IBC2019: Content Protection and Data Security

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By Paul Davies, Communications & Marketing, Yospace

While preparing for this year’s IBC Show, we’re discussing the SSAI topics that we know will be hotly discussed and in this blog we’re taking a look at the importance of content protection and measurement. 

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 we have many customers using it for live streams, so we can 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.  

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. 

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.

Read more about this in this blog post from Yospace product manager Olivier Cortambert.

SSAI as middleware

A crucial benefit of SSAI that’s only just being realised is the layer of protection it offers to user data.  SSAI effectively provides a middleware layer between the viewer’s device and the advertising ecosystem which acts as a protective layer against the systems with which viewers are interacting.

However, this middleware buffer alone may not be enough to convince broadcasters that there is adequate protection against the misuse of first-party data.  To enhance its security even further, Yospace partnered with SpotX to enhance its integrated SSAI offering. SpotX’s Audience Lock removes viewers’ proprietary data (Device ID, IP address and Cookie ID) from the bid stream before it is exposed to advertisers in a private marketplace.

You can read more in our guest blog post on SpotX’s website.

If you’d like to chat further about content protection or measurement for SSAI, please click here to book a meeting on our booth 14.G14 in the Content Everywhere Hall at IBC.

IBC2019: Viewer Experience

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By Paul Davies, Communications & Marketing, Yospace

In preparing for IBC next week, we’re exploring key issues that we anticipate will be popular topics related to server-side ad insertion (SSAI).

Viewer experience is always paramount for broadcasters.  The success of any ad tech approach that a broadcaster implements lives and dies by its capability, the viewer’s enjoyment and the audience’s overall impression of the broadcaster. 

The rise of OTT streaming has opened up both opportunities and challenges for broadcasters. 

Reducing ad load 

The growing popularity of OTT streaming has seen many broadcasters need to monetise their TV Everywhere services.  SSAI is still a relatively new tech and many broadcasters have seized the opportunity to innovate and look at improving the viewer experience.

This is exactly the approach our customer Medialaan did when it sought to reduce ad load in live streams. The leading Belgian broadcaster enabled viewers on its Stievie service 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.

Delivering a TV experience – at scale

The challenge of scaling live sports and their unpredictable nature demands any advertising system employed by a broadcaster to be both robust and versatile.  You could have millions of viewers reaching the half-time ad break of the Champions League Final at exactly the same time.  

That’s not an issue in traditional TV where the same ad goes out to all, but in OTT, where addressability and per-viewer measurement is in play, a separate ad call is required for each streaming session and that’s a lot of work to cram into a very short space of time.  In situations like this our prefetch system is crucial.

Enhanced viewing

Another thing to consider, especially in sports, is the use of enhanced players.  BT Sport put the viewer front and centre of the action by allowing viewers to skip back from the live stream to whenever there had been a major event in the match.  It was crucial for the SSAI system to work within this environment and our system worked within the specific demands of this format so that BT Sport could provide its customers with a front row seat of Tier 1 sporting events. Read more about the project here.

If you’d like to learn more about improving viewer experience, please click here to book a meeting on our booth 14.G14 in the Content Everywhere Hall at IBC.

IBC2019: SSAI and Total Video

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By Paul Davies, Communications & Marketing, Yospace

At IBC this year, we’ll be focusing on a range of different issues and opportunities that our customers face and we’re exploring these hot topics in blogs in the build up to the show in Amsterdam. 

Over the years, there’s been a clear move towards extending live server-side ad insertion into VoD and the trend has continued. SSAI has been a staple of live monetisation for a number of years, and it’s been proving itself as a popular way to monetise VoD too. 

Improved viewer experience, ease of maintenance and data security are some of the reasons for moving to SSAI for VoD, but data security is an especially important topic. By utilising SSAI as an effective middleware layer between the client and the ad server, user data is better protected and retargeting is also prevented. If you’re looking to learn more, Yospace Founder and CTO David Springall discusses the value of SSAI for VoD in this article for TV Technology

Total Video pays dividends

Swedish innovator TV4 is an example of a broadcaster that’s making the most of a joined up live and VoD monetisation 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 monetise VoD.  Read this blog post to learn more about the company’s digital journey with SSAI

If you’d like to learn more about the potential of SSAI for VoD, please click here to book a meeting on our stand 14.G14 in the Content Everywhere Hall at IBC.

