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Four Characteristics of Identity for Streaming Media

Four Characteristics of Identity for Streaming Media

The concept of identity was thrust to the fore of advertising because of mobile device ID restrictions, pending cookie deprecation, an evolving regulatory landscape and the growth of non-cookie-based channels like streaming media.

The goal of identity is to enable omnichannel, people-based segmentation, targeting, activation and measurement. Identity works by connecting individuals and households to the devices and applications they use to engage with media. Marketers then associate attributes like demographic characteristics, interests and behaviors to those individuals and households.

In an increasingly fragmented media landscape, marketers and media companies rely on identity to execute effective, coordinated people-based advertising across streaming and other channels.

If you’re looking for resources to understand the connected home and streaming media opportunities across connected TV (CTV), audio, in-game advertising and more, download our Streaming Media Guide.

The average US adult is connected to roughly a dozen devices, many of which are used for streaming. These devices use identity keys — signals enabling linkages between devices, consumers and datasets — the building blocks of identity graphs.

According to eMarketer, US adults increased time spent with digital media in 2020 by 15% YoY. Time spent with over-the-top (OTT) and CTV increased more than 30%.  With connected TV and streaming audio growth holding stronginvestments in identity solutions are coming from many enterprises: buyers like ad agencies; sellers including publishers, platforms and device makers; and legacy desktop/mobile identity providers.

But not all identity graphs are created equal — especially when it comes to streaming media where resolving signals to people is particularly complex:

  • Signature streaming devices like connected TVs, game consoles and smart speakers are cookieless.
  • While some streaming devices have unique identifiers, many do not.
  • Devices in the streaming world are both household-based like CTVs and smart speakers and personal like tablets and smartphones.


Without an accurate, scaled understanding of streaming identity that works across the ecosystem, segmentation, targeting, activation and measurement can suffer.

What the industry lacks is a common infrastructure by which to translate and transact against identity to drive omnichannel reach across streaming and other addressable media. While individual ID graphs and unique identifiers are important pieces, marketers ultimately need an identity layer to underpin all the connection points they use. Such a layer must be powered by an ID solution with these features:

  1. Massive scale: In the fragmented world of streaming TV, even the most popular CTV apps and devices only cover a fraction of the US population and may only key to specific devices. Without an identity graph covering close to the entire population of streaming audiences and most streaming devices, data-driven audience targeting will always be limited in terms of reach and inventory actuation.
  2. An precise understanding of individual and household identity: A good identity graph must correctly associate people and households to the more than dozen streaming devices in the connected home. Legacy, cookie-based device graphs connect devices to individuals, probabilistically grouping individuals to form households — compromising accuracy for household-based targeting on addressable media like CTV. Learn more here about these differences, and how device graphs lead to trade-offs.
  3. Interoperability: As marketers, agencies, platforms and CTV providers all invest in their own ID graphs and identifiers, an identity solution must be interoperable with many of these solutions to create pathways into walled gardens and enable campaign consistency. Not all graphs cover the same identity keys. The more signals in a graph, the greater compatibility with other datasets, increasing potential reach for advertisers.
  4. Connectivity: If your audience scales but can’t be activated in the places where consumers are streaming, it has little value. Identity providers must be integrated with both programmatic and publisher-direct inventory sources so buyers can activate audiences across the streaming landscape with speed and ease.


Each of these components is key to understanding the power of an identity solution and enabling marketing use cases like onboarding, segmentation, targeting, activation and measurement. Each use case can require a match point along the path to campaign execution, and that can further erode audience scale. An identity provider that meets all these criteria is key to creating the common identity language that drives campaign ROI.

TransUnion’s identity graphs include 98% of US adults and 80 million US connected households. Unlike device graphs, our three-dimensional view of identity — across people, homes and devices — is deterministically grounded. And our patented, multikeyed household graph was built for streaming. The Data Marketplace is an open platform with connectivity that delivers power to the places it matters — across major demand-side platforms (DSPs) and supply-side platforms (SSPs). Media buyers can push segments to virtually any publisher or activation point, increasing campaign scale while maintaining targeting consistency. This proprietary asset sits at the core of our connected media solutions, powering deterministically grounded, at-scale targeting.  

To learn more about the TruAudience® Data Marketplace (formerly Tru Optik) and understand major shifts happening in connected media, download the Streaming Media Advertising Guide.

If you’re a consumer with questions or issues related to your personal credit report, drivers history report, disputes, fraud, identity theft, credit report freeze or credit monitoring services, please visit our Customer Support Center for assistance.

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