NAB 2019: Viewer Experience

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Three days down and less than one to go.  The voice is hoarse and the legs are tired but it’s been great to catch up with so many customers, prospects, partners and friends.  There’s a real change in the depth of detail of our conversations compared to previous years and it’s reassuring to hear people talk so highly of Yospace for server-side ad insertion, especially in a field where there is increasing competition.

I was very pleased to hear someone say today: “yes they do SSAI but they’re no Yospace.”  

For the last day we’re focussing our attention on some of the customer projects that have helped us earn our strong reputation…

Reducing ad load

The rise of OTT has seen many broadcasters urgently need to monetise online, and the challenge of retaining an audience has meant that a number of broadcasters have moved to reduce advertising with longer term benefits in mind. This is exactly what our customer Medialaan did on its live streams. The innovative European broadcaster allowed viewers on its Stievie service were able to rewind a live stream then receive shorter ad breaks to allow them to catch up with the live programming sooner.

The result was more engaged viewers, longer viewing sessions, and ultimately more ad breaks viewed.  Read about this more in our Medialaan case study.

Enhanced player support

The challenge of scaling live sports and their unpredictability demands any advertising system employed by a broadcaster to be both robust and versatile. Typically up to 90% of viewers tune into a football game within five minutes of kick-off, and it’s in situations like this that our pre-fetch system is crucial (read more about this in our Day One blog).

In addition to this, our SSAI enabled the broadcaster to monetise streams within an enhanced player and deliver on its ambitions to put the viewer front and centre of the action. Read more here.

Seven case study

Australian broadcaster Seven live streamed all 16 courts of the Australian Open.  Thanks to Yospace’s ability to feed back live telemetry data, Seven was able to prioritise the advertising based on the state of play of each court at any one time.

Find out more about this project in our Seven case study.

NAB 2019: MPEG-DASH and CMAF

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This year we’re using each day of the show to promote a different element of our platform.  We’ll be sharing content on Twitter and LinkedIn too, so make sure you follow us to get all the latest updates.

Two days down and my colleague tells me we’re now exactly 54.8% of the way through the show.  Being at an event full of engineers I shouldn’t be surprised that someone’s actually developed an app for that.  Despite tired legs and croaking voice, there’s a buzz about NAB that makes me look forward to day three.  The speed with which conversations on concepts turn into new technologies means a show like NAB is always interesting.

Our main theme for tomorrow is SSAI support for MPEG-DASH and CMAF – two areas that have developed significantly in the last twelve months.

SSAI for MPEG-DASH

There’s been a lot of talk in the industry about MPEG-DASH.  Yospace was the first vendor to announce server-side ad insertion (SSAI) support for MPEG-DASH and isone of the only vendors today that has live customer services using it, so we’re in a strong position to talk from a point of experience.

The ecosystem for supporting MPEG-DASH is still relatively immature in terms of players, encoders and packagers.  Behind this is the fact that the specification for MPEG-DASH doesn’t specify exactly how an MPD should be expressed to support SSAI.  Read the thoughts of our Founder & CTO in this blog post.

CMAF

At 3.30pm our Founder & CTO David Springall will be presenting on the Bitmovin booth.  He’ll be discussing our integration points as well as server-side ad insertion for CMAF.  There’ll be an accompanying blog post – so check our Twitter and LinkedIn profiles to access it.

Have a great day 3 of NAB.  Click here to book a meeting or pop by SU3414 – it will be good to see you.

NAB 2019: Server-Side Ad Insertion for VoD

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This year we’re using each day of the show to promote a different element of our platform.  We’ll be sharing content on Twitter and LinkedIn too, so make sure you follow us to get all the latest updates.

Day one, tick.  The show got off to a great start and we’ve had some really good discussions on scaling SSAI and maximising the potential of programmatic for live streams.  It’s a far cry from just a few years ago when most meetings would start with: “so what is server-side ad insertion??”

It’s pleasing now that most people we meet already know the answer to this question and are keen to get into the details of the technology.  We’re finding that discussions around consistency of viewer experience, measurement and data security are becoming more and more popular.

Harnessing the power of SSAI for VoD is our focus for day two at NAB.  Over the past year, we’ve seen a considerable increase in operators and MVPDs implementing SSAI for VoD to deliver viewing experience consistency throughout their device platforms.

