Dynamic ad insertion vendor This Technology is hoping to accelerate dynamic advertising insertion (DAI) with today's release of its free, open source SpotLink offering.
In addition to being open source, SpotLink is SCTE 130-compliant, specifically SCTE 130-3. For cable operators, the SCTE 130 standard is a multi-part specification that defines how advertising placement servers (ad decision systems, or ADS) communicate with video delivery equipment (ad managers, or ADM). The ADS system uses SCTE 130-3 to identify and coordinate the insertion of ads into media systems.
The problem that This Technology CEO Jeff Sherwin set out to solve more than a year ago was that programmers use broadband ad servers that were developed to work with Internet companies such as DoubleClick and FreeWheel, and not cable operators' Web-based ad campaign managers.
Whenever a programmer wanted to work with a cable operator, it was forced to buy cable-based campaign management systems from companies such as Concurrent, OpenTV or BlackArrow in order to interface with the cable operator on dynamic advertising insertion.
The reverse was true for cable operators; they already had their own equipment in place to provide ads over the Internet, and they didn't want to purchase the broadband ad servers that the networks were using.
Because ad operations for dynamic ad insertion on applications like VOD typically have more in common with broadband advertising than broadcast advertising, many networks would rather use their existing broadband ad server instead of purchasing an unnecessary third system and further building out operations.
The additional capital costs have stifled DAI between programmers and cable operators. SpotLink enables DAI across a range of applications, including VOD, IPTV, broadband video and network DVR.
"The DAI market has been moving at a slower pace than a lot of us vendors would like," Sherwin said. "We think that creating a free, open source SpotLink product is going to push DAI forward faster and remove some of the barriers that keep that from becoming a business today. There's no additional cost; they don't have to go out and make a decision on which campaign management system to buy and how much to budget against it and whether there will be enough ad revenue to cover it."
By connecting SCTE 130-compliant DAI systems to broadband ad servers using the Interactive Advertising Bureau's (IAB) Video Advertising Serving Template standard, SpotLink is basically a free translator that bridges the gap between the different technologies. The plug-in-based integration enables broadband ad servers to extract SCTE 130 metadata from operator equipment and convert it into a format that can be interpreted and acted upon by a programming network's broadband ad servers.
The open source licensing model allows each programming network to build and maintain their own plug-in, making the overall platform less costly to implement and faster to scale.
Sherwin said by making SpotLink open source, he hoped to jumpstart the DAI market, but there are several ways his company can still monetize SpotLink. The first is that SpotLink drives business toward This Technology's core products, including SpotBuilder, which is a placement opportunity information service server
This Technology's bottom line can also benefit by providing enterprise support for a cable operator that wants to use SpotLink by creating customized plug-ins.
Sherwin said SpotLink has been in trials for four or five months now, but he declined to name the cable operators that are kicking the tires. Canoe Ventures is This Technology's only announced client to date, but two years ago, CableLabs selected This Technology's MetaMore  software platform for use by in its Metadata project.
Canoe Ventures CTO Arthur Orduña said Canoe has been demonstrating a DAI model that included This Technology since last year's CableLabs Winter Conference. While Sherwin spoke about the benefits of hooking up a programmer to a cable operator, Orduña sees SpotLink working across a broad base of networks and cable operators through Canoe Ventures.
"My take on it overall is I think that it's a bold, long-term smart move by Jeff [Sherwin] and This Technology, and it really underscores the fact that he and his company are committed to trying to expand this market," Orduña said to CED. "What we showed last year at Winter Conference was frankly a foreshadowing of this, which is the ability for a programmer to point, so to speak, its campaign manager, whatever it may be, in a standards SCTE 130 way, toward the cable ecosystem. We at Canoe receive that campaign information message just once and are able to execute it, or able to convey it, to multiple MSOs in a much more efficient manner.
"ADS and ADM live in individual VOD systems, and even down to individual service groups. Think about how many VOD systems and service groups there are across 40 million digital households. If you're a single programmer and you want to make a direct connection to more than 2,500 spots, that wasn't a really a good approach. Now the programmer can make that connection in one place with someone like Canoe in a standards-based way without having to buy a new campaign manager. The beauty of it all is that it's based on SCTE 130, the programmers can stay with whatever their campaign manager or ad decision systems are, while the MSOs can stick with their campaign managers and ad decision systems."
Canoe Ventures was formed in 2008 as a joint venture between Bright House Networks, Cablevision Systems, Charter Communications, Comcast Corp., Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable.
"I applaud This Technology for doing this and for taking a big step toward open standards," Orduña said. "I think that just shows [Sherwin's] commitment to making this market happen. Canoe wants to make this market happen, as well, and for it to be very successful for the vendors, as well, as the market expands."