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Thursday, February, 21 2013

Upfronts: ready for a dynamic dose of VOD

By: Stewart Schley Thursday, February, 21 2013

It’s been a long time in the making, but cable-delivered “dynamic” video-on-demand advertising is now poised to make an appearance on the national media stage during the 2013 upfront season.

Several national cable networks have been working behind-the-scenes with cable’s Canoe Ventures consortium to fine-tune their VOD advertising approaches in time for the 2013 upfronts, according to Chris Pizzurro, who heads sales and marketing efforts for Canoe Ventures.

“It’s extremely satisfying to finally see it happen,” says Pizzurro, who worked on early VOD advertising implementations at Turner Broadcasting System Inc. before joining Canoe in 2011. Canoe has been focusing mainly on DAI since a radical downsizing in 2012 scaled back the work Canoe had been doing on other interactive advertising initiatives.

New possibilities

Dynamic ad insertion into VOD programming refers to the ability to inject commercials into discrete VOD sessions requested by cable viewers. It’s a big deal because it opens up new possibilities in cable advertising, including the ability to accurately track how many people see advertisements and the ability to change out commercial copy more easily than past VOD ad implementations allowed. Over time, proponents think DAI will grow to encompass other marketing feats such as targeting viewers or households by specific demographic or behavioral attributes in an Internet-styled advertising approach.

Making DAI happen requires interplay between the TV networks that make programs available over VOD, the on-the-ground cable systems that maintain VOD servers and software, and technology providers that match commercials, content and viewing sessions using sophisticated decision-management software. Canoe’s job is to come up with a common insertion platform and set of agreed-upon processes that integrate all three components.

Already, DAI insertions into VOD programs are quietly taking shape across numerous networks that have worked with Canoe to integrate the capability into their VOD offerings. Pizzurro says “numerous” cable network groups have either completed DAI integration or are close to finishing the required work. “All of these folks are gearing up to have this available at the upfront.”

Although there are several technology providers involved in the mix, Canoe has managed to come up with a common set of approaches and business rules that networks, cable systems and advertising intelligence systems can accommodate. The strategy has been to build around familiar advertising practices, says Pizzurro. That means embracing concepts such as scheduling ad flights by days, weeks or months and building campaigns around known programming genres or series titles. “From a broad view, we wanted to at least equal the capabilities of linear television. That was the guiding principle out of the gate,” he explained.

It’s also the reasoning behind Canoe’s pursuit of accreditation from the Media Ratings Council – the non-profit industry group that evaluates television ratings approaches from the likes of Nielsen, Rentrak and others. Pizzurro says the MRC’s blessing is important for instilling confidence in the media buying community over the way DAI ad impressions are tracked and reported by TV networks to their advertising buyers. The notion is to deliver an exacting level of reporting that elevates the DAI medium from a measurement standpoint. “If somebody schedules 1 million impressions in March, they’ll get back a daily report that tracks that progress,” said Pizzurro.

At the moment, the footprint for cable DAI in the U.S. is about 28 million homes – the combination of DAI-enabled homes reached by Comcast and Time Warner Cable. Pizzurro points out the field of play includes 20 of the top 25 TV markets, with more likely to come on board as additional cable companies make their VOD machinery available to national programmers later this year.

Meanwhile, one cable network has already broken the ice. Fearnet, the ad-supported cable programming service owned by a joint venture of Comcast, Sony Pictures Television and Lionsgate, has been implementing DAI since September 2012 on behalf of advertisers in film, automotive, videogame and other categories.


It’s alive! Dynamic VOD ads are up, running and not all that scary (Feb. 11, 2013)

Canoe seeks a research blessing for VOD ads (Feb. 5, 2013)

Advanced advertising presses on, Canoe or not (March 1, 2012)

In wake of Canoe’s woes, RFI lives on (Feb. 27, 2012)

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