Light Reading

Startup Seeks Open-Source VoD Ad-Vantage

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

This Technology LLC intends to put some giddy up in cable's historically slow and spotty pursuit of video-on-demand (VoD) advertising. The firm is offering an open-source translation software that can bridge MSO platforms to broadly deployed systems that programmers use to splice ads into Web videos. (See This Technology Links Cable VoD To the Web .)

This Tech's software, called SpotLink, connects cable's dynamic advertising insertion (DAI) systems to broadband ad servers that use the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) 's Video Advertising Serving Template standard. The open-source version becomes available for download today. This Tech will manage the project initially, but the intention is to grow a community around it and, like Linux, allow people to contribute additions and fixes.

Although cable has dabbled in relatively small trials and deployments of dynamic VoD ad insertion, that work hasn't scaled in part because cable's standard for that -- SCTE-130 -- doesn't speak the same technical language of campaign managers and ad-decision engines that national programmers and broadcasters already use to support content delivered over the Internet on their own sites or through Web video hubs like Hulu LLC .

Those programmers, who have already invested in systems from companies such as FreeWheel Media Inc. and Auditude, are hesitant to shell out more money to buy and integrate SCTE-130-compliant products from the likes of Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Concurrent Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: CCUR), OpenTV Corp. (Nasdaq: OPTV) and BlackArrow Inc.

This Tech aims to solve that problem by offering the glue to stick those sides together and let programmers insert ads into cable VoD and the Web without having to buy a separate, cable-friendly system. "Our chief interest is moving the entire DAI market forward," says This Tech CEO Jeffrey Sherwin, noting that SpotLink can cover not just traditional cable VoD but broadband video and network DVRs apps as well.

Canoe Ventures LLC , the cross-MSO advanced ad consortium that counts Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) among its backers, is keen on This Technology's open-source play because it could help it rev up its VoD advertising efforts and bring back some video ad dollars that have gone to support Web distribution.

"Our overall goal is to get more ad dollars moved into television; that's why we started Canoe in the first place," says Canoe CTO Arthur Orduña. This Technology's open-source contribution "could potentially accelerate the market for … ad-sponsored VoD."

Canoe is hopeful that This Technology's translating software will allow the J.V. to build the same kind of common, national footprint for VoD advertising that it's already establishing with interactive advertising through the use of Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF), and give both programmers and MSOs a standard way to connect to Canoe.

"This was a really gutsy move by Jeff, but one, in the long-term, that I think is a really smart one," Orduña says. Canoe hasn't outlined its near-term plans for VoD advertising, but is expected to reveal more at The Cable Show in June.

Why this matters
Many programmers already have a good online video business and aren't about to go too far out of their way to support cable VoD. The hope is that extending a "free" bridge to the MSO world will give programmers an incentive to help jolt cable's VoD advertising market.

Sherwin hopes the open-source software will accelerate the DAI market in a way that drives sales of This Tech's core product, SpotBuilder, a Placement Opportunity Information Service (POIS) that defines and communicates advanced ad opportunities to any campaign management system. Canoe is already licensing SpotBuilder.

SpotLink has become open source, but This Tech says a licensed, supported version of the software is still available to MSOs, vendors and programmers.

For more
For more on cable's hot-and-cold pursuit of the advanced advertising market, please check out these stories:

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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