By Paul Davies, Account Manager, Yospace
As Dan Carterâ€™s 40-metre drop-kick arched over the posts, the Rugby World Cup was decided. Hailed as the greatest ever tournament, the level of digital coverage reached new heights too.
Every single match was streamed online by UK broadcasters, and every one employed server-side ad replacement to generate digital revenues. In this article Iâ€™ll explain why.
As Steve Jobs once said: â€œYouâ€™ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology.â€ So, bearing that well-informed mantra in mind, what does the viewer expect in live simulcast?
Primarily, they want to see the game, uninterrupted (hence the unpopularity of pre-rolls). When play stops at half-time, an advertisement break is widely accepted â€“ indeed expected â€“ from a commercial broadcaster. The challenge in replacing these advertisements is to ensure frame-accurate, seamless transitions to maintain the viewerâ€™s trust.
A big strength of server-side is that transitions are seamless by nature, especially when you are able to encode advertisement assets ahead of time to exactly match the source profile of the underlying stream. Frame-accuracy can be achieved by integrating with the broadcasterâ€™s automation system, conditioning the stream at source, and delivering an experience where the viewer does not even notice the replacement take place.
Online streaming benefits from the level of personalisation that can be achieved, which is a potent tool when applied to advertising. By investing in building user profiles and developing knowledge of their audience, broadcasters enable ad breaks to be catered to the interests of the individual viewer.
User engagement can be driven further by implementing clickthrough and overlay functionality that corresponds to the advertisement that is being viewed at the time. Player-side interactivity is triggered by server-side ad calls, meaning the advertiser experiences the best of both worlds â€“ seamless, server-side ad insertions with player-side functionality.
With such a seamless and engaging proposition for the viewer, combined with reliability at the scale required for major national events, itâ€™s easy to see why broadcasters were keen to implement server-side advertisement replacement for the World Cup.
The principle of combining server-side insertions with the player-based benefits can be applied to analytics too â€“ an area that has traditionally been considered a weakness of server-side.
By deploying an analytics SDK in the player, ad views can be tracked to the same level of intricacy that has previously been seen solely in client-side solutions. The result is the most compelling approach to monetising live simulcast yet seen.
Most compelling of all to the viewer, who experiences a true broadcast-quality stream without any of the buffering or disruptions that have become so disruptive in online video. Such reliability, combined with personally engaging advertising, resulted in view-through rates of up to 98.2% during the tournament â€“ an incredible figure, and a genuinely new source of digital revenue for the broadcaster.
I almost forgot to mention ad blockers. So much debate is raging at the moment that I feel I should mention it, if nothing else just to improve the searchability of this article. Let me finish then with another statistic: we know view-through rates at the Rugby World Cup reached 98.2%, but do you know how many ads were blocked?