MONETISING A FULL SEASON OF MAJOR LIVE EVENTS WITH BT SPORT
The final whistle of the 2017 UEFA Champions League Final marked the end of the first full sporting season in which Dynamic Ad Insertion (DAI) had been used to monetise live channels online.
BT Sport deployed Yospace’s DAI platform in August 2016, before the first round of Premier League matches. Most of BT Sport’s programming is live, and with viewers increasingly watching online or on mobile devices when outside the home, it was essential that BT Sport were able to advertise, with accurate measurement, across its channels on digital platforms.
The project was hugely significant for the industry as a whole because sports and broadcasting are so inextricably linked. As viewers increasingly migrate to online platforms, it was essential that an advertising system be found that not only matched the excellent user experience of television, but allowed it to be enhanced for today’s feature-hungry audience with the latest advances in digital tech. This was no easy task, not least due to the plethora of connected devices and platforms that viewers use to access sports broadcasting today.
BT also had to set a precedent for the industry by building a new business case around the considerable value of addressable advertising.
The nature of television and how users interact with it is undergoing a profound change. Younger viewers especially are migrating to online platforms where they expect tools that are exclusive to the digital domain such as interactivity and curated experiences. Moreover, they are growing used to ad-free video viewing and are quick to switch off if a poor ad experience disrupts their viewing.
What broadcasters with sports-rights have always offered is a premium, trusted viewing experience: the content is premium, the presentation of a match is premium, the advertising is premium. The challenge in maintaining this experience in a digital world and catering to the abundance of screens, devices and operating systems is huge.
Add to this the challenge of creating new business models. As the price of major sports rights continues to rise, it is essential that broadcasters are able to realise the full value of their advertising opportunities. There is huge value to be gained by unlocking addressable advertising opportunities, but the dynamic ad insertion technology required to tap into it must to be incredibly versatile, while being robust enough to deliver curated streams to the biggest major event audiences.
Live television is the lifeblood of broadcasting. With viewers increasingly watching online, or on mobile devices when outside the home, it was essential that BT Sport were able to advertise, with accurate measurement, across its channels on digital platforms. They also needed to leverage the considerable value of addressable advertising.
BT Sport were adamant that ad stitching must be consistent with ad breaks on television: seamless and frame-accurate, with no discernable alteration in the live channel for the viewer. The young, tech-savvy profile of BT’s audience meant they would be quick to switch off if there were any technical issues.
The solution also had to integrate with BT Sport’s ambitious plans to allow viewers to scrub back to key moments during a live match using Deltatre’s Diva Player – this is a feat that had never been successfully implemented before.
BT chose Yospace’s world-leading dynamic ad insertion platform for the project. The system provides a link between broadcast playout systems and ad platforms, enabling server-side, frame-accurate replacement of ad breaks in a broadcast feed when viewed online. The solution supports full one-to-one personalisation and provides a true broadcast-quality user experience.
Yospace were the first to demonstrate the technology, with ITV in 2012; first to launch a live service in Europe, with STV in 2014. Launching with Channel 4 in 2015 and Sky in 2016, each marked an incremental step forward for DAI technology. The next hurdle was the biggest: proving the system against the most demanding scenario, a full season of top-flight sport with BT.
With a background in monetising live sport, Yospace was well-equipped to cope with the dynamism of BT’s coverage, and of integrating with the Diva Player. The over-riding challenge was to achieve these ambitions at scale, and that’s where the project really provided a benchmark for the industry.
Yospace’s platform is unique because it can integrate with BT Sport’s entire live streaming workflow. Here are the key integrations:
1. Broadcast Playout
The live signal is originated here, driven by a playout automation system which forms part of the prefetch enablement design described under (4).
2. Multiscreen Preparation
The live signal from Broadcast Playout is encoded and packaged into an ABR stream using Elemental Live and Elemental Delta. Programming that requires Diva Player (8) enhancement is scheduled such that the Elemental Delta, also acting as origin, produces a growing “Event Playlist”.
3. Event Contribution
By polling the Events Scheduler, the Yospace Contribution Server discovers new events and starts contributing the Event Playlist into the Yospace Stream Entry Point.
4. Prefetch Enablement
Live streams cause all users to go to ads at the same time which could cause a massive spike in requests to the Ad Server (6). Because of BT Sport’s large active audience, the solution was designed to spread out the requests to the ad server using Yospace’s ad prefetching technology. In order to enable this, information about the next break is needed to construct the ads calls. This information is supplied to the Yospace Placement Opportunity Information Server from the Playout Automation System. When a break marker is seen by the Stream Entry Point, a request is made to the POIS to update the break information for the next break.
5. Ad Preparation
Ensuring that ad creatives match the content stream encoding is key to delivering the broadcast-like user experience. When campaigns are put live, a high quality master copy of the ad creative is sent to Yospace for transcoding and placement on the same CDN as the content segments to ensure seamless delivery performance.
6. Ad Stitching
Ads are prefetched prior to going to break. Once a break arrives, the prefetched pod of ads are stitched into the live stream.
