Mobile video in Europe and around the world has grown in popularity as video streaming has become increasingly convenient, premium, and high quality from a delivery standpoint. There are several factors that have improved the user experience over the years — from smarter smartphones and 4G connections, to backend technologies like Server Side Ad Insertion (SSAI) which has become a popular solution for broadcasters and media owners in Europe and the U.S. alike to manage their cross device streams.
Managing video and TV streams is no easy task within a highly fragmented industry that includes a number of diverse ways to consume content, across devices of all sizes from mobile and desktop to connected TV. Device level factors also complicate work flows, in particular with mobile, with fluctuating Wi-Fi connections and variable user privacy settings.
All of these factors make it harder for broadcasters and media owners to smartly and securely monetise audiences. In particular as it relates to live programming and video-on-demand, monetisation efforts have shifted towards server-side decisioning because of a few key benefits which are explored below.
When it comes to delivering content and advertisements, decisioning can occur on the client (device) or on the server or a combination of both. Server-side ad insertion (SSAI) works well for long-form environments, especially live and video-on-demand, where the stream is continuous and more TV-like.
Server-side technologies communicates easily and directly between broadcasters for content, and advertising vendors for returning ads. SSAI also significantly reduces the need for client-side development work, which historically has been resource intensive in order to create the best playback experience across devices.
SSAI works by communicating with the device to understand the strength of the Internet connection, which is known as “Adaptive Bit Rate” (ABR) technology. ABR constantly communicates with the SSAI vendor about the device’s connection and bandwidth, which determines the quality of the video played. By delivering content files that don’t exceed the bandwidth, SSAI reduces latency and buffering.
Simultaneously, SSAI vendors make video ad requests to advertising technology partners to return ads that take into consideration what is known about the user based on viewing history, demographics, and geographical locations while compling with necessary privacy regulation. All of which takes place on the server.
Once the ad has been returned, the SSAI vendor “stitches” together the content and ads, to return a single, continuous stream back to the consumer. The ability to stitch content on the server before reaching the client has circumvented ad blocking technologies, which work by detecting and blocking ads on the client, preventing broadcasters from losing ad revenue due to ad blockers.
One other notable benefit of SSAI is its ability to pre-fetch content and pace out ad requests to avoid overloading the entire ecosystem. This capability has been especially key for managing live TV, which requires being able to handle millions of users and their personalised streams all at once. This has been critical for mobile video, as smartphones are the most popular devices (62%) to stream live video content, followed by smart TVs, according to the IAB’s 2018 “Live Video Streaming — A Global Perspective” report.
In summary, server-side ad insertion, because of its benefits, is better for consumers, media owners and broadcasters. From a consumer perspective, it has reduced buffering and allowed for better quality video on mobile and connected devices. Broadcasters are also revelling in SSAI’s ability to simplify workflows, manage live streams, allow for ad personalisation which drives ad revenue, and circumvent ad blockers.