What do you mean by “addressable advertising?”

Is this just another way for your pay-TV company to violate your privacy? Maybe just a little, but it’s not a bad thing. DIRECTV and DISH have recently rolled out what they call “addressable advertising platforms.” What does that mean to you in your everyday life? Probably nothing, and maybe something not so bad.

“Addressable advertising” means that not every customer sees the same ads. You may see ads tailored to your location, your age, your viewing preferences, anything. DIRECTV and DISH have both been working hard for years to help national channels show relevant ads to local markets. Small cable operators have no problems showing local ads because they have local distribution points in every city, but this has always been a problem for satellite TV. They’ve solved this problem by storing commercial content on your DVR’s hard drive and inserting it into your programs without you even noticing. A DVR can even serve ads to other receivers in your home.

How do they know what ads to serve? It can be something as simple as knowing where you live, which is information that they already have. However, you may also have opted in, allowed your satellite TV company to collect data on your viewing habits. If you have, then they have a fairly good idea of what you watch and because of that, they can probably guess your age, gender, and some of your habits.

That data is very valuable to advertisers who want to find a way to spend their money on ads that get to the right people. The data that’s collected is anonymized (any information that could identify you personally is removed) and then your pay-TV company goes to advertisers and says, “hey… do you want to reach 55-year-old men? We can do that.”

Here’s the important question you’re asking… “how can this possibly be any benefit to me?” Remember that these channels serve ads anyway and any money that your pay-TV company gets from advertisers is money they don’t need to get from you. So it does keep your bill lower and if you don’t like ads, just forward through them.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.