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Virgin Presses 'Play' for On Demand Ads

British cable operator Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED) will this month switch on a dynamic advertising system that will insert relevant ads into some on-demand TV content using technology from SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC). (See Virgin Does On-Demand Ads .)

Virgin tested the system earlier this year during a three-month trial, and is now ready to insert 30-second adverts before and after on-demand TV programmes selected from the catch-up services of three channels (Living, Virgin 1, and Bravo) in a service area that covers 300,000 homes. The operator intends to roll out the system to cover all 3.7 million homes that use its on-demand TV services. (See Virgin Trials VoD Ads.)

The plan is to run adverts that are relevant to the subject matter of the content being demanded, such as hair care adverts running with an episode of Britain’s Next Top Model, for example.

"By making the most of the flexibility and power of an on demand TV platform, we can develop creative campaigns and offer a new way to reach an already engaged audience," stated James Wildman, managing director of Virgin Media's advertising sales house, ids, in the company's official announcement. "As we continue to evolve the proposition, we’ll bring greater relevance and more creativity to campaigns with new genre and content-based opportunities."

Virgin is using SeaChange's AdPulse system, in conjunction with the vendor's Axiom On Demand content delivery platform, to insert the ads dynamically in the pre- and post-viewing slots. The vendor notes that "making ads independent of the shows in which they run allows each to be trafficked separately... reducing lead times for ad copy and enabling ad rotation, targeting and message refresh throughout a campaign."

The cable operator also works with SeaChange's On Demand Group (ODG), which is aggregating the programming and providing multiple services (ingest, publishing, scheduling) for Virgin's on-demand offering. (See Virgin Taps SeaChange Unit for VoD Management.)

The potential for extensive use of such dynamic insertion content systems by Virgin is huge. The operator has experienced enormous demand for its on-demand services, driven by its deal with the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) to incorporate the media giant's popular iPlayer catch-up TV service into its offering. (See Virgin Media Touts iPlayer.)

Virgin says it currently has more than 66 million views of on-demand content each month.

Adding greater intelligence to ad delivery capabilities is of strategic importance to all pay-TV players as they seek to provide advertisers with greater flexibility and enhanced campaign opportunities that can provide targeted exposure and deliver quantifiable results. In the U.S., Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) recently announced a small-scale pilot similar in nature to Virgin Media's roll out. (See Comcast Gets Dynamic With VoD Ads .)

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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