Thanks to OTT platforms, viewers can stream any content at any time on just about any Internet-connected device. According to industry research, video views on OTT platforms have grown exponentially in the past year and keep rising.
Since more and more TV viewers are watching OTT platforms, advertisers are moving with them. There are some key benefits of advertising on OTT platforms:
- They are able to reach large a amount of audiences
- Ads on OTT platforms can be targeted to the relevant audience
- On OTT platforms ads can be inserted dynamically based on viewers’ preferences
- OTT platforms provide feedback, so advertisers can gauge the impact and effectiveness of the ads.
All of this makes OTT advertising a key part of any OTT service provider’s profitable business model.
In fact, while some of the tens of global and hundreds of regional OTT providers have had success with subscription and pay-per-view models, ad-based models are increasingly popular because of their potential to generate high revenues. For evidence that OTT advertising works, we need look no further than recent reports that Hulu earned more than $1 billion from ads for the first time, and that Roku’s business nearly doubled over the past year.
It’s all possible because of dynamic ad insertion, which allows providers to serve advertisements seamlessly on the fly based on viewers’ preferences. All of this is possible with the feedback loop in OTT. Ads can be inserted into the OTT media stream either on the client side or the server side, with insertion decisions stemming from analytics within the ad server.
Complexity Can Breed Errors
Compared with traditional broadcast, however, OTT workflows are much more complex, as they involve delivery to multiple devices with multiple profiles and bit rates. The content coming from different media sources is re-encoded, transcoded, and packaged into different profiles.
Dynamic ad insertion adds to the already complicated OTT workflow. Like in any traditional linear workflow — a live broadcast, for example — the server must insert an ad and return to the live content at a precise moment. But unlike in traditional workflows, this action might need to happen for multiple profiles at the same time for consumers watching the same content on different devices.
That complexity can lead to errors, such as playing the wrong ads at the wrong times or in the wrong format, resolution, or aspect ratio, to name just a few possible issues. To help combat those errors, there are ad markers in a stream that indicate where to insert the ad in the stream, how long the duration should be, and other vital details.
Automatic Monitoring Overcomes Complexity
Given the complexity and potential for error in OTT ad insertion, it’s critically important to make sure the correct ad plays on time and that ad playout is free from any audio/video glitches. That means keeping an eye on things like correct placement of ad markers, frequency and duration of targeted ads, resolution and bit rate, and much more.
Yet it’s impossible to perform all of those checks manually in real-time while the content is being streamed. Automatic monitoring is the answer.
A monitoring system running 24/7 can audit the complete end-to-end workflow starting with linear streams and ending with whatever content the consumer is watching – in any format. It can provide meaningful alarms in real time, along with where issues are occurring in the chain, so service providers can quickly resolve them before it affects the viewer.
The right system will monitor ABR content, both VOD and live, on a user-defined automated or manual schedule. It will check for inconsistencies pertaining to ABR package compliance, manifest and playlist syntax, download errors, content quality, and more. It will also check for:
- The presence of respective ad markers in MPD or HLS playlists and out time, in time, ad duration, etc.
- Inconsistent ad start segments across variants
- Duration of ads
- Minimum and maximum duration of content between ads
- Download failure or delay for ad segments
- Stale manifests in ad slots
- ABR compliance issues in ad chunks
- Audio and video quality issues within an ad stream
Considering the ever-increasing importance of OTT ad revenue, monitoring OTT ad insertion is a crucial part of any OTT service provider’s core strategy. A holistic, truly end-to-end automatic monitoring solution can help ensure seamless ad insertion and superior quality of experience, and give providers a competitive edge in the increasingly burgeoning OTT market.