Advanced Ads Demand New Ground Rules

Content Dam Btr Migrated 2012 03 Btr 3 21 12 Feature Art
Btr 3 21 12 Feature ArtNot all the issues controlling the success or failure of advanced advertising are technical or related to the level of subscriber demand. At some point, as with most things, the lawyers take over.

In this case, the questions with which they will be dealing include whether advertisers or program distributors ultimately have control over what advertising is displayed. Furthermore, is data delivered to non-traditional devices -- which are being used inside or outside the home -- administered under existing contractual arrangements, or are those agreements obsolete?

It is a sticky set of issues. If Cadillac is running a spot on CNN, for instance, is the operator required to send the spot to whatever device is showing CNN, no matter where or what it is? Or can a different and presumably more accurately targeted spot in that avail -- for Nike, perhaps -- be sent to a device much more likely to be used by a teenager? "Can I put a different ad in, and what are the repercussions of that?" asked said Aseem Bakshi, the general manager of advertising for SeaChange.

That concern may seem to be a far cry from the bits and bytes of designing and deploying an advanced advertising system, but it isn't. Failure to settle the matter will lead to uncertainty, chill investment, and blunt the momentum toward the bigger paydays that advertising executives and operators say are within reach.

A lot of money depends on which side wins the staring contest. Bakshi said content providers "want a different negotiation" depending on the type of device and whether it is being used inside or outside the home. The content distributors -- cable operators among them -- think that existing contracts cover all of these issues and that they in essence are "good to go."

Bakshi said it is unclear which side will prevail and that the sophistication of modern advertising infrastructures can handle both approaches seamlessly through the placement status notification (PSN) process. "The world will get more complex, but I don't see it as an insurmountable hurdle that will stop adoption," he said.

What could stop adoption, however, is if nothing is done. Bakshi drew an analogy to the advent of multiscreen technology itself. Prior to 2011, he said, only a handful of distributors were retransmitting linear programming to second and third screens. Key technology hurdles were overcome and, according to Bakshi, the number of operators with advanced systems ballooned during the past year.

He suggested that the same inflection point may be at hand for advertising placement. Indeed, it is fair to say that an even more dramatic advance is possible simply because the optimization of advertising possibilities is the linchpin to the future of multiscreen.

In other words, if advanced advertising isn't optimized, the business case for multiscreen television will take a huge hit. Bakshi suggested that crunch time has arrived. "The legalities will be settled, and next year more MSOs will move in," he said.

Carl Weinschenk is the Senior Editor of Broadband Technology Report. Reach him at
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