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

TV4 extends its relationship with Yospace for server-side ad insertion into live and VoD

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Sweden’s largest commercial broadcaster continues to lead the way in OTT monetisation

Staines-upon-Thames, UK, February 27th 2019 – TV4 has agreed an extension with Yospace to provide server-side ad insertion (SSAI) across its TV Everywhere service, TV4Play.  TV4 was the first company to launch the technology in Sweden in 2014, initially using it to monetise VoD content before applying it to live channels, too.

The technology is a crucial cog in TV4’s forward-thinking data strategy as it allows advertising to be one-to-one addressable and opens the door to a mix of ad sales methods, including first and third-party sold and programmatic.  This is achieved while maintaining a true TV-quality viewing experience, which helps TV4 to achieve its goal of removing the distinction between traditional linear TV and digital and present itself as platform agnostic to advertisers.

Yospace’s SSAI solution (also referred to as dynamic ad insertion) allows advertising to be stitched into live and VoD content watched via OTT in a way that is completely seamless to the viewer.  Ads are prepared in advance to match the encoding profile of the source stream and are stitched before the video reaches the user’s device, thus removing the prospect of buffering and inconsistencies of older technologies as programming switches to and from an ad break.

Each viewer session is handled individually, meaning that an ad call is made on behalf of each viewer.  This helps TV4 future-proof its advertising: the broadcaster is free to continue developing its data strategy knowing it already has the necessary ad-tech in place.

Mathias Berg, COO at TV4 Group: “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.  Having successfully launched both dynamic ad insertion with operators and log in on TV4Play, TV4 is now in a unique position to offer the combination of reach, inventory and data to Swedish advertisers. 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.”

Edward New, Commercial Director at Yospace: “TV4 was in the first wave of broadcasters to embrace server-side ad insertion and I’m delighted that our long-term relationship is continuing.  The broadcaster has used the technology to re-define television and data-driven advertising for a modern audience.  TV4 was also among the first to recognise the advantages of a joined up live and VoD SSAI strategy.”

TV4Play for web can be accessed at https://www.tv4play.seand the app is available on all the major connected devices.

– ENDS –

 

 About Yospace

Yospace is the foremost provider of server-side ad insertion (SSAI) technology in the world today.  Its solution allows live streams and on demand (VoD) content to be monetised for OTT in a way that is true to the seamless viewer experience of linear television, while opening up benefits of digital advertising such as one-to-one addressability and real-time measurement.

Yospace was the first to publicly demonstrate SSAI in a live stream, with ITV in 2012, and today services major broadcasters and network operators across the globe, including AT&T in the USA; Sky Media, ITV, BT Sport, Channel 4 and STV in the UK; Telia and TV4 in Sweden; SonyLIV in India (in partnership with Akamai Technologies); Seven West Media and Network Ten in Australia.

In early 2019 Yospace was 100% acquired by RTL Group.

Handling the opposing forces of programmatic and low latency

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By David Springall, Founder & CTO of Yospace.


In this post I’d like to talk about the challenges faced by broadcasters in efficiently monetising live sports at scale using server-side ad insertion.

We have broadcasters in five continents monetising live sports using our platform.  During the World Cup last year, we saw a peak audience of 1.6 million concurrent users and only a few weeks ago, in January this year, we saw that record double to 3.2 million – a significant jump in the space of just six months.

So the ability to scale SSAI, and to plan for future scale, is really important but this topic is made complex because there are two opposing forces at play.

On one hand you have the desire for the broadcaster to improve the viewer experience by reducing latency.   

On the other hand, the way in which online advertising is being bought and sold is trending towards automated, or ‘programmatic’, fulfilment.  This makes the user-level ad decisioning much more complex.

Underlying all of this is the fact that the industry as a whole is finding online audiences, especially where major sports events are concerned, are growing at an ever faster rate, and it’s important that solutions deployed can continue to keep ahead of this growth.  

So why is it that these forces are opposing?

The reason for this is that in live streaming everyone watches the ad break at more or less the same time.  In order for us to know which ads to stitch in to each individual stream, we need to make a call to the ad decisioning ecosystem on behalf of each individual streaming session.

Naturally, these calls all take place in a very short space of time.  The lower latency the stream, the shorter the time frame under which this bevy of calls will be made.  As this time window is made even smaller, you need each individual ad decision request to also take less time.  

Ok, so let’s hold that thought.

