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Paramount's Adtech Challenges for Live Streaming at Scale

What are some of the biggest adtech challenges for live streaming at scale? Jarred Wilichinsky, SVP Global Video Monetization and Operations, Paramount, speaks with Nadine Krefetz, Consultant, Reality Software, Contributing Editor, Streaming Media, about some of the technical issues that must be handled in order to effectively deliver advertising during live streaming events.

“It's not the Super Bowl because you're not essentially serving one ad to a lot of people, but you're serving a lot of different ads to a lot of people,” Krefetz says to Wilichinsky about the Paramount adtech operations. “What's the acceptable latency for you?”

“If it's a live event?” Wilichinsky says. “Latency is one of the number one enemies out there in digital land as you do in dynamic decisioning. So there are methods to mitigate that. I think prefetching is a term that is important in live, especially live with scale. There are different ends of the spectrum.” Wilichinsky emphasizes that the number of viewers must be taken into careful consideration in giving systems more time to adapt and prepare. “You spread out the load a little bit in that form of matter,” he says. “Adtech in general works much better when it's spread versus a condensed factor.”

“So you're load testing it?” Krefetz says. “You also said occasionally things break. What breaks the most often?”

“Everything breaks,” Wilichinsky says with a laugh. “I mean latency is always a never-ending challenge. Especially on live high concurrent stuff. You get into blank VAST tags. You know, people still to this day think FLV is a video format that is acceptable in digital advertising. Flash went away how many years ago? It still comes up. VPAID is still showing up in places. And those things cause problems. Audio levels - they're too loud, they're too soft. You know, we have to think about how do we normalize audio at scale? We review ads before they go live. We check their specs. We do that and we do that at scale.”

“Are you using technology to check the ads or are you actually eyeballing it?” Krefetz asks.

“We use technology and have partnerships in place to check the core specs of it,” Wilichinsky says. “Your bit rate, your file size, your audio levels, your frame rates, and release frames. You know, those core elements.” But he also notes that their operations team still directly watches ads. “We still make sure there's not cursing or anything inappropriate,” he says. “The whole standards and practices are important even though we're digital. You don't want to serve an inappropriate ad in certain types of content.”

Learn more about adtech at Streaming Media West 2022.

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