It is no surprise that viewership is expanding to include not only live linear programming on the TV but also time-shifted viewing and multi-device viewing from multiple platforms. As content providers adapt their content delivery for the shift in viewership, they must also address monetizing and tracking in this disparate era. For ad-supported content, this often means dynamically inserting ads into set-top box (STB) video on demand (VOD) or digital outlets.
This paper will detail how a centrally-managed ad library — where all content providers can participate — can reduce complexities in ad management, VOD ad insertion, and dynamic ad insertion for different content types. It standardizes quality control, it streamlines tracking, and it reduces the time to execute campaigns.
Cloud Based Ad Management Whitepaper
Comcast Technology Solutions
It is no surprise that viewership is expanding to include not only live linear programing on the TV but also time-shifted viewing and multi-device viewing from multiple platforms. As content providers adapt their content delivery for the shift in viewership, they must also address monetizing and tracking in this disparate era. For ad-supported content, this often means dynamically inserting ads into set-top box (STB) video on demand (VOD) or digital outlets. This paper and presentation will detail how a centrally-managed ad library — where all content providers can participate — can reduce complexities in ad management, VOD ad insertion, and dynamic ad insertion for different content types. It standardizes quality control, it streamlines tracking, and it reduces the time to execute campaigns. The story of the relationship between digital video, time-shifted viewing, and advertising centers around the increasing power of consumer choice, and the need for processes that allow advertisers to meet customers on the customers’ timetable and device preference. The global appetite for video on demand (VOD) services is already a $14 billion market in the United States and, according to Global Industry Analysts, the global market is on track to surpass $90 billion by 2020.1 For advertisers who want to reach their intended customers, the sheer variety of devices and destinations has introduced unprecedented levels of complexity. Once time-shifted viewing is added to the mix, advertisers must deliver assets in nearreal time in order to fully capitalize on the VOD market. “Fragmentation” is a word that is often used to describe the disparate sea of services, geographies, and screens that video content needs to reach; but it is an applicable term for the buy-side of the ad trafficking supply chain as well. For advertisers with a spot that is ready for delivery, the path to multi-platform video consumers includes digital and linear settop- box (STB) delivery partners, campaign management companies, and content providers and content providers. The advantage of a centralized, cloud-based delivery model is that it removes complexity from both the buy- and sell-side of the delivery spectrum, and provides a mid-point where every player in the video advertising ecosystem can quickly identify assets and deliver them fast enough to be viable as part of a VOD playback. Along the way, process waste and unneeded manual intervention are eliminated in favor of a streamlined machine-to-machine workflow. VOD Delivery: The Status Quo Linear video, in which content is published for consumption according to a schedule, is generally understood; but every content providers has their own method for bringing content to the screen to be seen at a prescribed time. This is a big part of the problem for the non-linear VOD delivery, because it has largely been implemented as a bolt-on process, built upon each content provider’s unique linear workflow. I. Complexity The internal workflow for content providers requires 24-72 hours to make spots available for play through multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs). There are a myriad of factors that contribute to a delivery time that is not only protracted, but also unreliable for advertisers with time-sensitive ad spots to sell. • Dynamic Ad Insertion (DAI) for STB VOD requires additional metadata in a specific format (CableLabs 1.1) in order to work properly with the intended program. The requirement lies on the MVPD side; however, it requires content providers to a) have the software to create the metadata, and b) people to write the metadata. Many commercial spots are delivered either without the required metadata, or with metadata written in an incompatible format. • DAI for digital destinations requires a variety of media formats. Content providers need the correct software to solve for these destinations, as well as video experts who can ensure that all transcoding / transformation is performed properly. More than just a quality assurance (QA) function, this step is crucial to ensuring the quality of the end-product no matter what the final destination may be. Playback quality post-transcoding must be a crisp, “broadcast-quality” experience prior to being subject to any of the other factors (such as geography and network traffic) that may impact the consumer’s playback. • Each MVPD must account for its own delivery mechanism – or multiple mechanisms. They may outsource their work, maintain their own technology stack, or both. Larger distributors may have additional traffic coming from internal clients, such as advertising for their own programming that is produced internally. II. Volume For national spots alone, a major content provider is handling hundreds of thousands of spots annually. When it comes to VOD delivery, every spot is relegated to a queue for manual processing. III. Monetization limitations 1 “Global Video on Demand Market – Trends, Drivers, and Predictions.” Global Industry Analysts, January 2016 AD PLATFORM CLOUD BASED AD MANAGEMENT COMCASTTECHNOLOGYSOLUTIONS.COM/ADSTOR | 800.844.1776 | © 2018 COMCAST TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS 4 Monetizing non-linear inventory to capitalize on Nielsen C3/D4 periods is problematic to impossible in a traditional workflow. Existing processes take too long to