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  • Writer's pictureScott Halpert (VP Ad Products + Business Development)

Leveling the Buying Playing Field: Normalizing VOD, FAST Inventory



Take a quick look at the headlines and it's obvious Free Ad-Supported Streaming Television (FAST) has experienced explosive growth over the past few years. In fact, according to Omdia, FAST channels were poised to generate $6.3 billion in revenue globally last year, and are expected to grow to $12 billion by 2027. 


The exponential growth of FAST is not surprising when you consider how appealing it is to streamers, advertisers, and viewers. For viewers, FAST provides a way to easily consume a large volume of content. For advertisers, it offers targeted audiences at scale, and for publishers, it delivers large inventory volumes to offer the buy side. In addition, as media analyst Alan Wolk explains in his “FASTs Are The New Cable'' report, publishers are using FAST as a flywheel to drive consumption of their premium VOD assets. 


Driving consumption of VOD is one thing, but monetizing it at scale is another. We’ve had many conversations with ad technology providers and premium publishers about VOD advertising performance, and one common point of frustration is consistent: VOD is not monetized as well as their FAST linear inventory. 


From the publishers’ and advertisers’ points of view, the ad insertion process for FAST is aligned with how ad decisioning systems (ad servers, SSPs, DSPs) have been designed to operate. FAST is a “real-time” decisioned-media type, which has meaningful implications for how easily FAST inventory can be consumed by advertisers.


When it comes to monetizing VOD assets, publishers face limitations with Server-Side Ad Insertion’s required ad-insertion process. Having to make ad decisions for an entire stream once the viewer hits play essentially requires ad decisioning systems, which have been designed to operate in “real time,” to adjust to what they perceive to be an unusual process. This awkward, but required, adjustment affects their ability to operate efficiently and produces less than optimal results in terms of fill rate, ad render rate, CPMs, and start-up times.


The VOD insertion process can sometimes force FAST and VOD inventory to be divided in terms of how it is sold, specifically the programmatic buy-sell process. Not surprising, this inventory division has created ongoing friction between publishers and advertisers.  


For the buy and sell sides, the ideal scenario is making VOD and FAST inventories normalized so they can be bought and sold the same way, with the same expectations for outcomes/delivery. Today, that is not the case.


For example, when buying FAST inventory, delivery notification (beacons firing) happens within minutes of purchasing the inventory. For VOD, this can take much longer, even hours before the buyer knows if delivery was accomplished. This additional time, particularly if delivery does not occur, is problematic for buying systems. Opportunities in the intervening time are missed, budgets have to be readjusted, and campaign pacing is affected. Beyond this, the mechanics of buying VOD require that longer timeout windows be set. This results in some buyers needing to set up separate campaigns for VOD and FAST, which makes comparative analysis more challenging. This industry-wide need is why we developed our 2nd Look solution, which allows publishers to make ad decisions right before ad breaks, just like FAST, while maintaining all of the benefits of SSAI. 


With 2nd Look, publishers now can align VOD and FAST inventories so they can be transacted more freely, which leads to increased revenues. For the advertisers, there now are more options available for programmatic buys. And for the viewer, they’re now getting the linear-quality experience they expect. 


A win-win-win situation to be sure.  


Email us today to learn how you can enhance SSAI with 2nd Look and drive revenue through improved start-up times and higher CPMs. 

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