Leading Pay-TV Operator Sky Revolutionizes TV Advertising

Sky is the largest pay-TV operator in Europe, with a long track record of media innovation. The company encompasses a direct-to-home (DTH) pay-TV service offering over 500 channels, voice and broadband services, the Sky Media advertising house that sells TV advertising on 127 channels, and the Sky IQ data analytics business. Given the scope of Sky’s product and service portfolio, the company was in prime position to shake up the TV advertising model.

Like most DTH providers, Sky’s advertising revenues were based primarily on delivering linear ads to mass audiences - with all viewers watching the same channel and seeing the same ad at the same time. But Sky leaders recognized that the media landscape is changing, with video consumption becoming more personalized and extending across new devices - tablets, smartphones, gaming consoles, and more. They knew their advertisers wanted to provide more relevant and targeted ads, but Sky’s existing technology limited its ability to serve ads more selectively or strategically.

As a result, Sky leaders saw an opportunity to create a new kind of advertising platform, one that wasn’t just better than other pay-TV systems, but that would reassert TV’s relevance in a growing multiscreen viewing and advertising market. To achieve this, Sky needed to create a platform to provide regional targeting and greater addressability of audiences who were consuming Sky content via set-top boxes (STBs). That meant creating new capabilities to target ads more narrowly and serve them more intelligently - adjusting the type and frequency of ads depending on viewer, device, and behavior. At the same time, the solution had to be fully compatible with the United Kingdom’s established Broadcasters Audience Research Board (BARB) standards, which measure TV viewing to allow operators to charge advertisers accurately.

From a technical perspective, Sky needed to launch new advertising capabilities on the millions of Sky+ high-definition (HD) STBs already deployed in the field, without interrupting services to viewers or requiring expensive equipment upgrades. The company needed to build an advanced, intelligent ad placement mechanism that could operate across a one-way satellite distribution system. And most importantly, the company needed to abstract away the complexity and sophistication of its new system, and create a simple, powerful business proposition for advertisers.

Network Solution

Sky made substantial commitments, both commercially and in terms of resources, to develop a first-of-its-kind Targeted Advertising solution that would transform the TV advertising industry. Working with innovators across the company’s TV, advertising, and analytics arms, as well as external partners including Cisco and BARB, in January 2014 Sky officially launched the service that was the culmination of this multiyear effort: Sky AdSmart.

Sky AdSmart is not a single algorithm, application, or technology. It is an end-to-end digital delivery chain for personalized advertising, spanning the entire broadcast system including transmission technologies, STB software and hardware, data collection, and reporting, all designed to operate on one-way satellite systems. The solution includes:

● State-of-the-art back-end system that controls scheduling of AdSmart ads, taking into account business rules and regulatory restrictions governing ad placements

● Sophisticated ad-targeting engine that classifies viewers according to 90 combinable audience attributes

● Transparent, frame-accurate ad insertion that can imperceptibly swap targeted ads into linear programs

● First-of-its-kind viewing measurement capability that can measure advertising exposure across 500,000 subscribers, encompassing 40 million viewing events a day (for example, every time a viewer changes channels, pauses, rewinds, etc.)

● Mechanisms to download Sky AdSmart software and advertisements to millions of Sky+ HD STBs without disruption to viewers, converting deployed hardware to dynamic ad servers without the need to replace customer hardware

● Aggregation of third-party demographic data with Sky IQ, Sky’s data analysis division

Sky AdSmart Agility with Cisco Videoscape Cloud Fusion

Sky has long collaborated with Cisco® to support its pay-TV, voice, and broadband services. Therefore, to support key aspects of the new AdSmart system, Sky turned to the Cisco Cloud Fusion for Videoscape solutions team. Cisco Videoscape Cloud Fusion empowers pay-TV operators to build personalized, immersive video services by providing advanced video capabilities both as “a la carte” applications and turn-key, end-to-end solutions. The platform’s scalable cloud software-based building blocks and open APIs provide the flexibility to mix and match cloud software- and appliance-based capabilities within a single integrated solution, and operate them as a single system. So operators like Sky can easily integrate specific video services and components into an existing ecosystem, and rapidly develop, test, and scale new video applications.

Drawing on these capabilities, Sky partnered with Cisco to create new service control solutions for the Sky AdSmart system and integrate them into Sky’s existing video infrastructure, which included both internally-developed and third-party components. Cisco contributions to the Sky AdSmart ecosystem include:

● Channel scheduling interface

● Playout automation interface

● Encoder control and management

● Metadata creation and generation

● Digital mux and up-link capabilities

● STB service reception

● DVR disk storage and filing control

● Conditional access and device addressability

● De-mux and decoding of live and stored transport streams

● Video presentation

● Audience Measurement System

● Appliance-level event logging and return path data reporting

To efficiently manage all these functions with frame-accurate timing end-to-end, Cisco also helped Sky develop next-generation control plane solutions that automate many aspects of the targeted advertising system.

 

Source: http://www.cisco.com