complete and the delivery window can vary greatly, essentially limiting the types of advertising that can be utilized for a VOD asset. Advertising assets with a shorter shelf life, such as local ads or time-bound promotions, are not a good match for VOD playback unless they can be swapped out in near real-time once they are no longer viable. Benefits of a Centralized Ad Management Design The cloud is revolutionizing the entire ad delivery workflow by creating a collaborative environment that can be accessed by players across the delivery path. Benefits include: 1. Quality-assured mezzanine assets that are ready for distribution at the press of a button for near real-time campaign execution 2. Centralized library and asset management terminal 3. Standards and Practices approval; seamless pass/fail functionality 4. End-point aware processing and distribution 5. End-to-end support and visibility, instant asset tracking Ad operations teams can attain instant access to advertising spots; from there they can automatically prepare and distribute non-linear ad content to MVPDs and other digital properties. Content providers can source content and tailor versions for all screens. Collecting ad spots together into one common cloud-accessible clearing house results in streamlined, quality assured, and timely campaign execution across any platform. For content providers, advertisers, or agencies, the speed of execution makes all the difference between a successful campaign and one that under-performs. Ingest, processing, and distribution times are reduced from days to hours; bringing inventory to ready-to-air status, serving impressions faster than ever, and opening up time-shifted viewing to more forms of advertising, such as small business ads that generally age too quickly to take advantage of the on-demand market. Destination-specific rules can be managed more effectively as well. For example, specific rules around acceptable ads for a family-friendly video destination (rules such as no ads with guns, no smoking, etc.) can be managed or applied specifically in a centralized cloud environment. The content provider would need only to access a user interface (UI), locate the asset, review it, and apply rules to guide its delivery. The Content Provider Workflow: Current State The ad delivery workflow is a combination of many complex factors. Disparate, redundant, and/or manual processes are needed in order to locate and verify assets; manpower is needed to review and verify spots for delivery and must first locate the assets and coordinate with other teams that often receive traffic instructions separately. AD PLATFORM CLOUD BASED AD MANAGEMENT COMCASTTECHNOLOGYSOLUTIONS.COM/ADSTOR | 800.844.1776 | © 2018 COMCAST TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS 5 1. The broadcast operations team receives ads from various ad distributors, all with different processes and metadata types (or with no metadata included at all). The ads are often spread among multiple receivers within a larger organization. • Internal promotion/advertising material goes through the same team, but through a separate workflow. • The operation team is tasked with the job of aggregating all submissions in order to identify what is needed to successfully match the correct version of ad spot to the correct delivery end-point. 2. The broadcast operations team processes ads that are identified for linear/broadcast use. 3. The digital/ad operations team receives traffic instruction from advertisers and agencies, each of which has a different process or preferred communication method. • Traffic instructions can be received through email, text, or surprisingly, even fax. • It is important to note that traffic instructions generally arrive separately from the actual media. The team that receives the instructions may not have any visibility into whether or not the spot has actually been delivered to the team in charge of preparing the files for delivery. In many instances, these two teams can be completely separate internal resources that need to corroborate internally before any work can be completed. • Ad spots are generally identified with an 11-digit Industry Standard Coding Identification (ISCI) Ad-ID number. VOD assets, and any ads destined for use within a VOD asset, also need an additional 13-digit Movie Asset Identification (MAID) in order to be properly identified. 4. The digital ad operations team initiates communications with broadcast ops team, often by way of a manual process such as back-and-forth emails. • The teams locate the ads with Ad-ID/ISCI, along with information received (advertiser, ad distributor and so on) to support the “finding process.” • The broadcast ops team transcodes the ads into the correct formats, based on the required specifications for each destination, i.e. CableLabs 1.1 (video and xml), DASH, HLS, MP4, etc. • The license window must be specified for each asset. For VOD DAI, specific start and end dates are required to ensure the amount of time that the spot can be available. • Once the broadcast ops team completes its work, the digital team is notified of the MAID (for VOD DAI), and the URL (for digital destinations such as TV Everywhere). This notification may be via email, or possibly through a shared file that the digital team can access. • The digital ad ops team must then enter this information into an ad decisioning service (ADS) such as FreeWheel/ Google DFP. This step may be delayed for up to 24 hours: the assets must be available at the MVPD before the ADS will allow the user to associate it with a MAID or URL. FIGURE 1: CONTENT PROVIDER MANUAL WORKFLOW AD PLATFORM CLOUD BASED AD MANAGEMENT COMCASTTECHNOLOGYSOLUTIONS.COM/ADSTOR | 800.844.1776 | © 2018 COMCAST TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS 6 The steps above can take from 24 to 72 hours to complete. If any spot is missing or inaccurate, the ad sales team often needs to be engaged to contact either the advertiser agency or ad distributor for delivery confirmation. It is important that this timeframe be reduced because of a number of industry needs, including near real-time placement of non-linear advertising and the ability to change creative within tight air windows. Content Providers may build their promotional workflow on top of their existing ad delivery workflow; however, many content providers have a separate workflow/delivery method for their internal promotions. This results in an additional complex workflow that the same teams need to be staffed to address. 