Why is there a move towards Server-Side Ad Insertion for VoD?

In this article for TV Technology, Yospace’s Founder & CTO David Springall discusses why SSAI technology, which has been a staple of live monetisation for a number of years, is also proving to be a popular way of monetising VoD due to factors such as viewer experience, ease of maintenance and data security.

Data security is an especially important topic.  As operators and MVPDs increasingly rely on their first-party data to maximize ad revenues, having an effective middleware layer (SSAI) between the client and the ad server is crucial in protecting user data and preventing them from being re-targeted.

Total Video for TV4 pays dividends

Swedish innovator TV4 is an example of a broadcaster that’s making the most of a joined up live and VoD monetization strategy.  The broadcaster has recently agreed an extension with us to provide server-side ad insertion (SSAI) across its TV Everywhere service, TV4Play.

Mathias Berg, COO at TV4 Group said: “For the last couple of years TV4 has relentlessly been driving our business from a traditional linear ad model to a truly platform agnostic experience for both users and advertisers.  Part of this journey has been to enable us to capture and monetise on our digital inventory in all potential channels using all data available. As a result of a successful implementation of this strategy TV4 delivered its best financial result in terms of turnover and profitability in the history of the company in 2018.”

As a leader in the broadcast space that’s continued to reinvent itself, TV4 was one of the first broadcasters that recognised the value in using SSAI to monetize VoD.  Read this blog post to learn more about the company’s digital journey with SSAI.

Have a great day 2 of NAB.  Click here to book a meeting or pop by SU3414 – it will be good to see you.

NAB Day 1: Scaling programmatic for live events

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By Paul Davies, Marketing & Communications at Yospace

Welcome to Las Vegas.  Despite being home to a hundred resorts and 150,000 hotel rooms, it feels like I know everyone here during NAB week – whether it’s bumping into a customer in the cab queue or taking a table next to a tech partner – the broadcast engineering industry seems to take over the city during the event.

This year we’ll be using each day of the show to discuss a different element of server-side ad insertion (SSAI), so be sure to check here after each show day.  We’ll be sharing relevant content on Twitter and LinkedIn too, so keep an eye on our profiles.

Our focus for the first day of NAB is scaling programmatic for major live events.  In order to maximise ad revenues, programmatic systems need adequate time to respond in a major live event set up, and this need is especially apparent in a low latency environment.

Programmatic vs. Low Latency

The ability to scale live SSAI and to plan for future scale, in an environment where all viewers see an ad break at the same time, is really important but is made more complex as there are two opposing forces at play:

  1. The need to allow programmatic platforms the time they need to respond to fully realise the value of the ad inventory
  2. Low latency support, which shortens the time available to the programmatic ecosystem

To maximise the revenue opportunity, it’s necessary to make ad decisioning calls in an orderly fashion way ahead of the actual break taking place.  Our prefetch system allows ad calls to be made early, allowing the time needed to return a full pod of ads for each viewer, and this is a crucial element of our offering that we’ve been sharing with visitors to our booth at the show.

You can read more in this blog post.

For a more in-depth explanation read our white paper.

Prebidding

Once you have prefetch in place you can plan for advanced programmatic; the next opportunity to explore is prebidding.  Prebidding replicates the benefits of web header bidding for video.  By calling all supply-side platforms simultaneously, we can inform the ad server of the responses to help it make an informed decision on which ads to place and ensure the highest available CPM can be secured.

Read more in this blog post.

Have a great opening day of NAB.  Click here to book a meeting on our booth (SU3414).

Partnering with a pioneer – a history of innovation with TV4

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By Paul Davies, Marketing & Communications at Yospace

Swedish broadcaster TV4 has long been a leader in the broadcast space, from going digital in the noughties and its early adoption of server-side ad insertion (SSAI) technology, to forming key partnerships with broadcasters and operators to grow its audience and boost ad revenue.

TV4’s innovative approach is paying off, too.  In the press release that announced the renewal of its contract with Yospace, the company’s COO Mathias Berg revealed that the company achieved its highest ever revenue in 2018.  He credited the ability to provide a platform-agnostic experience for advertisers across all video as a key factor, an experience that is enabled by SSAI.

