Why the future of live TV has implications for marketers

With the news recently that AdBlock Plus has launched its own ad-tech platform, it’s clear that the long-running debate over adblockers is set to continue for some time yet.

In the world of video, however, the narrative has taken a different turn, mainly due to the widespread adoption of server-side ad insertion technology. Driven initially by live streaming, server-side is fast becoming the de facto method of monetising video.

When broadcasters first deployed their online platforms the focus was on VoD/catch-up content.

Live streaming wasn’t added until much later. The quickest and cheapest way to monetise on-demand content was to deploy a client-side ad insertion solution, in which the ad stitching is performed in the player of the user’s device / platform. 

It wasn’t a perfect solution.

The user would likely encounter buffering or spinning dials as the ad content loaded and quite often the viewing experience would be pretty clunky.

But it did allow broadcasters to monetise content without the need to touch any of its broadcast infrastructure. 

Client-side ad insertion has improved since then, but nevertheless it isn’t a realistic option for live channels. 

Live streaming more common

From my own experience at Yospace I have seen that, through a succession of major sporting events over the last few years, from the Winter Olympics and FIFA World Cup to the 6 Nations and Euro2016, one broadcaster after another has deployed live streaming on their online platforms.

Such deployments rely on an effective monetisation tool and, to achieve this, broadcasters needed to find a way to replace ad breaks in the original TV feed when watched online.

Around 78% of viewers said they were more likely to take notice of personalised ads

A key requirement of ad replacement is that ad stitching must be frame-accurate, and the inherent buffering added by client-side insertion meant that a new solution needed to be found.

Broadcasters chose to adopt a more integrated server-side solution, in which ad insertions are performed before the stream reaches the player – a method that would later gain traction in the ad-blocker debate.

The result is a smooth, seamless experience for the viewer. Frame-accuracy is afforded by taking cues from the broadcast playout system, ensuring that the viewer enjoys perfectly timed transitions to and from replacement ad breaks, with no over-running or flashes of underlying ads. 

These factors contribute to a true broadcast experience, where the viewer is able to press play, then sit back and be fed content.

Advertising

 

Every 10 to 15 minutes they see an ad break, like they would expect to see on traditional TV, only with ads that are sold specifically for online. The technology allows more than online-only ads, of course. Full personalisation can be achieved because, a) each viewer watches on his / her own screen; b) server-side stitching technology allows the broadcaster to manage each user session.

The combination of excellent user experience afforded by well-deployed, server-side technology and personally relevant content has contributed to view-through rates for many broadcasters soaring beyond 97%.

In CPM terms, this equates to the value of each ad spot in a live stream being far higher than its equivalent in the original broadcast feed.

Such figures are fantastic for advocates of server-side ad insertion. The technology was gaining traction way before the ad blocker debate really took off, but nonetheless Apple’s announcement that it would allow ad blockers on iOS9 helped bring server-side stitching into focus.

The theory goes that by stitching ads on the server-side, players are unable to detect where the insertion took place and therefore the ad cannot be blocked.

The truth is more complicated than that. Yes, server-side insertion vastly reduces the risk of ad blockers compared to client-side insertion, but more than that I would say it’s the user experience and relevance of the ads served that drives up the view-through rates, rather than the inability of technology to block the ads.

Ads more popular than you think

This summer Yospace conducted a consumer poll that addressed this theme. Looking at attitudes to advertising in live streaming, 88% of respondents claimed to watch ad breaks – a surprisingly high figure considering the assumption was that ad breaks are the cue to put the kettle on. 

Attitudes to personalisation were the most surprising revelation, however.

Around 78% of viewers said they were more likely to take notice of personalised ads. Delving further on this topic, 64% said they were likely to click on an ad in a live stream, which is great news for advertisers who are able to provide a direct route to market.

If we break this figure out by age group, we found the response among younger viewers was a lot more favourable, with nearly 80% of under 35’s saying they would take follow up action to a personalised ad.

Such data reveals an interesting relationship between the viewer and broadcaster.

Viewers have a high expectation that online television should reflect the true broadcast quality delivery of traditional TV. In return the broadcaster is able to create a platform in which personalised advertising is accepted as part of the viewing experience.

Following the success of live ad insertion projects, many broadcasters are implementing server-side ad insertion for VoD / catch-up too. In a move that is set to further improve the user experience, broadcasters and content providers are well placed to reap the benefits for a long time to come.

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