1. Ads and promos are now aggregated into one common location. 2. Digital/ad operations teams can locate assets (both external ads and internal promotional spots) via web-based UI. 3. Assets can be viewed, rules applied, and distribution initiated to preset destinations. 4. Information needed for ADS is immediately generated. 5. Ops teams can copy and paste the information into ADS, and associate the creative assets with the correct campaign immediately. The across-the-board benefits translate into more than just better performance. They imbue the entire operation with the needed agility to respond to changes in short order, and make last-minute revenue opportunities possible. The next section provides a real-world example of how the centralized cloud management model can support a quick change that increases a program’s value, and provides advertisers programmatic type capability in the linear space. The Centralized Ad Cloud Service A centrally-managed ad library and management architecture streamlines the ad delivery workflow. The centralized location within the overall ad delivery pathway is crucial, providing both advertiser/agency and content provider/broadcaster with unprecedented visibility and ease-of-use. Where the previous workflow takes up to 3 days to complete, the new process can be completed in hours. Figure 2 below illustrates: AN EXAMPLE OF FLEXIBLE DIGITAL DELIVERY Professional sports broadcasts often pose significant programming and advertising challenges, since any assumptions about the event – duration, location, breaks in action, etc. – must be backed up with solid contingency plans that account for disruptions at each assumption point. A multi-game playoff event exacerbates these challenges because it is contingent on questions that are only answered within days of a planned coverage, such as where it will be held, who will be playing, or if a previous game has already decided the contest. One of our clients is a major U.S. broadcaster who was delivering a high-profile, final playoff game to broadcast and digital destinations, including their own TV Everywhere service. This game is often considered the largest advertising event on television. This final playoff game not only proved to be one of the most-watched programs of the year, but it also happened just one day after the previous game – leaving less than twenty-four hours for this company to have all advertising in place for each destination. Approximately an hour before the scheduled start of the game we received a call 1899 WYNKOOP ST. | SUITE 550 DENVER, CO | 800.824.1776 COMCASTTECHNOLOGYSOLUTIONS.COM COMCASTTECHNOLOGYSOLUTIONS@COMCAST.COM © 2018 COMCAST TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS from this client, who had secured a lucrative last-minute advertising opportunity. The request was that a promotional ad for a big-budget motion picture be included in the ad mix for their TV Everywhere service. This presented a huge revenue opportunity for the broadcaster, and an attractive advertising destination for the client. Comcast Technology Solutions had already migrated this client’s ad into a centralized cloud ad platform which was used to aggregate commercial spots and promotions for on-demand viewing. This meant that the ad asset in question was already in the library inventory and easily discoverable; so even though it was a last-minute change, the ad spot was quickly found, and subsequently transcoded for – and delivered to – the broadcaster’s TV Everywhere destination. Since then, this flexibility has been utilized countless times, and the cloud service itself has been expanded to more fully incorporate digital delivery destinations. As such, if the same opportunity were to occur this year, a phone call would not have been necessary. The ad operations team could access the portal, select the asset, and proceed with delivery with no further intervention. The Future – Converged Delivery and Less Duplication The benefits of the cloud will be fully realized as more and more businesses move their processes to it, simplifying workflows and adding more options to content monetization strategies. As a “one-stop shop” for all delivery needs, the cloud makes a compelling argument for itself, but future benefits also extend into improved tracking and reduced file duplication, both of which are long-standing, interconnected issues across the workflow. For example: • In a common situation where the same ad is being used for multiple services, files containing the same ad spot are currently sent from the advertiser/agency to each content provider, each of which in turn send the spot, generally in both standard definition (SD) and high definition (HD) formats, to MVPDs for viewing. • In the same scenario, if all content providers were participating in the centralized cloud model, only one file would suffice: the advertiser uploads the file to the cloud, content providers access it and apply traffic rules, and MVPD’s receive one file that can be used for all applicable purposes. • Improved tracking and reporting is an organic benefit. The cloud model can provide an aggregated report that can identify a spot’s true delivery across all outlets and platforms. Conclusion The complexities of multi-platform ad trafficking are felt across every player in the workflow. Regardless of where an ad is originated and where it needs to be played, the centralized cloud model is an elegant way to improve and streamline the advertising delivery ecosystem. The inherent process efficiencies bring increased responsiveness and visibility, and ultimately generate added value and revenue capabilities of each piece of content. This “meet me in the middle” architecture breaks down the wall between ad buyers and sellers and opens up collaboration in unprecedented ways.
Comcast Technology Solutions