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SME '19: fuboTV's Geir Magnusson Talks Server-Side Ad Insertion

Learn more about SSAI at Streaming Media's next event.

Read the complete transcript of this interview:

Tim Siglin: Welcome back to Almost Live here at Streaming Media East 2019, I'm Tim Siglin, contributing editor with Streaming Media magazine and the founding executive director of the not-for-profit, Help Me! Stream. And today, I have with me Geir Magnusson, CTO of fuboTV. Tell me a little bit about fubo.

Geir Magnusson: Sure. It's a really it's a kind of sports-first, cable replacement product for anybody that's looking to replace their legacy cable or satellite content provider. We offer applications through all connected devices, smart TVs, mobile, and web, and have content packages that really include everything you're going to get over your current systems with, in addition is that we have a lot of really great sports content, as well.

Tim Siglin: So, it's interesting that you say that because one of the things that a number of my friends have asked me over the last couple of years is they've said, "We understand you don't have TV, 'cause I cord-cut probably eight, nine years ago." And they said, "We'd love to do it, but we really want to still watch live sports."

Geir Magnusson: Yeah, it's a big one.

Tim Siglin: So, is that part of the answer that you provide into the industry of somebody who wants to cord-cut, but they still want to be able to watch all sports content?

Geir Magnusson: Exactly, we've seen that a lot, where there's concern about if I cut the cord, I don't get the sports that I want, so we work very hard to have a wide range of sports. We've got the local sports networks, the regional sports networks, Boston, New York, all the major markets, we carry Turner, NBC, beIN Sports. There's a tremendous amount of sports on Fubo.

Tim Siglin: Interesting. And is that the sole selling proposition, is sports, or do you, just sort of a skinny bundle of sports or is there a bigger proposition there?

Geir Magnusson: It's the bigger proposition. There is no skinny bundle of just sports. Sports is, this is a replacement for the whole household. Right, so there should be something in the package for everybody in the household. However, you do have the sports and we do lead a little bit with the sports because we have such a good sports package as part of it.

Tim Siglin: Mm-hmm, nice. And what panel or presentation are you doing today here at the show?

Geir Magnusson: Today, we're going to talk about server-side ad insertion.

Tim Siglin: Okay and so, for people who aren't familiar with that, so let's say, sort of describe what that is.

Geir Magnusson: So, server-side ad insertion is fairly common. The idea is that on your linear stream when you're watching a channel, we are able to insert an advertisement in a marked ad break in the stream. It's exactly what would happen on your cable television when there's a local avail for your local provider. You might get a local ad on your cable television as you're watching, very similar technology where there's a signal in the stream that says, ad goes here, we place the ad there, it streams as just a normal part of the content stream and then the content reverts back in once the ad is complete.

Tim Siglin: And from a technical standpoint is it's just another piece of information in a manifest file, it pulls separate chunk segments into, or is it, 'cause I know in the early days of server-side, sort of before true server-side. There was the idea of stitching the ad directly into the content, so that you didn't have this sort of teardown setup when you went to a commercial.

Geir Magnusson: That's exactly what's happening here. The manifest come through with a marker that says, "Alright, starting with the segment that follows, this is a, say, 30-second ad break, so queue out the 30 seconds." Now, there's still segments there which is the underlying stream that comes from the original broadcaster.

Tim Siglin: So, you're inserting over top of what the manifest--

Geir Magnusson: We're actually replacing in the manifest segments with the video segment for the advertisements that's been chosen for that user. In the event there is no advertisement, it just reverts back to the original segment.

Tim Siglin: Kind of like some of the early Super Bowl streams when you watched it online, you got the same ad over and over and over again. Because there wasn't that sort of personalization of ad content.

Geir Magnusson: Exactly, exactly.

Tim Siglin: And SSAI came about because of the fact that when there were sort of the traditional models under Flash Player where it would have different pieces of content, you could easily block that content.

Geir Magnusson: Yeah, you could certainly, if it's the client side has a problem where it can be blocked. And, I mean that I think was the biggest problem, it's also the experience of the user to make it truly seamless because you don't want that interruption. Like, when you're watching a normally delivered stream, it's seamless as it goes from content to ad to back. And we want to maintain that. I mean, our value proposition is to be as good or better than current media offerings that consumers have, we can't be worse.

Tim Siglin: And is the personalization--is that sort of the goal or the trend, or are we still sort of a ways off from having highly personalized commercial content for people watching?

Geir Magnusson: Oh, we're there. Because every stream that we stream is individual, right? So, we can on a per-player basis choose the advertisement that goes in any given ad slot.

Tim Siglin: Is that based on certain demographies or how does that-

Geir Magnusson: It can be all sorts of things. It can be certainly the demographic. Certainly what kind of device you're on. Some people are targeting connected devices versus mobile. We can use it effectively for our own house ads because if we know that you're on a connected device and you don't have this package, we can say, "Hey did you know that we just got, say, we just have a Showtime, right." So, we can do things like that. So, it can be used that way or give the opportunity to the commercial advertiser to choose the segments with a very fine grain.

Tim Siglin: Awesome, cool, Geir thank you very much for your time.

Geir Magnusson: Hey, thank you very much.

Tim Siglin: And, we'll be right back in just a few minutes.

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