dramatically this year—partially as a result of social distancing and partially from the newly launched streaming platforms.

As streaming platforms went live, companies spent a significant amount of money promoting their platforms. 

How did streaming platforms spend using programmatic ads?

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New Streaming Platforms Enter the Scene as Viewership Rises

Apple TV and Disney+ launched at the end of 2019, with Peacock, HBO Max, and Quibi following in their footsteps by spring 2020. The five platforms joined Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon as major players in the streaming landscape.

Some of the launches were more successful than others

Disney+ capitalized on the pandemic and reached their goal of 60 million subscribers four years ahead of schedule, even before the service was made available globally. Netflix also added an additional 10 million subscribers to their existing customer base in Q2 of 2020.

Quibi, on the other hand, seems to have fallen flat despite boasting an impressive list of celebrities involved in the launch. Some attribute this to the fact that the shorter segments are meant for an audience on-the-go, but people have been staying home more this year. 

Others attribute it to much more—like not solving a real problem (i.e. people can hit ‘pause’ on their own if they want to watch videos in chunks) and not understanding their target audience well-enough.

Either way, in this competitive landscape, each platform is vying for space in a rapidly‐changing advertising landscape.

TV Ads for Streaming Platforms Surge

The launch of new streaming sources, coupled with a booming demand for online entertainment during the pandemic, caused streaming ads to soar.

Between January 1 and June 30 of 2020, the streaming industry spent over $1 billion on TV ads—a 205% YoY increase. Between March 12 and June 30, Disney was responsible for about one‐third of this spending between Disney+ and Hulu.

This spending happened despite the lack of live sporting events that generally draw such advertising, and without much contribution from Netflix. 

Netflix experienced success this year without needing to spend more on TV ads—except for a few tentpole events like the Superbowl (which was pre-COVID). The platform, instead, explored alternative channels across digital.

MediaRadar Insights


We analyzed how streaming services spent in the programmatic ad space, looking specifically at the summer months where ad spend was predicted to be highest.


August saw the largest spike in 2020 for programmatic ad spend by streaming platforms. In this month alone, spend reached $2.8 million—a 129% increase since March. 

In September, programmatic held steady with a 129% increase since March. However, the number of brands only increased by 42%. This suggests that major brands are making larger buys, particularly by the newest services.

A YoY analysis of the same time period also shows a significant increase in both spend and number of brands, thanks to the number of new streaming platforms paying to get their name in front of audiences.

Of the new streaming services that debuted in late 2019 and early 2020:

  • Apple TV’s largest programmatic buy was in July, when they were responsible for 5% of spend.
  • Disney+ was responsible for 20% of programmatic in June.
  • HBO Max made up 30% of spend in September.
  • Peacock was responsible for 8% of spend in July.
  • Quibi made up 23% of programmatic spend in August.

In September alone, the top ten advertisers for streaming services were, in decreasing order:

  1. HBO Max
  2. Amazon Prime
  3. ESPN+
  4. Disney+
  5. CBS
  6. Peacock TV LLC
  7. Fubo TV Inc
  8. Shudder LLC
  9. Hulu
  10. GolfPass

Over time, both Apple TV and Quibi have dropped ad spend significantly. Apple TV spending is minimal, and Quibi was responsible for only .5% of all ad buy in the industry in September.

While the overall success of many new streaming platforms remains to be seen, advertising is booming.

For more updates like this, stay tuned. Subscribe to our blog for more updates on coronavirus and its mark on the economy.