TV4’s record earnings, at SEK 1,382 million (€112,537,903), were up 35.2% on 2017, making it one of the most successful broadcasters on the continent.

How did the broadcaster achieve these heights?  And how did it use SSAI to carve out its route to a profitable future – for TV4, for advertisers, and for its audience?

Digital ad stitching

TV4’s forward-thinking approach was apparent when it became the first broadcaster in Sweden to implement SSAI, notably adopting the technology for both live and on demand content to deliver a  consistent TV quality viewing experience, with one to one addressability and ad measurement.

SSAI has allowed TV4 to unlock new revenue opportunities by allowing for consistent monetisation of all its content across all connected devices, and for viewer data to be harnessed to inform and deliver addressable advertising.  This is a sector which shows no signs of slowing, with addressable TV ad spend forecast to exceed $3 billion by the close of this year.

Reinvention and investment

TV4’s CEO Casten Almqvist recognised back in 2012 that in order to outstrip the competition in Sweden’s TV market, the network must “continue to reinvent” itself, investing in its digital service TV4Play, while continuing to focus on “breadth, diversity and quality” and producing “engaging TV for the whole country”.

This prompted TV4 to turn to SSAI soon after, which in turn paved the way for another innovative move last year.  A first in Sweden, TV4 collaborated with Telia, Discovery Networks and Modern Times Group (MTG) in March 2018 to launch a targeted advertising initiative on Telia’s Play service.  This delivers tailored advertising based on an individual’s location, the channel they’re watching, the kind of screen and the type of device they’re using to stream content.

Later the same year, TV4’s adoption of SSAI allowed it to secure distribution deals with other major distributors including Com Hem.

TV4 is clearly a pioneer, with a data-driven, viewer-first approach to growing its business and monetising content for the long-term, an approach that has been enabled by SSAI.  In fact, TV4 has precisely pinpointed its adoption of SSAI for helping it achieve that aforementioned record 2018, with Mathias Berg, COO at TV4 Group commenting that, “as a result of a successful implementation of this strategy TV4 delivered its best financial result in terms of turnover and profitability in the history of the company.”

And with the broadcaster continuing to innovate, then long may this continue.

Schedule a time to meet at NAB to find out more

Introduction to Prebidding for live streams

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By David Springall, Founder & CTO of Yospace.

In a previous post I discussed the concept of “prefetch” for live streams.  In this post I’m discussing “prebidding” which is an add-on to prefetch, so if you haven’t read the prefetch post yet I suggest you go through that first – you can find it here.

“Prebidding” is analogous to the concept of “h​eader bidding”, an approach to selecting advertising demand that has become very popular because of its ability to optimise advertising revenues on websites.  Header bidding allows advertisers to participate in an online auction for placement on the page while the page is being loaded.

In practical terms, individual advertisers do not participate in the auction, but instead bids are aggregated by systems called Supply-Side Platforms (SSPs) which in turn solicit bids from Demand-Side Platforms (DSPs).  It is with the DSP, that the advertiser (or their buying agent) establishes the commercial contract for payment on placement.

Until the concept of header bidding came along, a webpage would get advertisements from a first-party ad server (for example, DoubleClick for Publishers) which would be set-up to define a ‘pecking order’ of SSPs or DSPs that would be given the opportunity to place an ad.  If an SSP or DSP couldn’t place an ad, the next SSP/DSP in line would be given the opportunity.

There were a number of problems with this approach.  The first was that this cascade could simply take a long time to execute.  The second was that it didn’t reflect the fact that the best price could come back from any of the SSPs in the chain – only the first price above the publisher’s bid floor was used, not the best price.  And finally, the further down the pecking order an SSP/DSP would be the less insight into how many placement opportunities a given publisher was able to supply.

Having an accurate idea of how many placement opportunities a given publisher is making available is critical to optimising the bid responses.  Header bidding allows all SSPs or DSPs to be treated equally by calling to them simultaneously, rather than in a cascade, meaning the best price across all SSPs can be seen and everyone gets to see the placement opportunities and, importantly for the user experience, it’s faster.

