Serious buzz about multichannel video advertising

Monday, June, 17 2013

Cable’s tablet ad story has a familiar ring

By: Stewart Schley Monday, June, 17 2013

Remember the early days of cable’s conversion to high-definition television? Then you may also recall that something was missing from the HD versions of popular cable channels like ESPN and HGTV.

Local commercials.

The delivery of these channels and others in HD preceded the conversion of local advertisements to the high-resolution, wide-aspect format. So when viewers tuned to, let’s say, the high-def channel for ESPN, the local spots that otherwise appeared in the traditional standard-def ESPN feed weren’t there. It took a while for cable advertising groups to fully integrate HD commercial production and digital insertion into these HD channels.

“Before HD hit critical mass, the technology wasn’t caught up to the point where you could actually insert local commercials into the HD feed,” recalled Cox Media SVP Billy Farina during a panel session at last week’s Cable Show. (Cox Media is the local ad-sales unit of cable company Cox Communications.) Most operators have long since converted their operations so that, as Farina put it, “what the user experiences on the SD screens they’re going to experience on the HD screens."

Why the history lesson? Because there may be a telling analogy between what went on with HD and what’s happening now with the delivery of live video channels to tablet computing devices. For the moment, when viewers fire up cable tablet-video apps on their iPads – at least in most cases – local commercials don’t appear within cable channels on the miniature glass screens.

For now, the absence of local commercials in the live tablet TV apps that cable operators deliver isn’t a huge problem, given the relatively thin viewership the tablet apps currently generate. But over time, as more viewers – and more local advertisers – become accustomed to seeing live TV on tablets, cable companies will need to find ways to integrate local commercials into tablet feeds, Farina believes.

With HD, cable advertising organizations had “a narrow window” to integrate local advertising before there was a vocal uprising among clients, Farina said during the Cable Show panel. “The same holds true for the tablet,” he said. “I can’t tell you where is that tipping point…but I think the tablet viewing is sort of the same problem with the same solution.”

Cox Media has taken a step toward that future by signing an agreement with media measurement firm Rentrak to track viewing impressions across tablet video applications, according to a report by Fierce Cable. The arrangement relates to video-on-demand content over tablets, rather than live TV, but even so, it’s an important ingredient in being able to monetize the insertion of advertising into the IP streams that feed tablets and other non-TV devices.

Meanwhile, advertising technology providers including SeaChange International Inc. and BlackArrow have introducing IP video management platforms that aim to integrate local cable commercials into IP video feeds. “It’s essentially following the viewer across every platform they use,” said BlackArrow President Nick Troiano at last week’s panel.

Photo courtesy of Apple Inc.

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