The Advantages of using Server-Side Ad Insertion for VoD Delivery

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The amount of video accessed online, particularly by mobile devices, is expanding exponentially, and there is an associated need to maximise the monetisation of the streams by delivering ads across multiple device types with a uniformity of presentation and minimum of overhead.

Server-Side Ad Insertion (SSAI) has emerged as a technology solution that can deliver a consistent experience akin to TV, at the same time as opening up addressable advertising opportunities. This consistency is a by-product of the ‘ad copy normalisation’ that is built into SSAI, providing  ad content that is encoded with the same bitrates, frame rates and audio levels as those of the original content, and ensuring a technical compatibility between primary and stitched content (with the same CDN being loaded for both content and ads).

SSAI technology is already being used with increasing success by broadcasters to deliver a seamless, engaging Live experience.  It therefore makes sense to use it for VoD streaming as well. However, the principal means of monetisation for catch-up remains Client-Side Ad Insertion (CSAI), where, at the start of every ad break, the primary player has to be stopped and the ad player put on top, with the primary player having to be resumed at the end of the break.

It is, of course, possible for broadcasters to deliver a near-seamless experience using this model, by pre-loading the ad player and buffer in the background and swapping the players over at the exact moments when an ad break starts and resumes. However, there is always the risk of playback issues caused by inconsistent encoding of the ad copy. In addition, considerable effort is required in terms of implementation, with code having to be continuously duplicated from one device type to another, and from one environment to another, with the inevitable testing and maintenance overhead to achieve this result consistently across devices.

Many of those broadcasters of VoD streams who have a working CSAI solution in place are finding it increasingly hard to maintain, so there is a growing interest in the SSAI approach. This is partly driven by positive experiences of SSAI for Live, where CSAI is not an option owing to the strict requirements around ad break timings.  There are a number of reasons why SSAI should appeal to broadcasters over CSAI:

  • Implementation. The code is decoupled from the ad server, with the work on stitching and interfacing to the ad server being performed by the backend SSAI platform, giving an overall flexibility in that the inventory and decisioning engine is abstracted from the actual delivery. SDKs have also been developed, which means that there is effectively a middleware layer, with the SDKs talking to the backend, and the backend talking to the ad server, making it possible to swap out the ad server without changes to the SDKs.
  • Control. There can be a single point for all ad insertion calls across Live and VoD, a single interface providing access to a single set of Broadcast Streams, Promotions and VoD assets, and a single API providing real-time analytics.
  • The aforementioned SDKs can support the use of clickable linear content and dynamic overlays, and also allow broadcasters to customise the instances when skipping, seeking and pausing are allowed.
  • Ad blockers. The stitching used by SSAI mean that ad blockers are unable to decipher where the call to the server is being made, and so cannot differentiate between an ad and the content itself, making SSAI highly resistant to ad blocking.

Besides being able to deliver SSAI at scale and to provide all of the existing benefits of configurable user interactivity, SSAI has enormous security benefits, which cannot be totally covered in this article. In brief:

  • With SSAI, the aforementioned middleware layer affords control over the systems with which viewers are interacting. By contrast, with CSAI, the viewer’s device is touching the ad server and presenting its IP address (and potentially other information). The first party ad server might, in turn, involve the use of multiple third party servers and expose the same viewers to being tracked by unknown companies, to the possible detriment of a broadcaster’s commercial model.

With the correct deployment, there is no logical reason why broadcasters should not consider SSAI when deploying VoD streams. As OTT audiences for Live and VoD continue to thrive, providers are increasingly likely to seek a joined-up SSAI strategy, and by so doing, not only safeguard their current ad revenues, but also enhance them.

The unique value of live streaming

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Live event streaming offers tremendous value for viewers – thus, tremendous value for advertisers. Events like the World Cup present golden opportunities for broadcasters to supercharge ad breaks and golden moments for brands to be seen at scale.

Live simulcast gaining pace

The number of viewers who live stream content is growing; even in the early group stages of the World Cup, live streaming figures exceeded those of Super Bowl by 40%, with Conviva recording a peak 7.7 million concurrent viewers. In the UK alone, a record 3.3 million requests were made to stream England’s dramatic penalties win against Colombia via ITV Hub.

This trend isn’t confined to live sports. Events like the Royal Wedding and Trump’s presidential inauguration all drew significant online audiences, illustrating a diversity in event-based live viewing.

And why not? Live simulcast is now a valued part of the fan experience, and one which can be enhanced with added extras, like watching and syncing content on multiple devices, scrub control and interactive features.

