BlackArrow has bulked up its advanced advertising platform for video-on-demand with the addition of dynamic mid-roll insertions and application programming interfaces (APIs).
The two enhancements to BlackArrow's advertising platform add flexibility and new revenue opportunities for cable operators, programmers and ad agencies. The APIs support integrated workflows with third-party advertising systems, while the dynamic mid-roll ad insertions expand the market opportunity for VOD advertising.
"Our end goal is to make VOD advertising a viable medium," said BlackArrow President Nick Troiano. "We're real excited today to point to two significant product enhancements that we really believe put to bed any of the technology issues associated with hitting that goal of making VOD viable, and those specifically are the introduction of mid-rolls and the ability to support third-party ad systems with our API release.
"These new enhancements benefit all of the partners in the ecosystem by helping both national and local ad sales teams, as well as programmers and operators. And, of course, anything that increases the flexibly and viability of the media, like mid-rolls, is beneficial to everyone, as well."
The mid-rolls increase the amount of ads available beyond pre-rolls and post-rolls, which means new advertising business models.
"The way that we do this is we have some technology that really enables the customers to support mid-rolls and the management of mid-rolls through a bunch of time-shifted broadcast windows," said Chris Hock, BlackArrow's senior vice president of product management. "So you can take advantage of the pre-rolls, as well as take advantage of post Nielsen C3, and basically come up with new business models and new packaging strategies that really contemplate multiple broadcast windows.
"The way that we're doing this is basically through the use of standard broadcast metadata. Our solution then applies a templating system to the signal information that our customers can control, so during time and specific points in a program, it enables our customers to control – which means insert, replace or skip altogether – ads that are in the original VOD ad set."
Taken as a whole, the BlackArrow platform allows advertising players in the ecosystem to take advantage of a single pitch.
"Now you can control your ad monetization policies through various broadcast windows and increase your inventory with mid-roll capabilities and reduce your operational cost," Hock said. "You can use the same asset that was baked in the VOD ads and replace them. It's better for operational efficiencies because you can use the same asset for dynamic ad and static VOD."
Hock said the APIs would facilitate the flow of orders into BlackArrow's system because they use systems that are already in place. Since the APIs work with existing campaign systems, third-party liner or online ad systems can be automated into BlackArrow's platform for execution.
"The key thing here is the APIs provide flexibility to the programmers and operators; that means we'll support linear systems and digital systems," Troiano said. "We can support both in environments that include interactive, that include Canoe [Ventures] and that include any permutation of ad business models that will become apparent as VOD gets scaled."
BlackArrow's latest offering also features trick mode policies, which it said enables new broadcast date-aware business models.
Troiano said the new features were being "exercised" by existing BlackArrow customers but declined to say which companies were actually using them. BlackArrow has previously announced that Comcast is using its technology for VOD advertising, as well as announced a dynamic VOD advertising trial with Bresnan prior to Cablevision's purchase of the company.
BlackArrow's platform uses various elements of SCTE 130, but Hock said it was designed to be "interface-agnostic so these capabilities could be applied to new and future platforms, as well."
"Right now in VOD, SCTE 130 kind of rules the roost, so we have a very robust set of adapters for speaking 130 with the rest of the ecosystem," he said.
BlackArrow also was one of the co-founders of the Advanced Advertising Media Project (AAMP), which recently announced the results from the first phase of a survey on advertising on free VOD.
BlackArrow's investors include Cisco, Comcast Interactive Capital, Motorola Ventures, NDS Group, Intel Capital, and more recently Time Warner Cable.