Ads and OTT: Get your metadata right

Feb. 19, 2018
Most broadcasters are now forced to stream linear content on-demand via over-the-top (OTT) platforms - consumers more or less demand it. It's no longer avoidable, given that OTT is dominating the way in which ...

Most broadcasters are now forced to stream linear content on-demand via over-the-top (OTT) platforms - consumers more or less demand it. It's no longer avoidable, given that OTT is dominating the way in which video content is consumed, representing a seismic shift in the content delivery industry.

A small proportion of those from the broadcast environment yet to go OTT don't fully understand just how complex streaming linear content OTT can be. At the same time, pure OTT providers often underestimate the difference between packaging content destined for OTT from the start, and the reformatting of originally linear content. One of the most difficult challenges is inserting and replacing ads, and this poses a problem given that ads are inextricable to the monetization of OTT provision. The solution to this challenge lies within the correct and accurate application of metadata.

OTT vs. broadcast

In the case of the OTT provider, it is easier (than for broadcast) to personalise the viewing experience to ensure the viewer receives ads more targeted to their interests. OTT providers are also aware that ads originally meant for OTT streaming will naturally be cleared for use over the Internet.

Linear broadcasts, on the other hand, may contain ads that the broadcaster does not have the right to stream over the Internet, or perhaps aren't relevant or suitable for streaming to a viewer from a certain geographical region. Consider if a certain country has a ban on gambling; an ad for a gambling site would have to be removed and replaced if a viewer was watching from that country.

Within the OTT space, it's possible to make last-minute decisions regarding the insertion of dynamic ads. In the broadcast environment, however, when linear channels are streaming OTT, it is a whole other ball game. A broadcaster must, under every circumstance, notify the playout system in advance as to which ads can remain, which must be replaced, and what they can be replaced with. The problem is, every ad break within a linear broadcast is likely to be a different length, further complicating the replacement of individual ads with more suitable ads. As a result, it is very difficult for the broadcaster to replace ads in the same spontaneous fashion as OTT providers can. With the correct metadata messaging, however, the process is simplified significantly.

Getting the metadata right

Before the boom in OTT viewing, metadata was an often-overlooked tool. Today, it remains under-appreciated despite its importance for many broadcast operations. In fact, metadata has been a key enabler of the OTT trend.

Metadata can describe a whole host of meanings within content, including whether an ad has rights clearance for Internet use, what exactly the content of the ad depicts (gambling, for example) and it can also hold information regarding the length of the ad. This is but a tiny example of the type of sophisticated and in-depth information metadata can describe.

When described within linear content, metadata can alert the downstream OTT delivery system, ahead of time, if the ad coming up can be used (depending on the criteria set), or if it must be replaced. Better still, metadata within other ads can be trawled by the system to find a suitable ad for replacement. Without the correct metadata in place, broadcasters could end up with a blank screen for the duration of the ad slot, due to the system's inability to insert an ad of the right length and the right content to fill the replacement slot.

But metadata doesn't only describe the content with the trigger necessary for replacement, it also provides the system with the timing information of the content and ads. Metadata markers can be inserted at the beginning and end of a content segment, including the ad breaks, to alert the system to exactly when an ad should be inserted and exactly when the next content segment begins. This helps the OTT provider to ensure they do not cut off a section of the program before and ahead of the ad, guaranteeing a seamless viewing experience. In short, metadata is absolutely essential.

Increasing the value of OTT

With the steady decline in linear TV viewing, ads within linear content streamed OTT will likely become even more important to broadcasters, as they look to maintain and grow advertising revenue. In fact, ads within OTT streams can sometimes prove even more valuable to advertisers and, in turn, the broadcaster.

The reason for this is the potential for personalising and targeting ads depending on several criteria, the information for which all comes from metadata. Particularly when linked to a personal electronic device, like a tablet or a mobile phone, metadata can alert a system to trends in an individual's viewing habits, as well as highlighting the viewer's gender, where they live and how old they are.

It's never been more important that ads reach the right audience, to ensure value for money for advertisers and to reduce ad skipping. Advertising is integral to the monetization of OTT, and consistent, accurate ad insertion using metadata is central to this. With metadata-enabled ad insertion, broadcasters will find that delivering linear content OTT can be lucrative, and not just a cost of doing business.

Roger Franklin is the CEO of Crystal.

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