Commanding hearts, minds, and eyeballs

Live events and, in particular, sports, command the hearts and minds (and eyeballs) of viewers, and huge rights sums from major broadcasters. Viewers expect to see premium quality content with advertising that is delivered seamlessly, frame-accurately and without interrupting or disrupting the live stream, regardless of the type of device they are watching on.

And when broadcasters deliver on expectations? You get vast audience numbers who are engaged for a specific reason, at a specific time, creating a hugely valuable opportunity for advertisers to achieve mass reach at a single point in time, with the accuracy that digital measurement can bring.  This is something that brands simply can’t achieve anywhere else, whether it’s a leading social media service or AVOD platform.

BT Sport recognised this opportunity and has been using Yospace’s DAI technology since 2016 to monetise live sports. Jeremy Rosenberg, Head Of Advertising Partnerships TV at BT perfectly sums this up: “Audience and reach is paramount to any advertiser.  It is about appointment to view and I would say that reaching that at such a high level where people are engaged is paramount compared to other platforms out there that give you a very short attention span from a content perspective.”

A golden opportunity

Audience reach is great for advertisers, but how can broadcasters manage this scale? In live OTT all viewers go to an ad break at the same time, putting huge strain on an ad server which will have to manage a bombardment of ad requests: during a football match an ad server could be stone-cold for 45 minutes, until a half-time break unleashes millions of simultaneous ad requests.

BT Sport is just one name to have scored with scale-management: the broadcaster recently completed its second full season of Premier League and Champions League football with addressable DAI. Yospace’s pre-fetch system – a core component of scaling addressable DAI – ensures calls to the ad server are paced over a longer period so the ad server isn’t overloaded and the broadcaster can ensure maximum fill-rates. All of this must be achieved without affecting the viewer experience, of course.

Read more about the BT Sport project in our case study.

Other broadcasters are in a strong position to do the same. Live events continue to command huge numbers of engaged viewers who expect a high quality viewer experience. Investing in advanced ad tech translates this engagement into valuable opportunities for broadcasters, who’ll be able to open up new ad inventory, and to advertisers who are keen to capitalise on the unique appointment-to-view experience: “You can’t get that anywhere else,” concludes Rosenberg.

Jeremy Rosenberg was speaking at the Future TV Advertising event in London in December 2017.

Delivering a world-class World Cup experience

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The World Cup kicks off this week: cue blanket media coverage and scores of football puns. We’ll of course be following the tournament’s progress, but will be keeping an even closer eye on how the world streams – and how broadcasters monetise – live content.

Our server-side DAI technology is being used by multiple broadcasters across four continents to monetise the 2018 World Cup, with every viewer worldwide delivered a one-to-one addressable live stream.

Major live events have driven huge innovation in the live OTT arena, particularly in monetisation and scale.  Yospace has developed an advanced system to pace ad requests, called pre-fetch, which lessens the load on ad servers during those moments when all viewers go to an ad break simultaneously – an innovation which earned Yospace a Sports Technology Award recently with BT Sport.

When it comes to monetisation of live events, scale is of course becoming increasingly important.  In 2016, a record 2.3 million people live-streamed England’s Euro 2016 win over Wales, via the BBC Sport website; more than doubling the channel’s previous audience number. This figure contributed to (another) record-breaking 14.6 million unique visitors who live-streamed Euro content on the site on a single day.  It is widely expected that these figures will be eclipsed during the World Cup.

In fact, we expect live streaming records to be broken this Summer by all host broadcasters in the UK: BBC, ITV and STV.  The latter two monetise their streams using Yospace’s server-side DAI.

On a global scale, a brief glance at Akamai’s figures are further proof of the increasing popularity of live sports streaming amongst fans: from the maximum peak traffic of 1.4Tbs generated by 2012’s Superbowl, which leaps to peak traffic of 6.9Tbp for 2014’s football World Cup.

Earlier this year Akamai set a global streaming record of 10.3 million concurrent viewers for a VIVO Indian Premier League match – another record that could well be broken in the next few weeks.  Yospace expect to break concurrency records for personalised SSAI, too.

While scale will no doubt be the focus of industry headlines, the sub-plot of the story is viewer experience and reliability.  Advertisements must be seamlessly integrated into a live stream to ensure a true TV-quality experience for millions of football fans, and – for broadcasters monetising content and advertisers relying on its success – form a frictionless component of the end-to-end delivery mechanism for live sports streaming.

Football – as with most sports – is unpredictable.  Whilst this delivers edge-of-your-seat viewing experiences to fans, these nervous moments must be the result of the outcome of the match, not the outcome of a poor viewing experience.

We’ll steer clear of predicting the winners and losers amongst this year’s World Cup qualifying teams, but one thing Yospace can reliably predict is the quality of end-user experience for many of the millions of viewers who’ll be going OTT in the coming weeks. And in turn, scoring wins for advertisers and broadcasters alike.

