Authored by Pierre Lauzon, VP Sales North America
It’s been about a month since I got back from the Cable-Tec Expo in Atlanta, Georgia. And I picked up on two main trends: one about making money; the other about cutting costs.
Making money: Dynamic Ad Insertion
Dynamic ad insertion is big in America – because it solves the how-to-monetise problem.
OTT is great because it helps cable operators offer a better viewing experience and hold on to subscribers in the face of stiff competition. But once they’ve done that… they need to monetise!
One way to do this is by delivering ads that target the specific people viewing the content at that moment. The beauty of OTT is that it’s over the Internet – so it provides all the data you need to target ads effectively. Then all you have to do is show the right ad at the right time – adding it either from the client (Client-Side Ad Insertion) or from the server (Server-Side Ad Insertion).
But Client-Side Ad Insertion (CSAI) is prone to ad blockers – meaning it does not always reach the intended audience. It’s also a disruptive viewer experience, forcing the viewer to wait for the player to trigger the browser to ask the server which ad to play, and then receive the ad stream, before reverting back to the main video stream when the ad is over. It piles on wait after wait.
That’s why Server-Side Ad Insertion (SSAI) has become crucial. It by-passes the ad-blockers, making sure that viewers actually see the ads; and it improves the viewing experience, by delivering a seamless video stream with the ads stitched right in.
And there were plenty of demos of dynamic ad insertion (server-side) at Cable-Tec Expo. ARRIS, for example, showed how its products could insert ads into HLS services via manifest manipulation. This enables delivery both to IP clients (such as Apple TV) by using OTT in their core network, and to legacy QAM set-top boxes by converting ABR to MPEG-2 TS. So members of the same houeshold using different clients can receive the same targeted OTT ad, if that ad targets their geographical location.
It’s funny how ABR – and not Multicast IP transport approaches – was being converted to MPEG-2 TS in this demo. Previously, operators were implementing ABR OTT platforms as an afterthought. They did this in parallel to their Multicast IPTV – which was the main delivery method. In this case, ABR is the common source format for the video. Which leads me to the next point.
Cutting costs: ABR
The other thing I picked up on is that ABR is becoming the de-facto approach for the video backbone distribution.
While ABR is not new, ABR formats are becoming dominant in all areas of video delivery. Previously, Multicast operators used IP transport approaches to deliver streams to set-top boxes on their network, and added ABR OTT for delivery to the CDN (Content Delivery Network) on and off their network. So content quality was uneven across different platforms and two distinct infrastructures had to be maintained.
Now, ABR OTT is being pushed to the core and replacing Multicast IP transport approaches. This means that operators need to process video only once. This pushes costs down as service providers can migrate from their other delivery methods, because ABR OTT enables them to reach anyone who has an Internet connection and an Internet player.
A bright future
ABR is driving OTT costs down and Dynamic Ad Insertion is enabling monetisation. The future looks bright for next-generation TV in the Americas!