Disney strikes a big adtech deal with The Trade Desk as Disney+ expands into ads

Disney struck an advertising agreement with The Trade Desk, making it possible for brands to target automated ads across Disney’s linear and streaming properties — Hulu, ESPN+, ABC, Freeform, ESPN, National Geographic and FX. The news comes in advance of Disney’s launch of an ad-supported tier for its flagship service, Disney+, which would likely be another such target of such a deal.

Previously, Disney kept Hulu’s ad inventory separate from its other properties, so this partnership means advertisers can not only discover more addressable inventory across Disney’s portfolio, they can also now programmatically target their audiences and potentially improve their return on investment.

“Disney Advertising had a bold vision backed by proven results from the start, and we’re thrilled to continue to deliver on our commitment to power greater automation and addressability for our customers through this expanded deal with The Trade Desk,” said Rita Ferro, president, Advertising Sales, Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, in a statement.

The Trade Desk develops advertising automation tools and manages an ad network that couples online publishers with brands. Automation allows Disney to sell more ads at scale and accelerates the company’s goal to target more of its overall pool of first-party data.

Disney has previously said it wants to automate 50% of its business by 2026. At last year’s upfront advertising sales event, over 40% of the ad inventory Disney sold was automated.

The integration with The Trade Desk is likely to captivate many brands that are shifting away from content-focused strategies and moving toward an audience-first method. For instance, advertisers that want to target moms can do so with Disney’s family segments.

“We have spent years investing in our data and technology strategy to create innovative solutions for advertisers to engage their audiences with greater precision and accuracy in a privacy-focused way,” Ferro added. “This first-to-market capability sets the stage to empower access to the Disney portfolio, validated by powerful audience insights, in a way that’s automated and accessible.”

Disney has years of experience with adtech, therefore, it has a leg up in the race. In fact, Hulu built its own ad server and has 14 years of experience in the advertising video-on-demand space.

Disney has also been working on its advertising technology platform for over a year, investing nine figures in strengthening its tech capabilities.

In March, the company inked another adtech deal with Horizon Media to measure ads.

As the streaming advertising landscape becomes more competitive, The Trade Desk partnership surfaces just as Disney is working on its ad-supported tier for Disney+. Because this will work across Disney’s inventory and is designed to automate ad buying across channels and services, it makes sense that Disney+’s forthcoming ad-supported tier would be included in the future. However, the company is not currently commenting on that aspect of the new agreement at this time.

Netflix is also in talks with ad tech businesses. Last month, Business Insider reported that Roku employees were discussing a merger with Netflix, which could provide the streaming service with a well-tested video adtech stack. Names such as Google, Amazon and The Trade Desk have been swirling around in the rumor pool as well.