Prebidding takes this concept of header bidding to video advertising inserted into a live broadcast stream.  In live streaming multiple ad breaks can be viewed by the same user during a single streaming session. This new logic exists inside the Yospace system that is responsible for delivering the stream to the user rather than the header of a web page, hence why the feature is named “prebidding” and not “header bidding”.

The system also solves another issue for the broadcaste, which is the separation of advertising by industry type.  If, for example, the first ad in an ad pod (ad break) is a first-party sold automotive ad, prebidding allows the ad server to ensure that no other automotive ad is included in that pod.  In addition, if an automotive ad comes back from the SSPs at a higher CPM than the first-party sold ad then the ad server could swap out the first-party sold ad, if the broadcaster configured it to do so.  Obviously, there are many nuances to where a broadcaster would want to prioritise higher-priced third party advertising over their own sold ads, but the technology would let them do this.

Until now a typical workflow for server-side ad insertion (SSAI) for live streams has looked like the first workflow here (1. Typical SSAI ad calls):

As you can see from the diagram, the ADS has not had visibility in advance of the SSP decisions.  It decides which ad in the pod are to be programmatic but without the foresight to know the CPM or content type of the programmatic ads that are to be stitched into the stream.

In the second diagram (2. Typical prebidding SSAI ad calls), prebidding allows the ADS to see the CPMs and ad types returned by SSPs in the ad call from the SSAI system (Yospace).  As a result the ADS is able to make a fully informed decision on which ads to place, resulting in realising the maximum value of the ad pod while ensuring an advertisers message is not diluted.

Schedule a time to meet at NAB to find out more

Server-Side Ad Insertion for MPEG-DASH

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By Olivier Cortambert, Product Manager at Yospace.

There’s been a lot of talk in the industry about MPEG-DASH and we’re finding that a number of our customers are turning to this protocol, and of those a number are looking to it as a means of implementing multi-platform DRM.

Yospace was the first vendor to announce server-side ad insertion (SSAI) support for MPEG-DASH and are one of the only vendors today that can boast live services.

The ecosystem for supporting MPEG-DASH is still relatively immature in terms of players, encoders and packagers.  Behind this is the fact that the specification for MPEG-DASH doesn’t specify exactly how an MPD should be expressed to support SSAI, while the DASH-IF has only made a recommendation which is not universally followed.

Compared to HLS, which provides a simple list of segments in its manifest files, MPEG-DASH lists a much more complex set of information which includes the exact presentation time of each segment.  This complexity and precision makes replacing segments a much more involved task.

In a traditional linear television environment ad breaks are usually pretty precise, but in digital this is not always the case.  The SSAI system may receive four 30-second ads from the ad server to fill a two minute ad break but find they are not actually 30 seconds to frame, meaning there may be a slight under run over overrun at the end of the break.  HLS handles these discrepancies in a much simpler manner than MPEG-DASH through the use of a simple holding slate.

To avoid gaps between period in MPEG-DASH (which would lead to a break/buffer of the playback experience) it is necessary to adjust the timing of every period (content and ad breaks).  MPEG-DASH requires that all levels must be expressed on every manifest update, and the XML format of the MPD is quite wordy, so the CPU required to support a manifest update in MPEG-DASH is greater and more bandwidth is required.  HLS, by contrast, uses a more terse expression syntax and the player only grabs the levels it is actually playing, ultimately making server-side ad insertion more expensive for MPEG-DASH than it is for HLS.

It’s also harder to match audio and video when the programming is time-shifted in this way due to the fact that they are digitised in different ways: audio is usually divided in 44000 or 48000 samples per second whereas video is divided into 25 or 50 frames per second.

While MPEG-DASH throws up some complexities for applying SSAI, they are by no means insurmountable and Yospace has proved this over the last 12 months.  We were the first SSAI vendor to announce support for MPEG-DASH, in March 2018, and the first to implement it in a live customer environment later that year.  Today we have several customers using MPEG-DASH with SSAI.

There does remain more expertise in supporting SSAI for HLS though, and we are seeing broadcasters start to explore the alternative of using HLS with CMAF, the Common Media Access Format.  HLS with CMAF maintains the simplicity of HLS (especially for SSAI) while many of the advantages provided by MPEG-DASH. I would actively encourage broadcasters to consider harmonising to CMAF fragments as they are now supported on Apple devices, and use MPEG-DASH as and when it is required.

