Global Connected TV (CTV) programmatic ad spend continues to soar, rising 32% year-over-year, according to Pixalate’s latest estimates. However, this rapid growth also raises concerns regarding the apps on which these ads appear.
One of the most underreported challenges relates to “sideloaded apps,” which are apps that are downloaded and installed via an alternate means, instead of the device’s official app store. This is an area advertisers need to pay particularly close attention to, especially on Amazon Fire TV devices, which allow sideloaded apps.
Key Takeaways from Pixalate’s Q3 2022 Sideloaded CTV Apps Report
Pixalate has published the list of the top 25 most popular sideloaded CTV apps, based on programmatic ad volume in Q3 2022.
In our September 2022 report - “CTV’s Bundle ID Crisis” we described the problematic state of Bundle IDs in the CTV ad ecosystem and how we map them to various platforms. Identifying traffic directed to apps that are not part of the app store is also crucial. In fact, sideloaded apps are factored into our Amazon Fire TV Seller Trust Index, in which we introduced a new score category (Sideloaded Score) in 2021.
What is a sideloaded app?
A sideloaded app is an app from an unofficial and unmoderated location that can be manually added to various CTV platforms by a user. According to Pixalate’s data, this is primarily done on CTV platforms that are based on an Android operating system.
Pixalate has been tracking these kinds of apps since last year, when we noticed apps that did not have an app store presence on a specific platform but appeared to be real in every other way. But these apps are potentially unsafe as described in the next section, which is why we worked on a methodology to regularly track and identify these apps -
Why are sideloaded apps an advertising problem?
While there are a few legitimate use cases, the common reasons a user may install a sideloaded app are to access an app that may not have been made available on that platform’s app store, or to access free content which is oftentimes pirated, and usually unmoderated. Advertisers typically do not want their ads adjacent to illegal pirated content. They also do not want adjacency with unmoderated content that may not be brand safe.
Beyond that, since the apk files for the sideloaded apps are unmoderated, they may contain additional packages that operate in the background and have unexpected behaviors, including malware and bots that generate fraudulent ad traffic.
One of the legitimate scenarios we want to highlight is what we call “Closed Network Apps.” These are custom apps that are manually added to a CTV platform by a publisher/company that has direct relationships with publishers for content, and sells these devices/apps preloaded to users/businesses. Examples could be CTV sets that are set up in grocery stories, restaurants and other businesses that show music videos, sports, etc. These require additional due diligence to check the validity of the content as well as inventory/target audiences.
A note about sideloaded apps and app-ads.txt
One of the interesting aspects of seeing advertising on sideloaded apps (especially those that are not just ports of existing valid apps from other Android platforms) is that sideloaded apps do not have any app-ads.txt. This is because app-ads.txt requires an app store presence. This is interesting because it appears that there is a lot of traffic where sellers are not being verified.
CTV device types impacted by sideloaded apps
Amazon Fire TV devices are powered by an Android-based operating system, which makes it relatively easy for consumers to install other Android-based apps on the CTV devices (for example, apps from their phone). This is also true of other Android-based operating systems.
Pixalate has seen sideloaded apps across 100+ CTV platforms, but Amazon Fire TV is one of the more popular ones and is likely why it appears to be a common device used for sideloading apps. In Q3 2022, we saw over half the video impression ads served on sideloaded apps coming from Amazon Fire TV devices.
Here are the top five device platforms we have seen impacted by sideloaded apps (based on programmatic ad impressions, as measured by Pixalate):
Top Sideloaded Apps (across all platforms)
Here are the top five sideloaded apps we have seen (based on programmatic ad impressions on CTV devices, as measured by Pixalate):
Download the top 25 sideloaded apps on Amazon Fire TV and other platforms free today.
If you are interested in more insights like these from Pixalate, across desktop, mobile and CTV devices, please reach out to us using this contact form.
The content of this press release, and the CTV Bundle IDs Report (the “Report”), reflect Pixalate's opinions with respect to factors that Pixalate believes may be useful to the digital media industry. Pixalate’s opinions are just that, opinions, which means that they are neither facts nor guarantees; and neither this press release nor the Report are intended to impugn the standing or reputation of any entity, person or app, but instead, to report findings and apparent trends pertaining to CTV apps from the Roku and Amazon Fire TV app stores.
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Disclaimer: The content of this page reflects Pixalate’s opinions with respect to the factors that Pixalate believes can be useful to the digital media industry. Any proprietary data shared is grounded in Pixalate’s proprietary technology and analytics, which Pixalate is continuously evaluating and updating. Any references to outside sources should not be construed as endorsements. Pixalate’s opinions are just that - opinion, not facts or guarantees.
Per the MRC, “'Fraud' is not intended to represent fraud as defined in various laws, statutes and ordinances or as conventionally used in U.S. Court or other legal proceedings, but rather a custom definition strictly for advertising measurement purposes. Also per the MRC, “‘Invalid Traffic’ is defined generally as traffic that does not meet certain ad serving quality or completeness criteria, or otherwise does not represent legitimate ad traffic that should be included in measurement counts. Among the reasons why ad traffic may be deemed invalid is it is a result of non-human traffic (spiders, bots, etc.), or activity designed to produce fraudulent traffic.”