Cloud technology changing TV ad landscape

Rohit in Mumbai and Shyam in Chennai are watching the same movie on a television channel. But when the movie cuts to an advertisement break, the commercials they see are different.

In fact, around 25 news and entertainment channels are beaming region-specific ads. With the trend of geo-targeted advertising catching on, more companies are making use of technology to beam adverts to only areas where their products have strong presence.

Advertisements tailored to the location or browsing pattern of a person is common on websites. For example, we see an HDFC or Flipkart advertisement on New York Times website. We might also see ads of the travel portal we have been checking.

‘Hyperlocal’ is the new buzzword. The Google Search trends report for 2015 says keywords like ‘car dealers near me,’ were being increasingly used, with a 32 per cent growth in queries for hyperlocal services.

Any digital media needs a geo-targeting possibility, said Abhesh Verma, COO of nexGTv, one of the early players to stream live television programmes on mobile devices. “When a website is opened in India, no one wants to see a U.S. advertisement. People want to see ads relevant to them.”

What is common on websites is coming to television. Airing of region-specific content is determined by triggers as varied as the user’s GPS location or watermarks on the video stream. “Even if GPS is off, the user’s mobile tower is detected, and a local advertisement is pushed to the device,” Mr. Verma said.

Ad splicing

On television, it happens differently. Normally, local cable operators have decoder boxes for each channel that receive and relay the programmes to households. To enable geo-targeted advertising these boxes are replaced with smart boxes that not only store data but also intelligently identify the spot where the location-specific ad has to replace the nationally telecast one.

The trigger for the geo-targeted ad comes from a unique watermark inserted on the video, which gives the cue to the smart box to run the local ad. Watermark is an invisible and inaudible identifier, like a product barcode.

Amagi, AdSharp

There are at least two companies that have the technology for geo-targeted advertising. While Amagi was founded by three technologists in 2008, Star TV came out with AdSharp in 2014.

“In 2010, we began trying out the technology with a few channels; in 2012, we introduced it in some 20 cities with four channels; and in 2013, we expanded pan-India. In the last three years, we have grown 10 times,” said Baskar Subramanian, co-founder of Bengaluru-based Amagi. He says their model helps small advertisers come on national channels. It buys a 15 or 30-second spot on TV channels and sells that spot to different advertisers at one-third the cost. Normally, if an advertiser pays Rs.100 for a spot, its ad goes across the country, even to areas where its product might not have a presence. But in the geo-targeted version, the advertiser, pays only Rs.30 and beams the ad only to the region it needs to target.

The company says a number of advertisers, who didn’t earlier have access to national TV space, are now coming in. “There are over 3,000 brands now on the platform, and there is a good chance that around 10 to 12 advertisements that you see in a day are geo-targeted,” he said.

In April, Amagi took this a step further by bringing in the Thunderstorm technology, an OTT (over the top) ad-insertion platform, that delivers personalised and targeted advertising. This could mean different ads at the same time on two different mobile devices.

While AdSharp is used by the Star bouquet of channels, Amagi's technology is used by 24 other channels which include NDTV, Zee TV, ETV and B4U.

The KPMG-FICCI Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report 2016 speaks of considerable scope for geo-targeting, considering that the Indian market is underpenetrated and India is a heterogeneous market. “Currently, geo-targeting contributes to a very small portion of the TV advertising pie but industry participants expect its share to increase significantly,” it says. Location-specific replacement of content happens on mobile apps too. “If you open the nexGTv app in the U.S. and India, you see different programmes. We detect the IP of users and we show content that is relevant to them,” Mr. Verma, of NexGTV said.

The traditional mode of television broadcast, which involves use of satellites, too is changing. “TV channels spend huge sums of money to uplink programmes to satellites, and 85 per cent of the content is not live. Most of it is entertainment like movies, music, infotainment etc, that don’t require satellite,” Mr. Subramanian said. Internet is providing a way out and it involves a reversal of the traditional sequence of broadcast. Normally, what should go on air is decided first, and the playout (comprising all the contents, including graphics, promos and others) is delivered using satellite to local operators. In the Internet-based method, all contents are stored in the cloud, and delivered to playout servers at different locations: they could be anywhere in the world. The platform then does everything from managing the contents to graphics, subtitling, scheduling, editing, quality checks and the like. In other words, traditionally, it’s playout first and then delivery. But now it is delivery first and then playout.


U.S.-based AMC Networks, which broadcasts Sundance channel to Latin America, uses the watermark technology to customise programmes in Brazil. The decision on when to switch the content is taken in New York, the content is uplinked in Spain, content replacement happens in Brazil, and the entire operation is monitored at the Amagi office in Bengaluru.

B4U is another channel that uses the technology. The scheduling of the 12 channels is done in Mumbai, the contents are pushed from London, and they are viewed across all time zones.

The technology can be used to even set up a TV channel without taking recourse to satellite. Amagi recently announced that by augmenting its Cloudport platform with its 24/7 managed playout service, FLIK TV, a high-definition movie channel, went live in Indonesia in a few weeks at a fraction of traditional satellite delivery costs.

Uday Reddy, Founder and CEO, YuppTV, an OTT content provider, says Internet has helped broadcasters by introducing the element of convenience. “As the Internet continues to increase its reach, it becomes easier for broadcasters to reach out to more people. Today YuppTV is available in all countries and partnered with multiple CDNs (content delivery networks) to deliver the content to end users. YuppTV proprietary algorithm decides which CDN to be used for a user in a country based on various performance metrics.”

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 11:59:00 PM |

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