ABSTRACT

HTTP adaptive streaming (HAS) has become the de facto mode of delivering content for over-the-top (OTT) video services , both live and on-demand. As these services grow and mature, so does the need for viable, robust capabilities for monetization and personalization.

These capabilities (and more) are driving many programmers and broadcasters to look to DAI to help drive additional revenue streams on the plethora of devices now capable of streaming. This paper and presentation will explore some of the key considerations related to OTT DAI.

First, what are the the fundamentals of ad stitching and the differences between legacy client-side ad insertion (CSAI) and today’s server-side ad insertion (SSAI)? How can those who deploy OTT services defeat the very real concern posed by ad blockers and reach the audiences that seek their content?

This paper will also look at IAB standards (e.g., VAST/VPAID) and how OTT adverts can now deliver national/local/regional payloads within ad pods, essentially mimicking the broadcast world and making true monetization a reality for content creators who have long looked at OTT and broadcast as separate worlds.

Finally, we will discuss the implications of personalization and true user targeting, which are now a reality for OTT services using a variety of data sources (GPS, postal code, IP tables).

These capabilities represent a great advance for OTT and the granular experiences it can provide. This means that service providers can deliver adverts that are more relevant to the viewer, OTT is more impactful as an overall experience, and will likely drive ad rates (and revenue) higher over time.

This will also include interactive overlays, where advertisers can now provide viewers on connected devices with tangible elements (coupons) they can redeem.

These new capabilities help to cement relevant experiences for the viewer and audience and increase revenue opportunities for OTT providers.

INTRODUCTION

FUNDAMENTALS OF AD STITCHING

With the streaming format wars in the rear view mirror, HAS, specifically Apple’s HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) and the Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (MPEG DASH) specifications now allow for the efficient, scalable delivery of media content globally from conventional HTTP servers.

True to the name, this content adapts to changing bandwidth rates across fixed line and wireless networks, delivering the best experience relative to the available throughput and screen size. These standards are enabling high definition quality video (and 

soon, 4K) content to be consumed globally, on any capable device. Now, these streams are moving from being a cost center to a profit center, as programmers, service providers and broadcasters seek to monetize these experiences in the same way they have been able to for their traditional services for years.

Now, OTT delivery technology is being relied upon to not only bring TV-like experiences to all screens with ad experiences that have seamless transitions between content and ads with no buffering across all screens, but also adding elements through interactivity, personalization and more. The actual function of inserting the ads is reliant on some elements inherent to traditional broadcast.

Most broadcast workflows and the accompanying ad insertion workflow rely on SCTE 35 cue messages passed through the MPEG-2 Transport Stream, or SCTE 104 in SDI (baseband) video, marking the placement of an ad pod. This pod usually is comprised of national ad payload, and also an ad replacement opportunity for a local broadcast affiliate.

The video workflow components read this cue message and translate it to an ad marker format specific to HLS or DASH. The ad marker is read and the player client relays the ad break and user metadata to a VAST-compliant ad decisioning network.

The ad decisioning network provisions the replacement ad, which is then seamlessly inserted into the video stream either server or client side.

To be clear, ad insertion has been a part of the streaming vernacular for the past few years. In early iterations, the request for an ad has taken place at the client, or player. This approach is referred to as client side ad insertion or CSAI.

More recently, a move toward server side ad insertion (SSAI) has been an observed trend.

CSAI VERSUS SSAI: STITCHING COMES OF AGE

Ad stitching became a popular solution for monetization in the industry when device fragmentation became a problem. At the time, web video, cable/IP television, set-top boxes, game consoles, and mobile handsets all lacked client-side capabilities, so developers on those platforms came to rely on stitching to eliminate the problem.

In other cases, server-side insertion was the only available option, as was the case with the first generation Apple TV.

These issues have since been resolved, with industry factions either selecting client-side support outright or spending some engineering cycles to customize the client side during initial development.

Others choose to use SSAI, while some on both sides continue to hope for an all- purpose solution that simplifies device fragmentation challenges.

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