Mark Rotblat, Tubi’s Chief Revenue Officer, joins Cross Screen Media CEO Michael Beach to share his perspective on video ad trends, including accelerated growth in streaming ad spend, in our latest ScreenBytes Executive Interview. Listen to the interview here and read the full transcript below.
Michael Beach: Welcome to another edition of ScreenBytes. Today it’s my pleasure to welcome Mark Rotblat, who’s the Chief Revenue Officer at Tubi.
Mark Rotblat: Good to see you, Michael. Thank you for having me.
MB: Absolutely. Mark and I go way back to the TubeMogul days, where Mark was there from the beginning, 10 plus years, all the way through the Adobe acquisition and the transition. And Tubi is definitely one of my all-time favorite company. So welcome to the show, Mark.
MR: Thank you.
MB: Let’s start off here with a little ice breaker that we’ve asked everybody. What was your first job and what lessons did you take away to prepare for where you are today?
MR: I had a couple jobs kind of all at once when I was, I think, 14, 15, timeframe as both a Kmart checkout person working at the cash register there, and I also was a lifeguard. So those were my two first jobs at the same time. What did I learn? Kmart was a trip. I have so many funny stories from being a checkout person there. It’s good to be in that type of role where you learn that that I want to continue on. I want to make sure that I get the education so that I’m not punching a clock which is what you’re doing. But really funny stories about some of the things, the shenanigans from some of the people that came in. It was fun.
MB: And Illinois, is that correct?
MR: Yes. I’m from a small town in Illinois in the Northwest corner of the state.
MB: You miss the winter?
MR: I do not miss the winter. Yeah. I love the Midwest. And when I went to college in North Carolina, the first time back though, I couldn’t believe how colorless it was in the fall. So it’s not just the cold. It was just the gray that really made me want to make my life elsewhere.
MB: And how’d you get your start in the convergent TV space?
MR: It was really from the early days being at TubeMogul. So I was actually in healthcare consulting work, went to business school at UC Berkeley, and that’s where I met the co-founders of TubeMogul. And it was really a school project. And I decided to join, and was really working with them before graduating from business school. And that, as you remember, was online video distribution and analytics. It ended up pivoting into software for buying video ads and focus on brand advertising. And by virtue of that and getting into the measurement, we were really focused on all ways of using software for brand advertising, including connected television and other forms of TV.
MB: That’s great. Recently we were discussing how everyone is talking about how mature the digital video space is. And we brought up the fact that I remember back in probably when Tube went public, that you kind of thought that the space was mature then, and it’s completely different world today. It’s pretty amazing to see the growth since then. And before we jump in deeper into the conversation, would you mind giving our community a little more background on Tubi and where you fit in the commercial TV space?
MR: Tubi is the largest free ad supported movie and TV app. So we’re an app like Netflix, but no subscription. We have over 23,000 titles. And with all of those titles, we have a great personalization engine to really help people find great content that is meant for them. So we are over 80% on the big screen, somewhere between 80% and 85% of our viewership watches on television. So it’s TV and movie content on television, the rest being on mobile devices pretty much through applications. And it’s a great fast growing space and is convergent because it looks like television.
MB: I saw you recently announced a new high in users. Do you mind telling us a little bit more about that and any characteristics of the makeup of the audience?
MR: Sure. In September we announced that we surpassed 33 million MAU, monthly active users. And we’ve just continued to grow at a fast pace over several years. The makeup of that is younger than television. Our median age is somewhere around 34 years old, whereas television is much older and even owners of certain devices are typically higher. So that’s kind of the sweet spot for a lot of advertisers looking at 18 to 49 or 25 to 54 range. A vast majority of our viewership is in the US. We have launched and are in Canada, Mexico and Australia as well.
MR: The last six months has really exploded. The underlying growth was already happening as cord cutting was not just underway, but accelerating, but the pandemic really put some fuel on that fire with more people staying at home. You have people that were looking for more content. There were memes about ‘I finished Netflix’ and Tubi is a great compliment to Netflix. And so we saw a spike in April, and we reported that new viewers growth was 50% over the period, the six weeks period prior to the pandemic. So things definitely shot up. They also stayed up. So, those viewers have retained, and we’ve continued to see growth over this period of time. We’re a free service. And when people are looking for content and they want more of it, they’re staying at home. Maybe they have families that are more at home. We’re a great service for those homes.
MB: Another recent announcement I thought was interesting was Tubi news. Do you mind telling our community more about that and the long-term vision?
MR: Absolutely. Tubi really has been focused on being VOD, video on demand. And we really believe in VOD, but we are also getting great customer testimonials where they say, “We love Tubi. I don’t even know what I like better; Netflix or Tubi. And if you just had live news, I’d probably spend all my time with you guys.” And so we saw that happening. In addition this year more than ever people are tuning into news. They want to be informed. They want the latest breaking information. There’s the election this year, there’s so much going on, people wanting to tune in and find out what their local officials are saying about COVID-19.
And so we put that on the roadmap and move very quickly to add that in. And we have a focus on serving local news, and we have not just Fox Station groups because we are part of Fox, but we have announced about 15 partners that are part of our initial launch, and we’re going to be growing from there. We launched on three platforms. We’ll be rolling out more platforms over the coming months, and we’ll be rolling out more and more channels as well. As we test and learn, we have an idea of, well, does live go beyond news? Does that go into live channels for news and sports? And those are things we’ll be exploring over the longer term.
MB: That’s great. And switching to the advertiser side, do you still see siloed video teams or is it starting to go away?