On the other hand, because the ad decisioning ecosystem is getting more complex, it actually needs more time to resolve ad decisions.  Real-time bidding is required in the process of getting decisions for ad placement, so you’re not making calls to a single ad server, you’re making calls to multiple partners in the ecosystem.  Furthermore, you’re depending on all of those partners to be able to scale to handle these bursts of requests.

Therefore, to deliver the low latency experience at scale for live sports, and to plan for future scale, with a complex ad decisioning ecosystem to maximise the revenue opportunity, it’s necessary to the make ad decisioning calls in an orderly fashion way ahead of the actual break taking place.  By doing this you are no longer hostage to stream latency and how long you can spend, or how many calls you can make to get a decision for each user.

So this is what we do with the Yospace SSAI platform.  We call it prefetch and it allows us to scale to support the world’s biggest live events.  We co-authored a white paper on the topic with Akamai and SpotX.  It’s called “Go Live” and you can download it here.

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

Why Yospace’s acquisition by RTL Group is a huge endorsement of its SSAI

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On 8th January RTL Group announced it was acquiring 100% of Yospace Technologies Ltd. The announcement represents a huge endorsement of Yospace, our people and the server-side ad insertion technology we have developed.

Having launched VoD server-side ad insertion in 2011, Yospace was first to market with server-side ad insertion (SSAI) for live streaming at the start of 2012, showcasing it in partnership with ITV at the 2012 IBC Innovation Awards.  Since that time the team has focused exclusively on development and innovation in the SSAI space. This has been with a focus on solving broadcaster challenges while maintaining a TV-like viewer experience. Today we are the world’s leading provider of one-to-one addressable SSAI and stream management.

This is an achievement we are hugely proud of.  We are also immensely proud of building a profitable market-leading business organically, while maintaining the independence required to have such a laser-sharp focus on the long-term development of our product.  As such we were fortunate to be in a position where we could carefully consider an acquisition that best suited the future ambitions of the team, primary of which is to continue to innovate with our loyal existing broadcast customer base while accelerating global adoption of our capabilities.

The key principles of our technology road map since 2011 have been based on understanding the close integrations with broadcast playout systems and the end-to-end streaming workflows needed to deliver a true broadcast experience, and a willingness to adapt to the evolving and often complex needs of broadcasters.  Challenges such as achieving one-to-one addressability at true broadcast scale, while delivering real-time metrics reliably and supporting enhanced viewer experiences have all been addressed.

As the market continues to mature and advertiser expectations increase, the ability to deliver a truly optimised standards-based programmatic SSAI solution will become increasingly critical.  To this end, the opportunity to work more closely with SpotX, who we’ve been a partner with for a number of years, will be of huge benefit to Yospace and to the wider industry, as the learnings we will gain will optimise integration with the entire programmatic and SSAI ecosystem.

As SpotX remains committed to all its existing SSAI partnerships, Yospace remains ad server and ad-tech agnostic.  Our independent stance and freedom to work with providers across the broadcast and advertising ecosystems are crucial, and this is recognised by SpotX and the RTL Group.

Our aim, as it has always been, is to provide the world’s leading server-side ad insertion platform and establish our technology as the de facto standard for the industry.  We will continue to serve all of our existing customers, without whom we would not have achieved the market position we are so proud of today, and to whom we remain fully committed.  This focus will in turn allow us to accelerate further the expansion of our global customer base.

Ultimately our decision to join RTL Group was an easy one.  The Group has bought into our strategy and is fully committed to supporting both our product roadmap and our expansion plans.  Whether you are an existing customer or a customer-to-be, we’re looking forward to working with you.

Sincerely,

Tim Sewell
CEO, Yospace

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Yospace to demonstrate the world’s most scalable and trusted server-side ad insertion platform at IBC

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The global leader in SSAI achieved unprecedented scale for one-to-one addressable streams during the World Cup, recording a peak of over 1.5 million simultaneous viewers.

Staines-upon-Thames, UK – 30th August 2018
Yospace is to showcase its award-winning server-side ad insertion system at IBC (stand 14.G14).  The technology, also known as dynamic ad insertion or SSAI, has undergone a transformation in the last couple of years as audiences embracing OTT have been met by advertisers keen to exploit the opportunities of digital.

This summer’s World Cup tested the technology in the most demanding setting: major live event television.  Many streaming records were broken during the tournament, with the world’s largest CDN, Akamai, reporting that they delivered more video data in the 10 days of the group stage than during the entire 2014 tournament.  In keeping with overall trends, Yospace saw huge growth among SSAImonetised streams too.