IBC 2019: Scale and Addressability for SSAI

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By Paul Davies, Communications & Marketing, Yospace

In our preparations for the IBC Show, we’re discussing what no doubt will be hot topics at the show around SSAI on our blog. In this post we’re looking at scale and addressability. 

Scaling addressable is a continued challenge for broadcasters, and something that we regularly discuss with prospects, partners and customers alike at trade shows.

The challenge for scaling addressable advertising lies in the fact that being able to scale live SSAI and plan for future scale in an environment where all viewers see an ad break at the same time is hugely important.  However it’s made complex by the two opposing forces at play:

  1. Programmatic: The need to allow programmatic platforms the time required to respond to fully realise the value of the ad inventory
  2. Low latency: This improves the viewer experience but shortens the time available to the programmatic ecosystem to conduct millions of complex decisions and transactions.

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 and our Go Live whitepaper offers a more in-depth explanation. 

If you’d like to speak further about scale or addressability, please click here to book a meeting on our booth 14.G14 in the Content Everywhere Hall at IBC.

IBC2019: The conversations that drive innovation in SSAI

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By David Springall, Founder & CTO, Yospace


I never cease to be amazed at how quickly the world of ad-tech evolves and this is especially apparent if I look back over Yospace’s experience at the last few NAB and IBC Shows.

What was striking at NAB this year was just how few meetings needed the use of a demo.  This is contrasts greatly to a couple of years ago and I put this down to the fact that server-side ad insertion has become a well understood technology.  In its basic form, anyway.

It is a testament to the maturity of our technology and the industry’s understanding of it that nobody questions what it is and whether it works anymore.  A fast-growing customer list has helped with this, but it’s also in the stability demonstrated by such a large proportion of our customers working with us over the long term.

Much more common than a demo is the use of a pen and pad to draw out customer-specific workflow diagrams, and it’s in these types of conversations that things get really interesting.

Like many modern tech providers, Yospace’s product map is largely defined by our customers’ current and future challenges.  The technology and the teams that develop it are agile enough to work in this way and we always have an innovative project on the go that pushes the boundaries of what SSAI can deliver as a result.

Our project with Medialaan to reduce ad load in a live stream (an IBC Innovation Award winner last year – read the case study here) came out of exactly this type of scenario.

We’ve also been able to lead the way in developing a prefetch system that delivers programmatic to large event audiences, a process that can become incredibly complex as you scale to millions of simultaneous viewers who all go to ad breaks at the same time.

We developed our prefetch technology to address this use-case in response to the requirements of a leading sports broadcaster.  I’m very pleased that today Yospace’s robustness in this area is recognised by so many (you can read more on prefetch in our Go Live white paper).

Achieving scale was the biggest topic we’re being asked about at the moment and I expect lots of related discussions at IBC.  Others that are cropping up a lot include:

  • Support for MPEG-DASH and CMAF (we have a number of customers using these methods now)
  • Total Video, or the idea of using consistent advertising methods and measurement tools across all content (live and VoD)
  • Maximising the revenue opportunity from programmatic demand by optimising for price and maintaining creative separation
  • Data security and the ability of SSAI to provide a middleware layer between the client and the ad server – especially important with GDPR in mind

These are areas that I anticipate will be high on people’s agendas at the IBC Show.  We’ll have a stand in Hall 14 and it will be great to catch up.

See you in September.

Click here to book a meeting at IBC.

 

How to monetise World Cup football

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By Paul Davies, Marketing & Communications, Yospace

This month sees the kick-off of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France in what promises to be the highest-profile edition of the tournament yet.  It will also see the finals of the inaugural UEFA Nations League, so we’re set for an eventful summer of high profile football that will garner significant monetisation opportunities for rights-holders worldwide.

I’ve picked three matches from the 2018 FIFA World Cup to illustrate some of the challenges to consider when looking to monetise major tournament football using server-side ad insertion (SSAI).  These examples highlight the need to implement the most reliable ad-tech and the most dynamic, too, in order to maximise the significant addressable revenue opportunities.

South Korea 2-0 Germany

The German team was the holder of the trophy going into the tournament and as such was among the most streamed during the World Cup based on data from Akamai, driving an average of 18.18Tbps average peak traffic during its matches.  Yet the team’s fate took an unexpected turn in the group stages, when the four-time champions were unexpectedly knocked out.

