March 25, 2011 – In what could be an important step toward meeting mounting demand from ad agencies for cross-platform efficiencies in ad placement, software supplier This Technology has opened a path for Web-based campaign management systems to deliver ads into the cable TV space.
The company’s new standards-based SpotLink software interconnects SCTE 130-compliant Dynamic Advertising Insertion (DAI) systems used for placements in on-demand TV streams with broadband ad servers using the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s VAST (Video Advertising Serving Template) standard. “With SpotLink, the networks are finally free to use their proven, cost-efficient broadband ad servers to interface with any campaign management system being used by any operator,” says Jeffrey Sherwin, CEO of This Technology.
The new software, offered on a free, open-source basis, comes just as the cable industry’s pursuit of TV Everywhere is beginning to blur the lines between traditional VOD and broadband-delivered premium content. “Successfully monetizing on-demand video is the linchpin to enabling emerging video consumption models, such as TV Everywhere,” notes Yoav Schreiber, senior analyst for digital media infrastructure at Current Analysis.
“One of the obstacles to the adoption of advanced advertising has been the complexity in managing available ad inventory within on-demand video,” Schreiber says. “Being able to re-use existing assets and leverage existing operations, instead of investing in new infrastructure and processes should help accelerate implementation of dynamic advertising insertion solutions.”
Until now, there were only two relatively costly ways programmers operating in the Web space could extend use of their advertising campaign management system for digital ad insertion into the cable TV space, Sherwin notes. “They could either use the CMS (campaign management system) service providers have decided to go with, which creates sensitivity around pricing and operational challenges of working with every SP CMS,” he says. “Or they could get their own CMS. But then they have to deal with the costs of hooking those systems into every individual SP CMS. Now, with SpotLink, they can use their existing broadband ad server and connect into the SCTE 130 environment.”
SpotLink provides a simple way for programming networks and operators to use broadband ad servers for DAI. The SpotLink plug-in-based integration enables programmers’ broadband ad servers to extract SCTE 130 metadata from operator equipment and convert it into a format that can be interpreted and acted upon by those broadband ad servers.
“The architecture allows each programmer or operator to add in their own special sauce that works with their own ad operations,” Sherwin says. “If they sell spots by channel, by time, by series actor or whatever, they can build in SCTE 130 with the tags they use and then communicate with the service provider CMS to initiate the placements.”
For example, he explains, say a programmer has sold ad space on the Internet based on a series name, such as The Office. While the broadband ad servers have tags that use their own codes to identify which programs are which, those codes mean nothing to the operator’s CMS. SpotLink allows the broadband server to understand how the program is identified by SCTE metadata, which gives the programmer the option to build into the broadband server code a message that says “anything with this asset ID means it’s the code for The Office,” Sherwin says.
The open source licensing model allows each programming network to build and maintain their own plug-in, making the overall solution less costly to implement and faster to scale. “The plug-in is just the code that fits into a series of APIs we’ve named SpotLink,” Sherwin notes.
As a supplier of solutions for metadata management, ad space management and interconnection in VOD, network DVR, IPTV and mobile applications, This has deep experience integrating advertising operations across multiple vendor platforms. Its MetaMore solution serves to compile information about ad space inventory from all the exposures of video content on the network into a data base that allows MSOs, content providers and other advertising rights holders to more efficiently identify and control their supply of content and advertising opportunities. Two years ago CableLabs licensed the MetaMore software to serve as the reference template and first implementation for translation between CableLabs’ VOD Metadata 1.1 and 2.0 specifications.
Translating metadata in the new SpotLink application is key to what’s required to open cable CMS platforms to DAI via Web-based platforms. “The broadband ad servers are good at making very quick dynamic decisions for the Internet in real time,” Sherwin explains. “They’re very, very scalable, very economically feasible, and, of course, there already are existing programmer operations that work with them on the broadband side. The problem is since the (VOD) streams originate from the service provider and the programmer wants to dynamically insert ads, they have to provide definitions of inventory to the service provider’s CMS so that it knows when to switch in ads on behalf of the programmer.”
It’s in This Technology’s interest to foster widespread use of dynamic advertising beyond the local level, where, because, different CMSs must talk to each other, there’s a strong need for the company’s solutions. Along with MetaMore and SpotLink these include Spot Builder, which leverages the database compiled under MetaMore to coordinate how ads are allocated across the ad inventory supply in linear and on-demand venues.
“Increasing the velocity that drives MSOs into dynamic on-demand advertising will drive the need for placement software such as ours,” Sherwin says. “We wanted to make it easy for programmers who have an existing broadband ad infrastructure to get that software working with the SCTE 130 environment. The fastest way to let that happen was to give away the source and let people start innovating.”
But the company has also introduced licensing fees for SpotLink, including enterprise fees for programming networks and reseller licenses for OEM builders of ad servers who may want to build the solution into their software systems.
“The enterprise license came about because when we talked to service providers and programmers, they said that while it makes sense to have this available on an open-source basis, we’re going to want to have real support from This Technology,” Sherwin says. “So we’ve provided them all the standard license terms one would expect in a commercial agreement surrounding open source software. Many may want to have their custom plug-ins supported or built by us. We didn’t want to stop that adoption.”