Where there are devices that can support both MPEG-DASH and HLS+CMAF, careful consideration should be given as to what format is most suited to their in-house expertise.

Schedule a time to meet at NAB to find out more

Yospace at NAB: the latest developments in server-side ad insertion

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By Paul Davies, Marketing & Communications at Yospace

The 2019 NAB Show is fast approaching and we at Yospace are looking forward to exhibiting at the event for a seventh time.  Here’s a quick overview of what we’ll be talking about and our activity in and around the show.

We have a booth in the South Upper hall, number SU3414.  If you don’t have a meeting yet then click the link to request a time.  It will be good to see you.

Book a meeting

The focus of our show will be on two main topics: best practice for implementing server-side ad insertion (SSAI), and realising the ad revenue opportunities once SSAI is in place.

There will be four demo pods on the booth, two of which will be dedicated to best practice in implementing SSAI for live and VoD.

The other two will showcase some of the possibilities of what you can achieve once you have the right SSAI foundation in place.  

These will consist of a shared demo with programmatic specialist SpotX that looks at the concept of prebidding to achieve maximum ad value, and another, with Capella Systems, that will focus on how to scale up and monetise multiple channels during major live events.

Here’s what else will be happening during the show:

  • Yospace Founder and CTO David Springall will be speaking live to Akamai TV: Tuesday, 10.00am
  • David will also be speaking on the Bitmovin booth, discussing our joint support for HLS+fMP4 and integration with the Bitmovin player: Wednesday, 3.30pm
  • Unified Streaming Platform will be showcasing Yospace’s SSAI for MPEG-DASH on their booth

I’ll be sharing insights on all of these topics throughout the show on our LinkedIn and Twitter feeds.  And you can check back here for a daily update post at the end of each day.

See you at NAB!

Schedule a time to meet at NAB to find out more!

Yospace to showcase premium server-side ad insertion at NAB 2019

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The leading SSAI provider will showcase the latest developments in monetizing live and VoD content, with new features to optimise yield from programmatic demand, low latency live streaming, MPEG-DASH, CMAF and data security.

Staines-upon-Thames, UK, 19th March 2019 – Yospace will be demonstrating its premium server-side ad insertion (SSAI) capabilities at this year’s NAB show.

At the show, Yospace will be showcasing how to scale programmatic with low latency for major live events; implement a joined-up monetization strategy across live and VoD; monetize DRM-protected content using MPEG-DASH or HLS with CMAF; protect first-party viewer data from exposure to third parties.

  • Scaling programmatic for major live events
    Programmatic systems need adequate time to respond in a major live event scenario.  This need is especially apparent in a low latency environment.  Yospace’s innovative prefetch system allows ad calls to be made early, allowing the time needed to return a full pod of ads for each viewer.
  • Prebidding
    Yospace’s latest feature is prebidding which replicates the benefits of web header bidding for video.  By calling all supply-side platforms (SSPs) simultaneously, the highest available CPM can be secured for each ad spot.  Prebidding is built upon Yospace’s prefetching capabilities which means its revenue maximisation benefits can be realised at broadcast scale.
  • Server-Side Ad Insertion for VoD
    Yospace has seen a considerable increase over the past year in operators and MVPDs implementing SSAI for VoD ito deliver viewing experience consistency throughout their device platforms.  Yospace will be explaining how these customers have realised the advantage provided by the decoupling of the ad decisioning ecoystem from the device platforms.
  • MPEG-DASH and HLS with CMAF
    Effective digital rights management (DRM) is crucial to any rights-holders of sought-after sports content and this has driven interest in SSAI for MPEG-DASH.  Yospace was the first SSAI provider to announce support for MPEG-DASH and now boasts several live examples.  Yospace also supports HLS delivery with CMAF which is becoming a preferred option for broadcasters who value the simplicity of the HLS protocol.
  • Data Security
    SSAI provides a middleware layer between the broadcaster’s app and the advertising ecosystem.  The effect of this is significant because it prevents an ad server from having direct access to the app and its user, preventing the risk of user information being exposed and re-targeted by a third party at a lower price.

 
Yospace will be exhibiting on booth SU3414.  To make an appointment with the team, please visit: www.yospace.com/nab