Whether it’s trying to increase your OTT ad revenue or attracting and keeping viewers with quality content, streaming is a complicated business. We’ve all experienced problems with OTT quality, whether it’s that ad that plays incessantly or breaks into the programming right during the punchline, or a program that buffers frequently and looks terrible when it finally does play. With so much choice available for viewers, most won’t take the time to tell you there’s a problem—they’ll simply watch something else.
Ad-supported streaming services are set to truly take off this year. Financial losses due to low ad fill rates and failures remain a big problem for the business model. Fill rates and impressions are impacted not only by the quality of the content and ad failures, but also by the prevalence of ad blockers and fraud. Quality issues can occur at every step of the preparation and delivery chain, leaving you blind to problems your viewers might be experiencing. These same issues that were conquered for linear TV ad delivery are now raising their heads once again.
And in the OTT space, the ad environment is even more complex. Are ads playing as expected? What is the user seeing? Is the problem with the contribution feed, encoder, POIS server, packager, origin server, manifest manipulator, ad decisioning system, or CDN? The right tools can provide these answers.
Dynamic Ad Insertion (DAI) and the Promise of Targeted Ads
There are numerous points of failure for OTT-delivered ads. And while things work correctly most of the time, things also break on a fairly regular basis. Those bad events directly impact revenue. The classic challenges of getting SCTE-35 markers to propagate throughout the distribution network are still challenges today. However, it’s become more complicated because you have a traditional Linear TV path plus the OTT path to contend with. Getting SCTE-35 into Adaptive Bit Rate (ABR) streams for DAI requires a completely different workflow.
The promise of targeted advertising has been talked about for years, yet it is still in its infancy. The workflow complexity required for ad personalization introduces more handoffs to the ad system. It’s during these handoffs where problems typically happen. Assuming that the manifest is accurately conditioned for the downstream manifest manipulator, ad customization for a specific viewer is possible. The manifest manipulator is tasked with exchanging information with ad decisioning servers, and if all goes well, a customized commercial gets sent back, enabling every viewer to have a personalized experience. When it goes badly, the users can miss ads, encounter media player resets due to poor
handoffs between content and advertisement, get stuck watching a provider slate, or simply experience poor-quality streaming caused by slow ad networks or low-quality audio and video content.
Imagine all those potential points of failure, and then up the stakes by making it all happen during a live sporting event. It’s easy to see why organizations have been reluctant to embrace it completely and are just now starting to dip their toes into DAI and experiment with targeted ad workflows.
Monitoring to the Rescue
The answer to safely entering the water while protecting and advancing revenue is to have as much visibility of the workflow as possible, so you can proactively be alerted to issues, then easily find and fix them before you lose viewers. Monitoring must be deployed at each stage of the OTT advertisement lifecycle. This will bring visibility from the contribution feeds and enable you to follow SCTE-35 ad event messaging through the transcoding and packaging process, to manifest conditioning and ultimately to CDN delivery post-manifest manipulator.
Not only do you need to track the ad OUT and IN events, but you also need to be sure that ad insertion is properly filling the entire opportunity duration, the ad delivery is sufficient to handle the timing constraints of a live streaming service, and the content is at the expected quality.
You might be able to get some or all of this information from five different monitoring systems. But to be able to do it all quickly and use your human resources efficiently, it needs to be tied together under a unified “single-pane-of-glass,” such as Telestream’s centralized video monitoring and management system, iVMS ASM.
iVMS ASM correlates very complex and diverse sets of data from across each point in the ad workflow. It presents a simple graphical view of ad opportunities, health status, and alerts users to any issues that may arise. Using the dedicated, dynamic advertisement report, you can quickly identify large-scale issues that are significantly affecting ad opportunities. When problems are more nuanced, you can quickly drill down and start investigating specific events with correlated audio and video content analysis (think audio levels and picture quality), as well as manifest conditioning and streaming impairments that can cause advertisement failure.
If your organization is currently deploying OTT advertising or aspires to go down the path of targeted advertising, it’s imperative to attach some visibility to it. Otherwise, there’s no way to know if you’re hemorrhaging ad dollars and viewers when things go awry.
The Need for Monitoring
It’s critical to have visibility and correlation of ads throughout an ABR network to protect ad revenues and ensure there are no missed opportunities. That is exactly what the Telestream DAI monitoring solution is built for. Telestream’s video management system, iVMS ASM, collects monitoring data from our probing technologies—the Inspector LIVE, Sentry, and Surveyor ABR family. They perform ad-insert data correlation between source, origin, and CDN locations, enabling operations teams to dynamically visualize performance of the ad workflow and identify issues fast. Telestream’s DAI solution not only monitors and provides a real-time health status; it also includes analytical data such as expected vs. actual avail times, avail minutes per hour, and ad-id information that can be used for analyzing the OTT advertising workflow and make better business decisions. These solutions provide entire workflow analytics of advertisement opportunities, including source messaging, manifest conditioning, and manifest manipulation, as well as ad audio and video quality monitoring from contribution to CDN edge cache.
For pure cloud-based SAS workflows, Telestream Cloud Stream Monitor allows you deploy this capability on your cloud vendor of choice, giving you a global monitoring solution for your content from more than 70 unique locations.
Find out more at go2sm.com/telestreamdai
For over 20 years, Telestream® has been at the forefront of innovation in the digital video industry. The company develops products for media processing and workflow orchestration; live capture, streaming, production, video quality assurance, archive and content management; and video and audio test solutions that make it possible to reliably get video content to any audience regardless of how it is created, distributed or viewed. Telestream solutions are available on premises or in the cloud as well as in hybrid combinations. Telestream is privately held with corporate headquarters located in Nevada City, California and Westwood, Massachusetts.
For company and product information, visit www.telestream.net.