REALISING OPPORTUNITIES IN LIVE STREAMING WITH NETWORK TEN
By adopting Yospace’s Dynamic Ad Insertion platform, the leading Australian broadcaster found it could launch an automated Live-to-VoD service too.
When Network Ten won the live broadcast rights for the XXII Olympic Winter Games in February 2014, they spotted an opportunity to offer their audience more choice than ever before using its online platform, tenplay.
In addition to coverage on its primary channel TEN and multi-channel ONE, , six further dedicated streams were planned in what was an unprecedented step for major event television. The project promised to make more live action available to the viewer than ever before.
To turn the ambitious goal into a reality, Network Ten needed an effective monetisation solution. They chose Yospace’s Dynamic Advertisement Insertion (DAI) platform, a pioneering technology that had not been used in Australia, or the entire APAC region, ever before.
The project proved to be such a success that Yospace’s solution was retained after the games and continues to be used today across some of its biggest live events, including The Rugby Championship, Formula 1® and MotoGP.
The technology is still being used by Network Ten today, nearly four years after launch in early 2014, and, while it was deployed for the primary purpose of stream monetisation, it has helped solve another problem for the broadcaster too.
With the majority of the integration done to support stream monetisation, the addition of an automated Live-to-VoD service was a small incremental step, driving benefits that greatly outweighed the technical effort to enable it.
In this case study we’ll look at the main drivers behind the initial DAI project and how that led to the full stream management system that is in place today.
Dynamic Ad Replacement
In committing to a live streaming strategy, Network Ten had to find a way to monetise its channels online. Pre-roll advertising was not sufficient for major sports coverage that could see viewers tuning in for hours at a time, and ad breaks, which had been sold for television, were not going to generate revenue from the online coverage. To build a business case for the XXII Sochi Olympic Winter Games project, it was essential that a way could be found to monetise the ad breaks.
Yospace’s platform allowed Network Ten to access this “lost” inventory and monetise live streams throughout the viewer session, in a way that was seamless and frame-accurate.
“The Yospace solution stood out due to its flexibility in adapting to a broadcast environment, especially where playout is concerned,” said Juan Quintero, Technology Manager, Network Ten.
The integration with Imagine Communications’ D-Series automation system allowed Yospace to detect exactly where ad breaks begin and end, ensuring a true broadcast experience for the viewer. It’s this integration that paved the way for the Live-to-VoD project later on – by integrating with the D-Series to detect ad markers, Yospace also had access to programme boundary information.
Another big advantage of Yospace’s approach was that, by replacing ads on the server-side, a single uninterrupted stream could be delivered to the end user’s platform or device. That meant there was no buffering, spinning dials or added latency. It also simplified the delivery workflow as a single stream could be delivered across multiple screens.
“Yospace ensured the timing of ad breaks were spot-on so there were no discernible points of change that the viewer could see. By avoiding distractions, they were able to sit back and enjoy the coverage that they tuned in to see,” said Quintero.
By managing each individual stream session Yospace allow ads to be tailored to individual interests, based on information from their user profile or other demographics such as location or device, which results in a win-win scenario for the broadcaster and viewer alike: the broadcaster sees an increase in the value of each ad spot, while the viewer is only served ads that are relevant.
“It was clear from the outset that this was a project with huge potential, but it would not be easy,” said Quintero. “What was being attempted had never been achieved before across such a large live event as the XXII Olympic Winter Games. But, if implemented correctly, the benefits of Dynamic Advertisement Replacement to Network Ten and its viewers were set to be huge.”
Yospace’s platform was chosen because of its ability to slot into an existing broadcast workflow with many moving parts, and this fact lay at the heart of the project’s success.
Automation: By integrating with Network Ten’s automation system, Imagine D Series, Yospace’s Event Signalling And Management (ESAM) server is able to understand, to the frame, where event markers should appear in the live channels. Using this data, ad markers are injected into the stream at the point of its creation in the broadcaster’s Elemental encoders.
While the primary incentive was to monetise the live stream in a way that is frame-accurate and seamless, the automation system integration also allowed programme markers to be injected, paving the way for the Live-to-VoD project later on.
Ad Server: The most important piece of work lies in the relationship between Yospace and Network Ten’s chosen ad decisioning engine, Google’s DoubleClick, and there are two parts to the integration. The first sees Yospace’s Live Stream Event Manager (LSEM) poll DoubleClick for new ad creatives and transcode them to match exactly the encoding profile of the live content. The result is that replacement adverts slot seamlessly into the end user’s live stream.