An earlier loss to Mexico suddenly heaped pressure on the German team for their final group match against South Korea match: 90 minutes which was previously expected to be insignificant, ended up drawing huge global interest.  In fact, this match – plus Mexico v Sweden, which took place at the same time – drove Akamai’s biggest traffic of the entire tournament.

This presented an opportunity for advertisers that would not have been planned before the tournament began, with a great many more viewers tuned in, engaged, and on the edge of their seats throughout.  Pressure wouldn’t just have been on Germany, but on broadcasters’ ad servers (ADS) which would have had to cope with an unpredicted swell in traffic.

Many ADS’s will have slowed at this point.  Adopting SSAI architecture with prefetch is the only way of monetising a broadcast-grade user experience at scale.

Croatia 1-1 Denmark

A match top-and-tailed with drama, this quarter-final game highlighted the need for an SSAI platform that is not only capable of delivering at scale, but is capable of doing so rapidly, and with very little fore-warning.

Two early goals in the match’s opening were followed by a slow 120 minutes, during which time many neutral viewers switched off due to the lack of action. Then, penalties – a situation that fans with a vested interest dread but a neutral supporter loves.  Whichever side you’re on, a penalty shoot-out is highly engaging for all viewers. Rights-holders had reason to cheer, too, with an unscheduled and lucrative ad break falling just before the most viewed moment of the match.

Unlike VoD, highly valuable ad breaks occur at exactly the same time for millions of viewers, requiring simultaneous ad calls to the ADS within a matter of seconds.  An SSAI platform must therefore support fluctuations in demand, and rapid, unpredictable variations in the number of concurrent streamers.

Brazil 1-2 Belgium

This quarter-final match between two of the tournament’s favourites featured global superstars including Neymar for Brazil and de Bruyne and Hazard for Belgium.  At half time the Belgians were leading 2-0, which prompted a greater surge in interest at the prospect of a goal-laden second half as the Brazilians mounted their fight back.

And the popularity of streaming wasn’t restricted to football’s traditional heartlands; Brazil vs Belgium was the most streamed event ever for America’s Fox Sports.

This was also a testing point for ad technology, with SSAI platforms tasked with the complex feat of making millions of simultaneous ad calls across the world, all with addressability enabled.  The ad break which fell just before play resumed in the second half may well have been the most valuable across the entire tournament, so advertisers and broadcasters had a lot to gain – and a lot to lose if their ad tech wasn’t able to respond as planned.

In this type of scenario a robust pre-fetch system is critical.  Yospace’s SSAI platform integrates with the broadcast automation systems – which hold all the information on programme and ad break timings – in order to look ahead to determine the length of the next ad break.  This allows it to pace calls to the ad server (ADS) over a prolonged period of time, which a) prevents the ADS being overloaded with simultaneous requests, and b) ensures the highest fill rates by allowing the ADS adequate time to respond.

With the right technology in place, broadcasters can realise the full value of live streaming while delivering consistent quality for the viewer, making sure that everyone is a winner.

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Best practice for monetising VoD with server-side ad insertion

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By David Springall, Founder & CTO at Yospace

The amount of video accessed online, particularly by mobile devices, is expanding exponentially.  As a result, there is a need to maximise the monetisation opportunities by delivering ads across multiple devices and platforms in the most efficient way possible.  In this post I discuss why applying SSAI across all content is the most logical way forward.

Server-Side Ad Insertion (SSAI, or dynamic ad insertion) can deliver a consistent experience akin to TV while opening up addressable advertising opportunities. Consistency comes in part from the ‘ad copy normalisation’ which is the process of transcoding ad content with the same bitrates, frame rates and audio levels as the underlying stream, ensuring a smooth transition between programme and ad and vice versa (with the same CDN being loaded for both content and ads).

SSAI technology is already being used successfully by broadcasters for live streaming.  However, the principal monetisation technique for VoD remains Client-Side Ad Insertion (CSAI), where, at the start of every ad break, the primary player is stopped and an ad player put on top, with the primary player having to be resumed at the end of the break.

For a broadcaster with both Live and VoD, it makes sense for a single advertising workflow to be applied across all content.  

It is possible for broadcasters to deliver a near-seamless experience using the CSAI model for VoD, 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 ends. However, there is always the risk of playback issues caused by inconsistent encoding of the ad copy.  Also, 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 we’re seeing 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). But there are a number of other 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.
  • Interactivity.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.

Read more on server-side ad insertion for live and VoD streams here.

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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.

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NAB 2019: MPEG-DASH and CMAF

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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.

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