Jonas Flodh, CPO at VideoplazaFor all the talk of making it easier for TV buyers to buy video in the same way they do TV, the reality is that the industry has been slow to recreate TV’s core product – the hugely popular linear TV experience – online. Here Jonas Flodh, CPO at Videoplaza, a video advertising solutions provider, explains the technological challenges the industry had to overcome, and how recently developed solutions in live event monetisation are opening up hugely significant new opportunities. 

The proliferation of internet enabled devices has radically changed the way we watch TV. By 2018, there will be more than 10 billion mobile-ready devices and connections – about three billion more than there were in 2013 according to a recent Cisco survey. Even today, over 10% of online video plays are consumed on tablets and mobiles. And as viewers increasingly migrate across the ever-growing array of devices, media owners need to find ever new ways to compete for their attention. One way to stand out is to have a live offering, whether it’s news, live studio programmes, live sport or special events.

There’s a strong financial case for offering audiences a live option. Ooyala’s latest Video Index shows PC viewers watched live video eleven times longer than VOD in Q3 of 2013, watching live sports, news and special events for an average of 30 minutes per session. Many viewers also want to replicate their TV viewing online and increasingly want and expect simulcast broadcasting through IP devices.

To date, the standard way to monetise live events online has been pay-per-view and premium paywalls. However, there’s a growing interest in building up live audiences online, by making live content available for free on the open web and monetising via advertising.

The Challenges of Monetising Live Streaming

Broadcasters have mastered how to work with advertising in a linear live broadcast environment, particularly around things like the ability to trigger ad hoc ad breaks, to define the duration of the ad break on the fly and to fix the mix of ads to suit the nature of the live break.

In the online world, the above challenges remain, but things become even more complex when you want to make personalised ad decisions based on the user’s profile and manage that activity across as many different devices as possible.

A further challenge comes from the fact that the capacity requirements for infrastructure are much higher in a live scenario. In a VOD offering, viewers start their streams at slightly different times and the ad breaks are accordingly slightly shifted in time. The nature of live means that all viewers watch the stream at the same time and the ad breaks take place simultaneously so the exact number of concurrent users is much higher.


Customise a solution based on your existing infrastructure and expertise

Publishers have specific needs based on their unique workflow and technical set-up so it’s important to find a solution that integrates well with ongoing operations. An effective live monetisation solution should be flexible to meet these different needs, as well as attacking the fundamental challenges of traffic spikes and timing of breaks.
A successful live solution should:
  • Enable the sale and delivery of ads using exactly the same workflow used for a publisher’s standard VOD offering. Live ads should be sold as part of a broader package or as a special live offering
  • Give ad ops an efficient and integrated workflow to manually or automatically trigger cue points for ad breaks in real time in live streams
  • Be able to dynamically define the durations of breaks in live streams and handle handovers in a seamless way
  • Efficiently handle and optimise capacity requirements through spreading out ad loads across broader load zones

Now let’s look at some examples of broadcasters who are successfully turning live events and simulcasting into a both a significant revenue generator and a point of differentiation.

TV4 in Sweden have an advanced digital strategy and wanted to build a seamless experience between their linear broadcast programming and their IP-delivered programming. For TV4, offering a like for like user experience across linear and IP channels was a natural step towards the ‘New TV’.

They developed a simulcasting solution for which they deployed a customised plugin to deliver video ads into the video player for their simulcast content, which would replicate the viewer’s linear broadcast experience online. “We wanted to simulcast programming online as well as be able to monetise live events such as the Hockey World Cup. Our main driver was the desire to deliver the best experience for the viewer. What we offer our viewers across the linear and online worlds is now uniform – they get the same viewing experience regardless of the device or platform, which in turn drives stickiness” reported Gabriel Ashman, Head of Digital Advertising for TV4.

Make live monetisation a differentiator rather than a challenge

Live streaming is clearly differentiator in an online video offering and an open policy can also drive additional traffic to the relevant site and boost the wider VOD offering. SBS Discovery, another of Sweden’s largest broadcasters with services such as Kanal 5 Play and Kanal 9 Play, realised early on that live event programming is a big opportunity. Their overall strategy was to leverage live events to boost viewership across their VOD properties. The broadcaster aired Sweden’s World Cup Qualifier games and implemented a live event monetisation solution, which enabled them to generate revenue from what they knew would be a highly engaged audience.

Once their technical solution was built, they were able to manage the live advertising workflow using their existing ad server, thus avoiding any efficiency overhead on their ad ops team, who could traffic campaigns using the same process as for VOD. Pontus Hellgren from SBS Discovery said, “By building a live event monetisation solution to work with our existing broadcast infrastructure, we were able to start monetising live events which had the effect of increasing our overall inventory, and driving great advertiser demand for the spots in the World Cup Qualifier games. For us, live event monetisation was a great way to deliver a unique proposition to our advertisers.”

Seize the dayThere’s no longer any reason to fear live. Technology has solved the problems encountered in the past and – provided you have the right infrastructure – you can now deliver live and simulcast advertising via the same sales and ad operations workflow you use for standard VOD. And everybody wins: content owners can build larger audiences, drive additional traffic to their VOD content and sites, and have a product that stands out from the vast majority of the online competition. Then advertisers get a new opportunity to reach audiences simultaneously, and consumers gets free access to live content.

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