Ad Decisioning: The second part lies in the ad decisioning process. When an ad marker is detected a call is made to DoubleClick who decide which set of ads to present to each viewer. Yospace act on DoubleClick’s instructions and stitch the replacement ad creatives into the stream. This complex process takes place in real-time and at a scale that caters for a national audience tuning into the most widespread online coverage of the Olympic Winter Games in history.
Analytics: The final step in the workflow takes place at player level, where Yospace SDKs enable interactivity and real-time analytics. Interactivity is triggered by a button on a given ad that notifies the user that the screen is clickable. When the user clicks the screen a browser window opens on top of the live stream on a web page related to the promotion. A simple tap from the user closes the window and returns them to the action.
The project marked the first time live advertisement replacement had been deployed in the APAC region and signalled a breakthrough in live television for both broadcasters and advertisers. Viewers enjoyed a personalised relationship with their stream at a scale that had never before been achieved and the viewing experience was true to expectations set by traditional broadcast television.
The solution worked so well that Network Ten chose to continue using Yospace’s Dynamic Ad Insertion platform with Yospace after the Games had ended, notably on the XX Commonwealth Games which followed later in the same year.
“We spotted an opportunity to do something special for our coverage of the XXII Sochi Olympic Winter Games, but to pull it off we needed a way to monetise our channels online,” said Juan Quintero, Technology Manager, at Network Ten. “Yospace’s solution enabled us to do that, and they continue to do so to this day.”
The system covers major sports events, such as Wallabies’ matches in The Rugby Championship, Formula 1® and MotoGP, but also allows the broadcaster to monetise everyday programmes such as The Project, Family Feud and TEN Eyewitness News First At Five.
“We were very impressed with the level of support we received from Yospace. Not just in the initial implementation, but as the service matured too,” said Quintero. “That, combined with their platform’s flexibility in adapting to complex broadcast workflows, meant they were the obvious choice to implement a new Live-to-VoD workflow for us.”
At the start of 2016, Network Ten broadcast the second series of I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here!. The first series had proved to be one of its most popular live shows and the broadcaster was keen to make the most of the second series by allowing each episode to be available for catch-up. However, the show was filmed live which meant that VoD assets could only be created after each episode had finished.
Pre-recorded programmes can be encoded ahead of their live broadcast, but in the case of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! the encoding process would have taken too long for the show’s insatiable audience. Yospace’s existing integration with Network Ten’s automation system paved the way for an innovative new approach.
Yospace’s ESAM server was being used to instruct the live encoder to inject ad markers into the stream to enable ad insertion. This integration allowed programme markers to be injected too, thus enabling Yospace to capture live programmes and automatically create VoD assets so they are available for catch-up within minutes of their closing credits on the live stream.
“Yospace’s solution for DAI was able to interact with so much of our existing workflow that it clearly stood out for us,” said Juan Quintero, Technology Manager, Network Ten. “Adding their Live-to-VoD solution to tenplay was a logical next step that was made easy because the main integration had already taken place.”
The new assets can be monetised too. Ad markers in the captured live content are used to remove the breaks when the VoD assets are created. The position of the removed ads in the asset’s timeline is added to the its metadata, allowing Network Ten’s OVP provider to dynamically insert ads in the right place when it is played out as a VoD asset.
“The new VoD assets are available to us between five to seven minutes after a live programme’s end,” said Quintero. “That is just incredible and allows us to publish catch-up content online after just 12 to 15 minutes after a show ends.”
David Springall, CTO of Yospace, said, “It’s great to work with broadcasters who share our innovative vision of stream management. Network Ten were way ahead of the curve in implementing Dynamic Ad Insertion for the XXII Olympic Winter Games, and we are delighted that they were able to easily leverage that integration work to realise additional benefits.”
Springall continued, “Yospace’s decision to focus on server-side ad replacement has been fully justified and a lot of the major launches we’ve seen since, such as Sky, DIRECTV, Channel 4, BT Sport, and ITV, have benefitted from our experiences with this project. The fact that Network Ten have decided to use Yospace for its Live-To-VoD service is testament to the flexibility of our platform, and it demonstrates that Yospace offer the most advanced stream manipulation system available today.”