BlackArrow targets addressable ads with SIS offering
BlackArrow has fleshed out its advanced advertising arsenal with the addition of its Subscriber Information Service product, which aids cable operators in deploying granular ads across linear, on-demand and interactive TV platforms.
Subscriber Information Service (SIS) was originally defined in the SCTE 130 standards, specifically SCTE 130-6, but the world of addressable advertising needed to mature before SIS came into play. SIS allows pay-TV operators to deploy advanced ads and marketing campaigns directly to specific audience segments.
Instead of serving up ads in geographic zones, SIS can target specific demographic information, memberships or service levels and look up device IDs, such as MAC addresses, to determine any audience qualifiers or segments that go with a particular device in a household.
SIS works in conjunction with SCTE 130-5-based Placement Opportunity Information Service (POIS), which in this case is BlackArrow’s ad router.
“The ad router communicates with a bunch of services on the back end to figure out ultimately what ad decision we’re going to send back to the video delivery platform,” said BlackArrow CTO Joe Matarese. “The SIS product is an important piece on the back end to decorate, if you will, a request from the ad router with information about the audience and qualifier and segment associated with a device.”
Matarese said dynamic ad insertion (DAI) in VOD needed to be rolled out and scaled up before SIS could step up to the plate. Also, 18 months to two years ago, there wasn’t the amount of content available in on-demand, but now the availability of network shows such as “30 Rock” have helped drive up usage.
In short, while SIS has existed as part of SCTE 130 for years, there wasn’t a need to target different audiences until the viewing base became big enough to do so, which is something that programmers, advertisers and cable operators now see as a viable option.
“On our systems now, we see 16 million to 17 million on-demand session requests come in each day,” Matarese said. “Often times between pre-rolls, post-rolls and mid-rolls, you’ll have multiple avails within an on-demand program that you’re going to be playing out. We’re quickly approaching the high 10s (millions) and closing in on 100 million avails each day that we’re looking to fill. When you get up to that kind of volume, that gets interesting to an advertiser, so a programmer or service provider will say, ‘Gee, how do we take advantage of this volume and start to segment different groups of people, and how do we market products and services to them?’
“I think there’s a natural progression, but you really had to get dynamic ad insertion out there. You had to get it launched and get it to scale, and we’ve done all of that in the last 18 months. Now we have enough scale to make it interesting. That’s what we’re seeing, and addressability is the next logical step.”
BlackArrow’s SIS is currently in the hands of a North American cable operator, with a full commercial deployment slated to be finished by the end of the year. Matarese said he expects SIS will be used first for on-demand, then applications for interactive services, and then on linear TV.
Along with being a multi-service product, the SIS was designed as a multi-platform offering, as well. In addition to set-top boxes and TVs, it can be plugged into other video systems to deliver advanced advertising, as well as newer IP devices such as tablets, connected TVs and game consoles.
Since it’s standards-based, BlackArrow’s SIS offering can also be integrated with other SCTE 130-compliant components of an advanced advertising platform.
“We really see ourselves as basically leading the industry on this front with the SIS product,” Matarese said. “For us, it was really kind of a natural progression. We saw the volumes of dynamic ad insertion starting to reach the point where we thought addressability was interesting from a business perspective.
“We obviously had business discussions with our customers, and they felt the same way. They were ready to move forward, and so I guess in a nutshell, we’re really looking at ourselves as taking a leadership position here and recognizing when to get that next product built and rolled out to the marketplace. I’m not aware of anyone else in the space right now that is as heavily focused on building this sort of product as we are.”
BlackArrow’s cable operator customer list includes Rogers Communications , Time Warner Cable  and Comcast. Among others, BlackArrow is backed by Cisco, Comcast Ventures, Intel Capital, Motorola Ventures and Time Warner Cable.