Pandora’s Harmonic Audio Network Offers Radio Buyers Streaming Scale

harmonicPandora launched the Harmonic Audio Network on Thursday, in partnership with streaming platforms TuneIn and AccuRadio, to offer advertisers mass reach on premium inventory across digital audio platforms. The network will sell exclusive in-stream audio inventory from its own as well as partner platforms.

Both TuneIn and AccuRadio will commit roughly 95% to 98% of their in-stream audio inventory to Harmonic, according to Andy Lipset, VP of local and national broadcast at Pandora. Pandora will also contribute “a sizable piece of inventory” to the network, Lipset said. All inventory will be sold directly by Pandora’s sales team.

“We've sold Pandora inventory to the network radio community for the better part of seven years now,” Lipset said. “The jumping-off point for us is taking that big chunk of inventory and adding it into the TuneIn and AccuRadio mix.”

Some advertisers have begun buying on the network, but Pandora did not share names or numbers.

With Harmonic, Pandora aims to offer radio advertisers the reach they need while eliminating issues associated with traditional ad networks.

“We don’t want to represent every single digital audio impression in the marketplace,” Lipset said. “We don’t want this to be a remnant play. We want partners with brand names that our clients were already doing business with that have distribution past desktop.”

As the audio streaming space gets more competitive, advertisers want to buy on platforms with diverse inventory and broad audience reach. TuneIn diversifies Pandora’s inventory with more than 60,000 audio books and podcasts. AccuRadio, which is popular with the 35-64-year-old demographic, extends its audience reach.

“[TuneIn and AccuRadio are] well-known brands in the streaming space,” Lipset said. “What we didn’t want to do is represent [a site] with three listeners, broadcasting out of a basement.”

All inventory on Harmonic is exclusive to the network, which caps ad frequency so listeners aren’t served the same ad repetitively, a common issue on other digital audio exchanges, Lipset said. Being exclusive in partnering ensures transparency to advertisers in that they know where all of their spots are running, and that all inventory belongs to brand-safe content.

“Streaming is a really good medium for advertisers, but when you look at things like ad load, you see different responses in terms of engagement, brand metrics and response rates,” Lipset said. “These KPIs are the types of things were looking at in terms of who we bring on board.”

For now, targeting on Harmonic will be limited to genre, age, listening habits and device type. Harmonic won’t leverage Pandora’s 1,000 audience segments just yet.

“We are thinking about down the road layering on additional segments,” Lipset said.

As for measurement, Pandora will be able to show advertisers that it delivered against the number of impressions they bought.

“These are the types of things, albeit very basic for the digital marketplace, that [network radio advertisers] don’t necessarily see from the terrestrial radio side,” Lipset said.

Harmonic will make the direct sales process more efficient through integrations with agency workflow tools Mediaocean and Strata, which simplify the planning, buying, review and billing processes on a single interface. These tools also allow advertisers to view streaming radio in the context of their terrestrial buys.

For TuneIn, which makes most of its revenue through programmatic display, Harmonic offers an opportunity to monetize some of its forgotten audio inventory.

“A lot of our audio inventory has gone relatively unmonetized in the past,” said Billy Hartman, TuneIn’s VP of strategic partnerships and business development. “Instead of investing in a massive audio salesforce, we can tap into a company that has a proven track record.”

TuneIn and AccuRadio will also continue selling inventory outside of the Harmonic network.

When Pandora rolls out in-stream programmatic audio ads (which will happen soon, though there’s no set timeline), Harmonic has the potential to go programmatic in the future, Lipset said.

“Programmatic audio is still very, very nascent, but as that marketplace starts to grow, and as we build out opportunities around it, I can certainly see [Harmonic] being a part of it down the road,” he said.

 

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