Vendors Show Tech Foundation Is Ready for Multiscreen Ad Biz

Joe Materese, CTO, BlackArrow

Joe Materese, CTO, BlackArrow

December 10, 2012 – A major milestone in the ramp-up to multiscreen TV advertising was reached with little fanfare in September when vendors teamed to demonstrate a fully integrated linear placement environment at the CableLabs Linear and IP Ad Interop event in Louisville, CO.
Helping to anchor the demo was a newly announced set of services and interfaces, collectively called Linear Extensions for Dynamic Ad Insertion, supplied by BlackArrow, which interfaces with CableLabs’ new Event Signaling and Messaging (ESAM) specification to seamlessly blend the outputs from traditional linear TV ad systems with dynamic ad insertion capabilities on IP-connected devices. Another key player in the Interop was RGB Networks, which, at the recent SCTE Cable Tec Expo in Orlando, teamed with BlackArrow to show what was billed as the first end-to-end standards-based solution for delivering multiscreen advertising.

“TV Everywhere has clearly arrived and now that operators have tackled the primary challenges to its delivery, their focus is shifting to identifying ways to monetize these new services and recouping investment costs, while increasing profits,” says Ramin Farassat, vice president of product marketing and business development at RGB. “Extending the already proven, standards-based advertising model from the traditional set-top model to the multiscreen environment is an ideal option to generate revenues.”

For BlackArrow the fact there’s now a commercially available solution to make this possible is the culmination of a series of software component introductions over the past year, which, as previously reported (June, p. 1, and September, p. 20), include the Ad Router, which controls and mediates all real-time advertising workflows, and the Software Information Service (SIS) module, which aggregates disparate sources of anonymous subscriber information to facilitate targeted advertising on any combination of standards-based vendor ad management, routing and placement platforms. “Everything we’ve put in place has set up the opportunity for dynamic advertising across multiple devices,” says BlackArrow CTO Joe Materese.

At the Interop, the POIS (Placement Opportunity Information Service) component of the BlackArrow solution cross-referenced in-band signaling metadata delivered within the live TV feed against expected ad opportunities scheduled by a traditional linear ad system. This allowed encoder vendors to ensure the stream was conditioned properly for seamless ad insertion.

For packager vendors, the BlackArrow system provided the necessary metadata to be encapsulated within the stream to inform the ad decision process. The SIS and ADS (Ad Decision Server) components of the BlackArrow solution were used to select the appropriate ad, which could be the same ad that aired during the original TV broadcast or a new addressable, dynamically inserted ad.

The demonstration utilized the transcoding and real-time packaging and placement capabilities of RGB’s Video Multiprocessing Gateway, which includes means of performing adaptive bitrate encoding of ads, detecting and communicating ad avails, inserting ads and packaging H.264-encoded programs and ads together into all the leading adaptive rate protocols.
The companies said the combination of technologies along with manifest proxy servers used with IP adaptive bitrate streaming create a fully scalable delivery system for addressing targeted ads to specific devices and viewers.

Operators are keen to push ahead with dynamic advertising in the multiscreen space, where the ability to target individual users on devices provides a new impetus to the local ad avail sales business, which currently generates about $4 billion annually. But it remains to be seen how quickly MSOs’ ad sales staffs will be able to exploit these new capabilities, given the absence of a common set of metrics ad agencies and advertisers can use for defining targetable segments and assessing value for addressable advertising in this space.

“There’s a lot of discussion about constructing audience segments that correspond to the types of advertisers operators and agencies want to reach,” Materese says. “A way of segmenting and defining the subscriber database is a missing piece for settling on ratings points and using the types of advertising currencies the industry is accustomed to.”

But, he adds, with the technology piece ready to use, there’s not a “lot of work to be done to agree on this now that there’s a real business opportunity.”