Scottish broadcaster STV launched server-side ad insertion for the 2014 World Cup, the first in Europe to do so. They saw a five-fold increase in peak concurrent, or simultaneous, viewers watching personalised SSAI-enabled streams during the 2018 tournament, with viewers this year also able to enjoy all the action in HD.  Average viewing time increased, too, pointing to an audience that was more engaged with the content they were watching.  This resulted in two extra ad spots being opened up per viewer session.

Live events make the most engaging television because all viewers share the same experience. Dynamic ad placement opportunities are more valuable to the rights-holder as a result, but they are also more challenging to optimise in the programmatic ad marketplace because ad breaks occur for all viewers at the same time.

Peak concurrency during the tournament was recorded at over 1.5 million, which occurred during the dramatic penalty shoot-out between England and Colombia. Rather than delivering one ad for all, Yospace triggered many millions of ad requests for an ad break that was watched simultaneously by all viewers around the world.

Yospace is able to do this because it manages each viewer session.  When an ad break is detected a call is made out to an ad server on behalf of each user.  The ad server manages which ads are to be delivered to which viewer and will often make further calls out to the wider ad marketplace, where live auctions drive the highest possible CPM rate for the rights-holder.

All of the responses have to be managed within the strict timeframes of live broadcasting in order to maintain a TV-like viewer experience.  Yospace’s advanced technology succeeds where others don’t because it is able to make ad calls in advance of an ad break happening, allowing the ad server and wider programmatic marketplace the time they need to respond.  Given sufficient time, fill-rates are higher and the true value of each ad placement opportunity is realised.

The system also caters for the unexpected moments in major live events, which are often the most valuable but hardest to access.  The biggest surge in SSAI traffic for Yospace during the World Cup was in the knock-out game between Croatia and Denmark, when audiences across the globe doubled during the period from the end of extra-time to the start of a sudden-death penalty shoot-out – a window of just a few minutes.  The ad break just before penalties began suddenly became highly valuable and was successfully monetised by Yospace’s platform.

David Springall, CTO and Founder of Yospace: “Our technology has been, and continues to be, developed in tandem with the evolution of OTT streaming and advertising to the point that technical advancements from Yospace today are advancements for SSAI technology as a whole.”

Tim Sewell, CEO of Yospace: “Our SSAI platform was first to market in 2010 and today we stand as the only dedicated vendor with a proven track record for delivering at scale.  The system has been architected to address the unique challenges the programmatic marketplace introduces to live streaming, and our continued focus on SSAI means we remain out in front when it comes to the development of the technology, as demonstrated by our continued adoption and loyal global customer base. Our World Cup figures show that our global reach is second to none.”

More from Yospace at IBC:

IBC Innovation Awards with Medialaan:Yospace is a finalist at the highly-respected IBC Innovation Awards for its work on reducing ad loads in live OTT streams for the leading Belgian broadcaster.

Programmatic Demo:Working with SpotX, Yospace are demonstrating live SSAI with one-to-one addressability and programmatic trading.

Turnkey Scaling:Yospace is demonstrating its turnkey solution for scaling up channels to support major events.  Editors are able to track viewing figures across live streams in order to place advertising in the most valuable slots.

Visit Yospace at IBC: 14.G14
Schedule a demo: www.yospace.com/ibc18

Yospace and BT Sport shortlisted for The Sports Technology Awards

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Staines-upon-Thames, UK – 15th February 2018

Yospace and BT Sport have been shortlisted for the 2018 Sports Technology Awards for Server-side Dynamic Ad Insertion into live channels on BT Sport’s OTT platforms.  They are listed in the Most Innovative Sports Partnership category.

The project has earned particular praise for the way in which addressable advertising is applied at scale.  By developing a cutting-edge “pre-fetch” system, Yospace is able to prepare for ad breaks ahead of time, giving ad decisioning systems a longer window in which to respond.  In an environment where millions of viewers could be watching simultaneously, this development ensures a reliable and scalable ad experience for all concerned.

The project has already been recognised by the broadcast industry, at the 2017 Content Innovation Awards, and Yospace is delighted to be earning wider recognition for what was a truly innovative partnership.

Read the full shortlist here:
https://www.sportstechnologyawards.com/news/2018-shortlist

Advanced advertising is imperative for broadcasters looking to compete with major internet players, according to report

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London, UK – 29th November 2017

Leading international research and strategy consultancy MTM releases a report today that explores US industry perspectives on the future of live and linear broadcasting in an OTT world.

