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OTT Leadership Summit: The IAB on Server-Side Ad Insertion

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Server-side ad insertion (SSAI) technology is a game-changer for online content owners, allowing them to deliver a smoother experience for viewers while avoiding ad-blockers. During Streaming Media West's OTT Leadership Summit, SSAI expert Amit Shetty will join a panel discussing the technology's future. He shared a few thoughts in advance of the conference.

Streaming Media: Why is SSAI so useful for content owners?

Amit Shetty: SSAI is a solution that addresses a few issues for content owners.

First is user experience: It allows ads to be delivered with the same quality assurance as video content regardless of device and bandwidth variations.

Second is its ability to support more devices, including devices that have very little capabilities beyond playing video. For client-side ad insertion, the devices need to be a bit more sophisticated and allow code to be executed/support ad SDKs.

Third is ad blocking: With SSAI, publishers can deliver ads without being blocked.

Are there new developments coming for SSAI that will make it even more effective?

As companies understand the benefits of SSAI, there has been more investment in improving standards like VAST to ensure that SSAI use cases are better supported. This includes support for a UniversalAdID, guidance for handling headers correctly, separation of media file from executable code, and so on—features that are critical to ensuring that SSAI can be better supported.

What are the special technical requirements with SSAI?

The ability to seamlessly stitch ads requires the ability to transcode and deliver the ad streams as needed by the end-users’ environment. In addition, vendors have been working on technologies to improve the delivery of ads—for example, via “ad clouds." 

Are VOD providers just starting up with SSAI? What is holding them back from adopting it?

While these are still early days, there are signs that a majority of ads delivered on OTT platforms are server-side inserted. It does, however, take a lot of changes in the ecosystem to support SSAI. Ensuring that the right file formats are delivered, ensuring that the VAST tags for the ads do not contain VPAID, and confusion around the state of verification are all factors that might be holding providers from adopting SSAI.

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