7. The BT Sport Application
Available on iOS, Android and web, the BT Sport Application includes two critical elements, the Deltatre Diva Player for video playback (8) and the Yospace Ad Management SDK (7) for ad analytics. The application is responsible for the integration between these two components.
8. Deltatre Diva Player
The Diva Player allows users to navigate the event timeline and annotations to key moments of the match. The integration between Diva Player and the Ad Management SDK allowed BT Sport to offer this enhanced user experience while delivering effective and unobtrusive monetisation.
Breakthroughs in Addressability
One of the initiatives that set this project apart was the architecture of Yospace’s platform, which scales quickly to support the fact that up to 90% of viewers tune in within five minutes of kick-off.
The real advancement was in the development of Yospace’s “prefetch” solution which required deep integration with BT Sport’s automation system, thus allowing Yospace to see upcoming ad breaks in advance. That meant ad calls could be made over a prolonged period of time, thus avoiding overloading the ADS and helping ensure the highest possible fill rates.
The 2016-17 season was a huge success for BT Sport and Yospace, both in terms of viewer experience and the realisation of ad revenues.
Jeremy Rosenberg, Head of Advertising Partnerships TV at BT, said: “BT Sport DAI generates 100s of millions of premium broadcast video ad impressions across a season with the ability to monetise.”
“Introducing DAI on BT Sport has provided additional reach for advertisers seeking young, male, technically savvy audiences. The key benefits for advertisers are that the ads are unskippable and clickable.”
Greg McCall, managing director TV, BT TSO, said: “BT Sport continues to bring the best of the action to sports fans throughout the UK across a wide range of platforms.
“For this season the live streams on sport.bt.com and on the BT Sport iOS and Android Apps have been powered by Yospace’s market-leading Dynamic Ad Insertion technology which has allowed BT to monetise the online services whilst continuing to enhance customer experience.”
For live sports, Yospace typically see average ad view-through rates of over 96% – significantly higher than any other broadcast medium. This fact, coupled with the level of audience engagement achieved by BT Sport’s viewer-first approach, generated fully addressable audiences at a scale never previously achieved.
Recognising the success of the season, Yospace recently announced a multi-year extension to its partnership with BT.
McCall said: “Yospace offer a scalable, cost-effective architecture and great agility in delivery. Our partnership will carry on growing over the coming season as BT Sport continues to evolve and innovate.”
BT Sport reported an audience of 6.5m for this year’s UEFA Champions League Final – a half-million year-on-year increase. 2.1m of those views were on digital platforms, a figure that’s set to grow, so a proven long-term advertising solution is incredibly important.
"We chose Yospace because they were the best in-breed DAI provider in the market and they've proven that they are able to provide stability to our customers."
Speaking at Future TV Advertising Forum, London, 2017
Future of Broadcasting
The success of this project has both short-term and long-term implications for the broadcast industry.
Short-term: BT Sport and other sports rights-holders are able to monetise channels online in a user-friendly way that simply wasn’t available before.
Long-term: the ad-stitching infrastructure is in place to support future addressable and programmatic ad workflows. This will add even more value to what have already become the most valuable ad spots anywhere in broadcasting.
BT Sport and Yospace have played a significant role in carrying live television to the online world, and will continue to do so for a long time to come.
Long-Term Contract Extension
Following the conclusion of the 2016-17 season, BT Sport agreed a long-term extension to its contract with Yospace. The announcement followed a successful season during which time Yospace enabled advert placement in over 700 major sporting events for the broadcaster.
Greg McCall, managing director TV, BT TSO, said “Yospace have enabled us to seamlessly deliver unskippable and clickable ads within BT Sport live streams across our digital platforms and we are delighted to be extending our partnership.”
Read the full press release here:
BT Sport Announces Partnership with 4 Sales
Further to the DAI integration, in January 2018 it was announced that BT Sport had become the first customer of Channel 4’s new digital ad sales house. Having launched dynamic ad insertion with Channel 4 in 2015, Yospace sat in this relationship as a common technology and crucial enabler.
The flexibility of Yospace’s platform allowed BT Sport to change its ad sales infrastructure without any material effect on the ad stitching or broadcast workflow.
On 15th October 2017 Yospace and BT Sport were awarded a prestigious Content Innovation Award for the innovative ad insertion project for the breakthrough 2016-17 season. In doing so Yospace became the first ever company to win at the CIAs two years running.
Further recognition followed in early 2018 when the project won in the Most Innovative Sports Partnership category at the hotly-contested Yahoo Sports Technology Awards.
The ceremony, which was held in London’s iconic Roundhouse, celebrated tech-led innovations across all sports, attracts entries from over 30 countries representing 50 sports, in 15 categories which are reviewed by 32 leading industry-figures spanning players, athletes, sports governance and business visionaries.
Pete Samara, Director of Innovation and Technology, F1,said: “The partnership tackled one of the commercial and technical challenges of today’s entertainment – how to ensure advertisers get what they need while ensuring the fan / consumer is still engaged. This is a great solution for live sports.”