 

Award wins celebrate latest innovations in SSAI

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Yospace enjoyed a great start to the industry’s awards season last month, winning at both the Sports Technology Awards and The Connies, with BT Sport and Medialaan respectively.

The STA was awarded for monetising a full season of top-flight sport with server-side dynamic ad insertion.  The significance of that achievement cannot be understated.  Viewers are moving online and a reliable and scalable monetisation system is central to any broadcasters’ long-term aspirations.

Achieving scale with major live events can be particularly challenging, especially when applying any advanced level of addressability.  Yospace‘s platform provides true personalisation – that is, ad calls and measurement for each user session.  In a live stream, unlike VoD, all viewers go to an ad break simultaneously so catering for millions of ad calls is incredibly important.

Yospace developed innovative new approaches to pacing ad requests and managing peak traffic, which allows concurrent audiences to grow into the millions – all receiving DAI-enabled streams, all personalised.

The system was also successfully integrated into BT Sport’s enhanced player provided by Deltatre which allowed viewers to scrub back to important moments in a match without affecting the ability of the broadcaster to monetise.  This was only possible due to the fact that each viewer received their own personalised stream.

This last point brings me onto the Medialaan project, for which dynamic ad insertion was one part of a full stream management system that Yospace provided (not “just” SSAI).  Each viewer watching a live stream was able to scrub back to an earlier point in the channel’s timeline, switching seamlessly from live to catch-up, or “startover”, as we call it.

A viewer in startover mode is served with shorter ad breaks so they can catch up with the live channel.  And if they’re delivered an ad break that they’ve already seen then they’re free to skip it – thus reducing ad load in order to improve viewer experience.  In doing this, Medialaan were specifically catering for the next generation of viewer.

I’m very pleased that Medialaan’s forward-thinking approach has been recognised with an award. It also offered Yospace the perfect platform to demonstrate what our one-to-one DAI technology can do.

Combined with the BT Sport award, Yospace is able to show off its ability to support the three central pillars of 21stcentury broadcasting:

Viewer experience. Monetisation.  Scale.

Seven Report 66% YOY Growth for Live Simulcast at FTVA Australia

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Yospace sponsored Mediatel’s inaugural Future TV Advertising Forum in Sydney last month and were very pleased to be associated with such a strong event for broadcasters and advertisers alike.

Our CTO and Founder David Springall co-presented a case study with James Bayes, Digital Sales Director – OTT Video at Seven West Media at the event.  Seven launched Dynamic Ad Insertion for live simulcast with Yospace for the Australian Open in January 2017 and reported a 68% year-on-year increase in streamed minutes for this year’s event.  There were 107.5m total streamed minutes across the fortnight this year, with 10.6m of those on the Men’s Final day alone.

James also reported figures for the Superbowl (viewing minutes up 65% YOY), Olympic Winter Games (57.3m total live streamed minutes) and 2017 Melbourne Cup, which generated a 66% YOY increase in streamed minutes (11m in total), with a 22% increase in the number of users.  These figures demonstrate that significantly more people are streaming live content from one year to the next, and for longer too.

This growth, of course, has a positive impact on the amount of addressable inventory the broadcaster is able to open up.  James summed up the broadcaster’s attitude to online viewing and the requirement to be forward-thinking when it comes to monetisation.

“When does a stream become a river?  It’s irrefutable to think that the primary distribution method that we’re going to be experiencing in the future around video is going to be IP-delivered.  Preparing for that future of IP-delivered video content and the opportunity it creates around addressability is something that we all need to start working on and start investing in.”

He also described why live DAI in OTT streams is so appealing for advertisers.

“Premium, long-form, scripted, brand-safe video content delivered on the biggest and best screens that there are.  That’s an amazing opportunity for brands.”

“One live stream, one moment in time, multiple users all delivered a personalised advertising experience…everybody seeing a different ad based upon their profile data that they shared with us when they registered and signed in, and then coming back and everybody sharing that same linear experience.”

Thanks to James and Seven for co-presenting with us, and thanks to Mediatel for organising another excellent addition to it’s FTVA series.

You can watch the full presentation here (registration required):
https://www.ustream.tv/recorded/113134288

 

Why addressable advertising is dependent on centralised ad copy

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Yospace recently presented a paper with Adstream called “Translating Broadcast Ad Copy Principles to the Dynamic Ad Insertion Age” at the excellent Streaming Tech Sweden event.  A video of the presentation was published this week and you can watch it here.

