Persons of interest: Reaching TV's increasingly fragmented audience

It's all about the technology

Between cord-cutting, DVR, and streaming video, it’s harder than ever for advertisers to reach their intended audiences. Not only is the number of cord-cutters rising, but so is the percentage of consumers who have never subscribed to Pay-TV services in their lives. And for the first time, more Americans subscribe to cable internet than cable TV.

Delivering high-quality video experiences across a range of devices has never been more necessary for brand marketers and publishers seeking to reach an increasingly diverse audience.

So how can these content creators reach a fragmented audience dispersed across a multitude of platforms and devices? Typically it has required complex and time-consuming processes for every smartphone, tablet, game console, etc. But advances in online video technology and platform infrastructure have opened the door to new delivery capabilities that produce high-quality, TV-like experiences across every device.

How to do it

To understand how you can create these incredible viewing experiences, it’s helpful to understand the background of video delivery and ad-insertion technologies. For years, a publisher’s only option was to build software primarily on a Flash player that would distribute to a PC. Marketers could inject ads into videos, but lags in communication between the PC and the ad server would result in the on-screen appearance of a spinning/loading wheel synonymous with waiting and delays.

Furthermore, once smartphones entered the market, the number of platforms that could run video proliferated – and not all of them supported Flash. (Steve Jobs’s insistence that iOS devices would never run Flash was the most prominent example.)

The industry came up with a new mechanism: instead of delivering content via Flash, engineers wrote native code that replicated all of Flash’s functionality for every device their brand wanted to reach. This had its limitations, however, as the building, testing, and maintenance of the software required huge amounts of resources.

The new tech

Finally, we have reached a point in the industry today where we can utilize content delivery technologies that combine user interface (UI) best practices in interactivity from software on mobile devices (known as “client-side” software) with the reliability, quality, and platform ubiquity of software from the “server-side,” or cloud-based applications.

Server-side ad-insertion technology allows advertisers to deliver video content and the ad in a single stream to a device. Advertisers love this cloud-based technology because it reaches any device with TV-like quality ads with the ability to bypass ad blockers.

There’s no software required on the device – as long as the device can play back video in the cloud, you can combine advertisement and content to reach every device. When combined with client-side software, which can block “skip” bars, or allow users to click on the video to go through to a promotional website, video content delivery is driving huge benefits for brands and publishers seeking to reach new and engaged audiences, while at the same time providing a terrific video experience for users.

Five years ago it would have been a daunting task to deliver a monetized television-like experience across all devices, but it’s easily achievable via server-side and client-side technologies. We can now deliver the right experience to the right user on every device in a cost-effective way. Reaching the cord-cutters means advertising on the online and mobile channels they use, and online video has never been a more effective tool.

  • AJ McGowan is Chief Technology Officer at Brightcove.