MR: I think more than ever it’s about video now. And I’d say years ago back at my TubeMogul days, and there might be agencies saying, look, we have video teams, but account by account, there might be that TV team or the digital team. And while there’s some of that today, the walls have been broken down quite a bit. But on the other hand, I will say that budgets can still be broken up. And so sometimes we’re part of the traditional TV budget. Sometimes we’re part of digital or digital video budgets. Sometimes there’s a middle OTT budget or convergent TV or advanced TV budget. So there are these different pockets where budgets might sit, but the planning is really done more holistically, I think, than ever.
And one of the things that I was reading recently was how people talked about how the upfronts look, and then when you dig in, as you do a lot of times on the measurement or the analysis, they were really looking at traditional TV in terms of upfronts, when really it is a video upfront. It is something holistic. And when you look at it in those terms, this year was pretty good given the circumstances.
MB: Yeah, it seems a lot stronger. And on that point, at the upfronts, having recently gone through that with the team at Fox, are the people when they’re buying the upfronts, are they using the same currency for both? Are they still using CPMs here and eCPMs here? Or are there gross rating points? What are you seeing in that area at the upfronts?
MR: Yeah, good question. A lot of times it comes down to CPMs. Sometimes they’re targeted, sometimes they’re P2-plus, a lot of times the upfront is about the P2-plus rates. It’s about how much are we investing? And then account by account, they might be going in on a demo guarantee. They might be going in on a targeted demo, or some other targeting. So the negotiation is typically done on a P2-plus basis. So it depends on the account teams, how they end up executing.
MB: Taking a more kind of macro view looking back, what’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the video added marketplace and how has Tubi adjusted to that? And what do you see moving forward?
MR: In this year it’s two things that are tied together. It’s the awareness of streaming in the picture, and it’s how disruptive this year was in the normal flow of things and what that means for the future. And so on the first part, we talked about how the pandemic really shifted streaming. And I started by saying how a lot of that foundation was already underway, but I will say that the awareness hadn’t really gotten to all of the advertising community, whether it’s the brand marketers or the agencies themselves. Sometimes the agencies, as you know, might be really telling their clients for years, “Hey, this is a big thing.” And it takes a while. Well, this is the year where the awareness flipped because the advertisers recognized it was all in their face. In the trades, people talked about this growth, but also as consumers, there were changes in behavior. Saying ‘hey, let me check out this other thing. Do I want to subscribe to this SVOD service? What else is out there?’ And so that was a big flip, a big change, I think, is the awareness.
I like to look at mobile in 2012, with 15% or 20% of consumption or time spent, but 3% or 4% of the budgets. And it took five years to get to equilibrium where the budgets were meeting the time spent. And we were following that. We were in a similar position in streaming where the time spent far out outstripped the budgets. I think that it will take less time because of this year, because I think that shift will accelerate. I think you’ll see more drastic shifts. And then with that, the upfronts and the TV marketplace is traditionally a rate of change business. It’s based on ‘I spent this much with you last year at this CPM or this rate’, and there’s the negotiation based on market dynamics, how much more or less, how much I’m going to spend, how much more or less my rate’s going to be. That table was just flipped over. Because of uncertainty in the market, uncertainty around business, but also this dynamic and the shift, keep in mind with upfronts that typically you have to know what sports programming there is going to be. Are the new shows going to launch on time? All of those things. And so, because of that disruption, it really catalyzed changes that I think we’ll see in the future.
MB: And looking forward, what’s the one development that you’re the most excited about in the commercial TV space?
MR: I think it comes down to cross screen planning and measurement. I think advertisers care about their reach. They want to know that they’re getting incremental reach to what they’re already buying and understanding that. And it’s long been an opportunity and now it’s front and center and there are more technology companies and more partners that can help with that cross screen planning and measurement. That type of measurement then leads to better thinking around attribution. And when you combine these things, I think that’s really going to change, how things are bought over the next five years.
MB: Love that answer. All right. We’ll get you out of here with more question. If you could get your entire team to read a single book in the current environment, what would that book be and why?
MR: I really think a lot that’s happened with the social unrest and the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s gotten everybody to really look in and want to learn more. And I don’t know that I want to just name one book. But as a topic, it’s good for us to be learning more than we ever have in this area. I recently read a book called The Memo, which is talking about women of color and some of the challenges they face in the business marketplace and things like that to really get people talking and thinking in a way about diversity.
MB: That’s great. Mark, we appreciate your time and I’m sure our community’s going to love this content. So thank you very much.
MR: Thank you. Really appreciate it.
See the rest of the ScreenBytes executive interview series here!
Mark Rotblat is the Chief Revenue Officer of Tubi, the largest free movie and TV streaming service in the country. As CRO, Mark is responsible for driving the company’s global sales and partnerships, expanding the company’s revenue efforts and increasing value for advertising partners.
Prior to joining Tubi in early 2018, Mark was Senior Director of Agency Sales & Activation for the Adobe Advertising Cloud at Adobe Systems. Leading up to his work at Adobe, Mark was part of TubeMogul’s founding team in 2007, which held its IPO in 2014 and subsequently was acquired by Adobe for $540M in 2016.
Mark held a variety of roles at TubeMogul, including marketing, business development and various sales leadership positions. As SVP of Agency Sales at TubeMogul, his responsibilities included driving sales strategy, communications and execution with agency partners. Mark also has experience working in business development and management consulting for healthcare organizations, including Healthline and Stockamp & Associates.
Mark holds an MBA from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and a BS from Duke University, and resides in the Bay area with his wife and children.
Cross Screen Media is a marketing analytics and software company helping brands, agencies, and networks succeed in the Convergent TV space. Our platform creates a common currency across linear TV, digital, and CTV views so ad buyers can build a single optimized plan and sellers can prove the value of their inventory. For more information, please visit our website.