The paper calls for a centralised system for managing and delivering ad copy online.  In the traditional broadcast world ad copy is centrally managed to help ensure that:

1) Audio and video levels are up to standard
2) All ad creatives are rights-cleared and their contents is logged
3) There is reliable and effective measurement of ad views

These principles need to be carried across to the online world if broadcast channels are to continue to be the primary home for big advertiser spending.  There is also a huge amount of revenue potential in data-driven advertising and programmatic workflows, but the potential can only be realised if there is a centralised system for managing ad copy, metadata and measurement.

Find out more and download the paper here.

 

Reflections on 2017: Another Bumper Year

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It’s been another busy year here at Yospace. Many happy returns to all our customers, partners and everyone we’ve worked with or met with in 2017.

Here are some of the many highlights of a memorable year:

Customer launches
We were delighted to add 8 customer launches to further grow our global footprint for live DAI.

We also agreed a long-term extension with BT Sport, ensuring that Yospace will continue to monetise all the biggest commercial sporting events in the UK.

Major events
Australian Open
6 Nations
Premier League (full season)
Champions League (full season)
T20 cricket
Rugby League World Cup

Awards
We were delighted to be recognised again at Mediatel’s Connected Consumer Awards (with Sky Media) and Digital TV Europe’s Content Innovation Awards (with BT Sport).  We were the first company to win at the CIAs two years running – a fantastic achievement!

Future of live and linear video
This research programme, conducted with MTM across Europe and the US, asks broadcasters what needs to be done to compete effectively with the major internet companies for ad spend online.
Download the findings here

Ad copy management
We presented a paper at NAB that called for a centralised approach to the management, delivery and measurement of ad copy in the digital world.  This will surely become an even bigger topic for discussion in 2018.
Download the paper here

We’re looking forward to catching up in the new year.  In Q1 we’ll be at CES, Future TV Advertising Forum Sydney and NAB – contact us if you’d like to meet.

See you in 2018!

Champions League Final caps a fantastic season for DAI

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Saturday’s UEFA Champions League Final was the premier sporting event of the year.  It marked the culmination of a football season in which Yospace’s Dynamic Ad Insertion platform enabled monetisation across the Premier League, UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League.

As a football fan it doesn’t come any bigger than the final of the Champions League.  It’s one of those events that viewers tune into no matter who they support, and the match rarely lets viewers down. Two giants of the game, in Real Madrid and Juventus, going head-to-head: one showing off the talents of the best player in the world; the other going on to score one of the all-time great team goals.

It’s easy to see why live sport is so important to a lot of broadcaster’s plans and, with the increasing number of viewers watching online, why a reliable, user-friendly online monetisation method is essential.

Come half time at a major event like the Champions League Final, we see national TV audiences go to an ad break at exactly the same moment, with a separate ad call being made on behalf of each streaming session. It’s fantastic to be able to prove the scalability of addressable DAI across multiple platforms so emphatically. I’m delighted that all our hard work is paying off.

Yospace has come a long way since our first major sports event (the Winter Olympics in 2014) and in a very short period. It’s an exciting time for the company, and I’m delighted to have so many major broadcasters across the globe on board. We’re already looking forward to next season – one in which our platform is to be used on an even larger scale.  More on that to come!

Live Streaming Gathers Momentum

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Akamai has announced that online coverage of Friday’s Presidential Inauguration broke its live streaming records, with peak live video streaming consumption registered at a mammoth 8.7 Tbps. This is the latest in a run of similar announcements over the last six months that show the growth of live streaming has really picked up momentum.

It’s a very different picture to just a few years ago, when many were predicting the ultimate demise of live television.  There’s no denying that sport and news are the main drivers behind the recent surge, but what stands out is just how much major event television is available online now.

An obvious example is football coverage. Major domestic and European matches are streamed across the UK week in, week out.  The range of online-only subscription packages available has opened the door to a new audience that wouldn’t otherwise commit to subscription TV.  Ever-improving streaming quality is a big factor, too, as is the huge range of content available.  For example, BT Sport streams every single Champions League match, opening up a huge amount of action that was previously unavailable to watch live.

Underpinning these developments is the broadcasters’ ability to monetise online channels – it’s no coincidence that the use of Dynamic Ad Insertion technology has also risen sharply over the last twelve months or so. BT Sport would find it a lot harder to justify the cost of securing Champions League football if they weren’t able to apply advertising.

Looking forward, there are many events coming up that will see live streaming audiences continue to grow.  The 6 Nations rugby kicks off across Europe next month, followed almost straight away by the culmination of the football season.  In the news there are two major European elections to come, plus, of course, the never-ending news cycle that swarms around the newly appointed President Trump. I expect Akamai will see its live streaming record broken again fairly soon.

*http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/inauguration-sets-record-for-live-video-streaming-of-news-event-on-akamai-300394284.html