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: 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.

 

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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NAB 2019: Server-Side Ad Insertion for VoD

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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.

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NAB 2019: 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.

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.

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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.

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