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BlackArrow Targets Live TV Ads

Alan Breznick
5/30/2013

Building on its work with inserting ads into on-demand programming, BlackArrow is promoting its new capabilities to place ads and other content into live IP video streams. BlackArrow, one of the pioneers of dynamic ad insertion (DAI) for video-on-demand (VoD) content, has come out with a new software product for inserting commercials and alternate video content into linear TV feeds headed for tablets, PCs, smartphones, game consoles, smart TVs and other IP-enabled devices. Known as BlackArrow Linear, the campaign platform is designed for cable operators and other pay TV providers seeking to make money off their emerging multi-screen video packages. In conjunction with the new offering, BlackArrow announced Thursday that it's teaming up with other technology vendors to "streamline the integration of BlackArrow Linear into IP-based linear TV environments." The lineup of partners includes such other video specialists as Elemental Technologies , Envivio , RGB Networks and SeaWell Networks . With its four new tech partners, BlackArrow is pitching a pre-integrated, standards-based "TV ecosystem" that spans encoders, transcoders, packagers and encryption elements from the team. Company executives say the idea is to make it easier and quicker for MSOs and other video providers to deploy and monetize their budding multi-platform offerings. Specifically, BlackArrow officials are seeking to enable pay TV providers to insert ads dynamically into linear video programming, just as they are finally starting to do with VoD programming. With DAI technology, officials say, providers will be able to customize commercials for particular audiences and use more targeted, addressable ads. In addition, providers will be able to replace their standard video feeds with substitute programming in case of, say, a TV blackout of a local football game or other sporting event. With dynamic ads for on-demand programming just starting to roll out and cable operators and other providers still scrambling to put together their multi-screen video packages, BlackArrow officials are not expecting to make a huge, immediate splash with their new product. But they will be demonstrating BlackArrow Linear at the upcoming Cable Show in Washington, D.C., and they have started signing up operators for technical trials. "We're participating in a number of lab and market trials with a number of operators [in both North America and Europe]," said Chris Hock, senior VP of product management and marketing for BlackArrow. He said he expects the testing period, which started last year, to extend at least through the end of the year, with commercial deployments starting this fall and picking up pace in 2014 and 2015. Hock declined to name the operators involved in the tests. But the company's current major MSO customers for its VoD ad insertion system include Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable and Rogers Communications. BlackArrow says that its VoD DAI platform now covers about 30 million homes, with that number expected to climb to 40 million by sometime next year. Although the technology issues surrounding DAI have largely been solved, Hock acknowledges that some key business issues must still be sorted out. Chief among them is how will the new ad inventory be sold. For instance, he said, will the commercials be packaged as local or national ads? Another key business issue, Hock says, is how will the ad revenues be split among the service and content providers. But he expressed confidence that these issues will be worked out in time. — Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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