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mDialog Looks to the Future of Mobile Video Advertising

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Mobile video is on the rise, and mobile video advertising is right there with it. To find out what's coming next, we spoke to Tim Street, vice president of mobile video for in-stream ad insertion company mDialog, during the recent Streaming Media East conference in New York City.

"Right now people are experimenting with buying ads in the space and sometimes they are buying on devices specifically for that device, but I think that's going to change as we see TV everywhere roll out and authenticated devices where you log in using your cable subscriber membership number, you are going to get the cable programming that you paid for on these new devices and it's going to have the same advertising in it," said Street. "I kind of think it will be like HD where you didn't have a different ad buy on HD than you did on SD, so I think it's just you are going to be buying those channels."

Street also sees overlays taking a more prominent role in mobile video.

"With these new devices, if you are watching video full screen, you've lost the companion banner ad opportunity like you have on a PC and so I think we are going to see some geotargeted interactive overlays that will bring out some engagement," noted Street.

To view the full red carpet interview, scroll down for the video.

Troy Dreier: Hi, this is Troy Dreier, senior associate editor for StreamingMedia.com coming to you from the red carpet at Streaming Media East. Joining me today is Tim Street of mDialog and Tim, sorry, your title again was?

Tim Street: Vice president, mobile video.

Troy Dreier: Vice president of mobile video, well mobile video is a huge topic and I know that's what mDialog is all about, tell me a little bit about mDialog, I guess the company made a big turn in what it was all about?

Tim Street: Sure, mDialog started out helping people get video on the internet and then about the time that the iPhone came out, we saw the opportunity or actually the need for enabling ad insertion on these new connected devices like the iPhone, the iPad, Android, and with the adaptive bitrate technology, HLS, we were involved early on in the spec. And what we've come to today is that we are really a stream management company and so in looking at the different things that you can do with multiple streams, whether it's seamless ad insertion or sports blackouts. There are a lot of things to pay attention to in enabling services for folks when it comes to streams. So if you want to do something on the iPhone or the iPad, traditionally from an ad insertion standpoint, you couldn't do that because Flash doesn't work on those devices and even if it did, the technology was based on player switching where if you are on a PC, you are watching a show, the PC switches to a different player that plays an ad and then switches back to the programming player. And that works out great on the PC because it's a pretty powerful device, but these new devices don't have the processing speed and so you get a bad user experience and when you are talking live or linear television, you can't have a spinning wheel pop up in the middle of your live program and you can't afford to lose two seconds on each end of an ad break, it's just millions of dollars go to waste that way. So, we've created this stream switching technology that allows us to manipulate the m3u8 playlist in real-time and play out seamless advertising. So, it's a TV experience on the iPad, the iPhone, and for live events we've built out an operator console that allows our customers to, you know, in a live situation like a sporting event, you don't know when the commercial break is. So the technical director or the AP will be counting it down, we are going to break in three, two, one and then someone is able to hit a big red button and that sends the ad payload into the stream seamlessly.

Troy Dreier: So what trends are you seeing in mobile video advertising?

Tim Street: I think right now, it's still early days, but we are seeing new types of programming actually develop in terms of -- you take a look at what's going on Roku or what's going on on Apple TV, these devices also use adaptive bitrate streaming like the iPhone and the iPad. So, there's new types of live programming and VOD that's been done there that isn't available on cable television. In terms of the advertising itself, right now people are experimenting with buying ads in the space and sometimes they are buying on devices specifically for that device, but I think that's going to change as we see TV everywhere roll out and authenticated devices where you log in using your cable subscriber membership number, you are going to get the cable programming that you paid for on these new devices and it's going to have the same advertising in it. I kind of think it will be like HD where you didn't have a different ad buy on HD than you did on SD, so I think it's just you are going to be buying those channels. But the other thing that where I see some opportunity is that with these new devices, if you are watching video full screen, you've lost the companion banner ad opportunity like you have on a PC and so I think we are going to see some geotargeted interactive overlays that will bring out some engagement. Right now on the PC, you have different things that are done in Flash that can be very engaging and since Flash doesn't work on these devices, it's a little bit limiting, but I think we'll see some overlays that people can interact with via a call to action and then those can launch rich media HTML5 in-stream apps. So those could be anything from, like, find a local car dealership, schedule a test drive, order a product, and then close out of it and go right back into watching the programming you were watching rather than take you away to somebody's website.

Troy Dreier: And is there a danger that this interactivity or pop ups or overlays could annoy the viewer?

Tim Street: Absolutely, if you are watching "Game of Thrones," you don't expect to see advertising. So, it's not permission-based, but if you are already watching a commercial for a car and it's going to be there anyway and an overlay comes up on top of that commercial and you happen to be interested in that car and you'd like to see what colors it comes in and have that interactivity or maybe you want to rotate it 360 and see what the car really looks like, that is -- we are able to do that today.

Troy Dreier: So the way that you insert ads differs from how other people you were saying, what challenges are there in this type of ad insertion?

Tim Street: Right now, if you've watched a video on an iPad, for example, you'll see a spinning wheel and that's the player switching model that doesn't really work. So, that's a big challenge for folks when they're trying to take advantage of their current ad ops workflow and take what they've been doing on the PC and make it work on these new devices. So, the challenge to get past that is manipulating the m3u8 playlist. There is a lot of work that's gone into making that happen and that's what we've concentrated on is making that easy, so that the folks that are serving ads either on television or on the PC, we can enable those same ads using your current ad ops workflow or you can serve alternative ones if it makes sense from an ad buying standpoint.

Troy Dreier: You're on a panel later today and I guess you are going to be wearing a different hat for that, it's on building an online audience.

Tim Street: We are really going to take a look at what are the different things that you can take advantage of if you are starting from scratch and how do you cultivate a community around your show using the social media opportunities that are out there and really understanding what it is to engage with an audience and listen to what they have to say. So, it's a little bit different then traditional media where you make something and you put it on the air and the marketing machine either gets you viewers or they don't. It's different here where you don't have those marketing dollars as an independent content creator and you need to find the people that are interested in whatever you are creating.

Troy Dreier: What shows, give us some names that have just started completely low budget, grassroots that you've seen have done a great job of using social tools to engage an audience?

Tim Street: Sure, I think the number one example of any independent content creator out there that has done a fantastic job of building an online community and leveraging social media would be Felicia Day with "The Guild." I mean she started out on YouTube, she got her fans to donate money, she put together a DVD and sold that DVD to her fans and then eventually, she got an agent, George Ruiz at ICM, and he was able to broker a deal with Microsoft and then Microsoft got Sprint involved as a sponsor and Sprint has been sponsoring her show. So, she's been around now for several years and has a community that she meets with in public at different conferences, Comic-Con and people just love her show and the community that she's built.

Troy Dreier: Yeah, she's unstoppable, she's got her own YouTube channel now, yeah she's huge.

Tim Street: Yeah, she's the poster child for web video success for sure.

Troy Dreier: Terrific, I agree with that. Well, thank you very much for joining me and this is Troy Dreier coming to you from Streaming Media East on the red carpet.

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