Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


Opinion: winning the FAST race with SSAI

Tim Sewell, CEO at Yospace explains the opportunities available to FAST broadcasters with SSAI integration

Distribution opportunities for broadcasters are expanding rapidly, with more ways to get their content in front of consumers than ever before. Within broadcaster apps, we’re seeing an increase in FAST channels, pop-up channels, and the use of DVR during live playback – all of which add to their ability to drive advertising revenues. In order to ensure consistency of experience for the viewer and to maximise the advertising potential of these opportunities, it is crucial that they are monetising these new channels as effectively as broadcast TV or streamed linear channels, catch-up TV and box sets in their own BVoD. If they succeed, broadcasters are well positioned to be the biggest winners of the FAST race in Europe.

Tim Sewell, CEO, Yospace

Free ad-supported TV (FAST) allows broadcasters to raise the quality bar with their tier-one content, often harnessing existing programme rights. Broadcaster FAST can complement BVoD line-ups or Smart TV FAST offerings. An important sub-set of FAST is the pop-up channel, which can expand coverage of live events, be it the Olympics, the Australian Open, or more niche sports like SailGP, which is currently available on ITVX in the uk (yes, I’m a sailing fan!).

What sets broadcasters apart is their ability to deliver the same high-quality user experience in FAST as on their flagship linear channels (both streamed and broadcast). Offering both traditional FAST and pop-up FAST within owned D2C platforms provides advertisers the brand safe environment that only broadcasters are able to offer, setting them apart from the long tail of FAST providers, which allows them to maintain their CPM rates. If they are going to continue to do so in this new distribution channel then they will need to evaluate and likely extend their server-side advertising insertion (SSAI) capabilities to ensure a seamless, frame-accurate viewing experience regardless of device.

There is a golden opportunity for broadcasters to harness their existing content and SSAI technology cost-effectively and be in a position to scale FAST channels better than anyone else outside North America. The vendor business model that broadcasters can apply will be a benefit: for example, they can treat FAST viewing capacity (measured in concurrent viewers) and impressions as part of a whole alongside standard streamed linear.

Pop-up channels will also benefit from highly automated streaming and SSAI infrastructure to spin-up, monetise and then close down channels in a timely fashion to avoid unnecessary encoding costs. All in all, with the right approach in place, the incremental cost for broadcasters to deliver a new FAST or pop-up channel that is monetised using SSAI can be kept relatively low.

The broadcasters’ existing SSAI monitoring and telemetry can be leveraged to ensure an optimised viewing experience while maximising the commercial opportunity offered by these new touchpoints. They can also apply more accurate and therefore more valuable measurement. This can either be achieved through integration of the same ad-measurement SDKs used for existing SSAI monetisation or there are now also accurate server-side tracking options for live streaming modes that streamline testing and validation across a number of different devices.

Accurate (and transparent) measurement of ad views has another advantage: real-time campaign management. For major events, such as the Olympics, broadcasters can significantly boost ad revenues if they are able to continually adjust their campaigns on the demand side and measure impact. Such fine tuning and monitoring can have a significant positive impact on fill-rates and therefore ad revenues, but it is wholly dependent on the SSAI system being able to surface real-time data of ad views in a live campaign dashboard.

Beyond FAST and pop-up channels, broadcasters are able to harness other monetisation opportunities through their existing SSAI tech. A notable opportunity is the option for viewers to rewind (start-over) during live or other online linear television. A development that has made a big difference is support for interstitials in HLS and XLink or Events in DASH. Now, historic ad breaks (those that were shown to the live audience, but which are now in the past) are only ‘resolved’ (with ad calls and ad decisioning) when a start-over viewer reaches them, meaning there are more advertising opportunities available to broadcasters in rewind mode than ever before.

Now, start-over can also be added to the list of new endpoints, along with FAST and pop-up channels, where broadcasters can efficiently serve their content with SSAI. This extension of capabilities just goes to show the universality of SSAI as a way to monetise broadcaster content in the digital age.

Cutting through all the hype associated with the potential of FAST (outside of North America), broadcasters are in a great position to be the ones that really make FAST work in Europe because it can be deployed as an extension to their current content and SSAI strategies. In order to succeed, it is essential that they remain nimble in creating consistency across all content forms to maximise ROI and reduce costs. Crucially, more distribution channels must not come at the expense of the quality of viewing experience for consumers. The key to achieving this delicate balance lies in seamlessly integrating SSAI technology. Broadcasters who master this integration will not only secure a leading position in the market but will also ensure a superior experience for their audiences.