The research, sponsored by Yospace, found that US TV executives are bullish about the prospects for live and linear channels, despite intensifying competition for audiences and ad spend.  Live and linear TV is unique in offering mass concurrent audiences and, as the online market fragments, the value of that reach is growing – delivering “immense value” according to US executives.

“The way to remain socially relevant is to be live. A live viewer will be tweeting about it, and telling their friends the next day.  That’s hugely valuable to broadcasters because it creates an affinity for their channel – and it’s valuable to advertisers.” – US broadcaster

However, central to enhancing this value, according to the study, is the need to invest in advanced TV advertising (ATVA) technology.  TV executives are increasingly looking to develop and deploy addressable solutions over IP networks delivered to connected devices and, crucially, Smart TVs.

By contrast, the wider development of ATVA capabilities on TV platforms will require broadcasters and MVPDs to strike partnerships and commercial agreements, as required, to bring data and inventory together – partnerships that have proven challenging to establish.

Despite the challenges in striking these partnerships, there is a widespread desire to move quickly to combat the threat to premium content rights posed by the major internet companies. TV executives see four key priorities for the US industry:

  1. Enhance the linear consumer experience with fewer – but more relevant – TV ads, to retain audiences
  2. Apply data and addressable solutions to linear streams, to maximize the value of the inventory delivered over their IP-based services
  3. Collaborate, where appropriate, to provide cross-publisher solutions to advertisers, reducing market fragmentation
  4. Work with MVPDs to enable the roll out of ATVA solutions on TV platforms, across a wider range of inventory.

“Negotiations are all about what we can do together and how we can partner. It’s absolutely driven by a collective fear of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple.” – US cable network

Jon Watts, Managing Partner of MTM, said: “It’s clear that broadcasters and MVPDs are looking to advanced advertising solutions to help them compete with the data-driven offerings of the major internet companies. The question is whether they can work together and forge partnerships that unlock the insight and inventory required to deliver addressability at scale. Our research suggests that the industry is ready to move forwards and there seems to be a healthy appetite amongst executives for greater cooperation in the advanced advertising space.”

Tim Sewell, CEO of Yospace, said: “The pace of change in the broadcast industry is such that regular check-ins on the state of the marketplace are essential.  It’s noticeable in this report how the broadcast industry is coming together to forge a common path and looking to adopt common technologies and standards to realize the full potential of addressable TV.  This is a fascinating period in the long history of live and linear television — broadcasters are realising the immense value of live content, which is why we’re seeing the major internet companies jump in — and through collaboration, I believe it has a very bright future.”

The research paper, entitled “The imperative for addressability in live and linear video,” was informed by a seminar in New York attended by leading US TV and agency executives. This was supplemented by a series of one-to-one interviews discussing the current state of the live and linear TV market, its future in the digital landscape and the steps required for broadcasters to protect and enhance market share.  It follows a European-focused report that was published earlier in the year.

Download the new paper here.

TV4 and Yospace achieve Swedish first with server-side Dynamic Ad Insertion for live channels

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London, 1st November 2017 – Sweden’s largest commercial broadcaster, TV4, has chosen Yospace’s award-winning Dynamic Ad Insertion solution to monetise live channels on its TV everywhere platform, TV4 Play.

In a first for the Swedish market, TV4 is using Yospace’s server-side DAI system to open up new inventory across its live streams in a way that provides a seamless online television experience for the platform’s 3 million registered viewers.

The companies began working together in 2014, when server-side Dynamic Ad Insertion was launched on TV4 Play’s catch-up content on Apple TV and Chromecast devices.  By extending the technology to live, TV4 is able to implement a long-term business case across a format that could only previously be monetised through limited, pre-roll advertising opportunities.

The system is available on TV4 Play on iOS and Android devices, and is launching across HTML5 for web this month.

“We were looking for a solution to transform our broadcasting business into the digital age and Yospace provides us with key technology to achieve that,” said Marcus Lindén, Head of Development & Integrations at Bonnier Broadcasting.  “Yospace was also a good fit in our best of breed strategy and proved themselves to be a nicely crafted puzzle piece into how we want to build our software stack.”

“We’re delighted to be working with TV4 on this first launch of server-side DAI for live channels in Sweden,” said Edward New, Commercial Director at Yospace.  “Live television is at the heart of broadcasting and Yospace’s platform has become an essential tool in monetising broadcaster’s channels online, in the UK and mainland Europe, and across the globe.”

TV4 Play for web can be accessed at https://www.tv4play.se and the app is available on all the major connected devices.

TV4 and Yospace will be speaking at Streaming Tech Sweden event on 22nd November.  Visit the website for details: www.streamingtech.se