Multicast streaming stands as an innovative and highly effective solution, both commercially and technically, to address the surge of live content across the Internet. Encapsulating streamer content in multicast transport yields substantial CDN cost savings.
While streamers are more efficient when serving one stream to many users, they also seek personalization, like targeted advertising, to drive added revenue.
Despite seeming contradictory, Targeted Advertising and Multicast operate harmoniously in various production settings today. This blog explores the business reality before delving into deeper technological advancements, highlighting how these seemingly disparate technologies harmonize rather than oppose each other.
I. Target (some) Ads and Carry on.
To assess the challenge, we looked at the pivotal parameter: the Ratio of Unicast to Multicast, aptly named ‘RUM’. This percentage quantifies the peak unicast bandwidth utilized during an ad break against the peak multicast bandwidth preceding the ad break.
As the RUM escalates, so does the demand for Unicast CDNs, required to deliver unicast ads to multicast users.
However, the perceived challenge of approaching a RUM value close to 100% —signifying nearly equivalent levels of unicast and multicast traffic—proves unrealistic for three reasons:
1. The User Consent Rate of people agreeing to get personalized ads will never be 100%.
- Today, in the mostly engaged Telco environments, like IPTV in France, it oscillates between 50-60%. Being integrated into the STB activation process, the agreement is put forward to the end user with a promise of getting more relevant adverts.
- On OTT services, consent rates can surge to 70-80% as users often click “Accept” after encountering numerous consent pages.
- In the future, if platforms like Meta or some broadcasters establish a precedent with Pay Or Okay “Cookie Walls,” consent rates could potentially reach 90% or higher. This could occur because many users might be unwilling to pay for a service they’ve grown accustomed to accessing for free.
2. The Ads to Multicast Video Compression Rate
With live video, the content is being transmitted as the action happens, so the flow of data is encoded in real time. As opposed to on-demand content and adverts that are pre-recorded, allowing for more efficient compression with techniques like multi-pass encodings.
Ultimately, when aiming for equal on-screen quality, advertisements tend to user lower bitrates compared to live content—typically around 20 to 30% lower.
3. Viewers leave the stream during the ad break
Streaming stats show that a part of the audience leaves the stream during the ad break, for example at half-time during a football game. Our customers have seen up to 15 to 20% of their users disconnecting at half-time for the games streamed by Broadpeak.
While all the criteria may not apply at the same time, the RUM stays well below 1, limiting the need of unicast CDN for Targeted Ads. From experience, we have seen the RUM to typically max out at about 0.50.
II. Behind the scenes of Mass Live Experiences
With multicast ABR technology being deployed to scale the live streaming services, there’s a misconception floating around: that multicast ABR replaces CDN. While it is true that mABR allows to limit the CDN capacity needed inside the ISP networks, it does not replace the CDN altogether: CDN is still needed for on-demand content, catch-up features, targeted advertising, etc.
But with multicast ABR in play, network gains an incredible advantage. It ensures that even during those nail-biting moments of extreme traffic peaks—like when everyone’s glued to a live game—the network stands resilient. Picture this: for the entire duration of a game, from those critical minutes to the adrenaline-pumping hours, it is not just content being delivered. It’s exceptional user experience that is being created.
But wait, there’s more. While users are immersed in the game, cheering for their teams or following the drama of the match, the network isn’t solely reserved for streaming. Instead, it’s liberated to cater to for other services. Need bandwidth for gaming? Check. Downloading hefty files? Covered. Exploring alternative video streaming platforms? Absolutely. In essence, multicast ABR is a gateway to ensuring top-notch user experiences during those traffic peaks while simultaneously freeing up your network to embrace a multitude of other digital delights.
During these peak events, a notable shift also occurs in the advertising landscape: The approach pivots away from targeted models, favouring a return to traditional models, back to Sport buying, rather than Audience buying.
In the world of advertising, specific ad slots during halftime breaks in sports broadcasts are coveted for their heightened viewership.
These prime moments, strategically placed at the start and end of halftime break, shine due to their unparalleled value. TV and OTT live ad models consider these slots as the ultimate prize, offering direct access to a vast and engaged audience.
These slots are the gateway to maximizing product exposure, capturing the attention of broad audiences. Notably, for big Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) brands that are steering back from hyper-targeting approaches, drawn by the allure of these mass-audience magnets. These golden moments align with the quest for wider resonance, catering to collective interests.
Somehow counter-intuitively, as audience numbers rise, the level of targeted ads decreases, reducing further the RUM. And for Spot Buyers (who make up 50% of customers compared to Audience Buyers), being able to leverage multicast-ABR for a flawless Quality of Experience acts as an extra safeguard.
III. A solution ‘made in France’ from Multicast IPTV: ‘TV Segmentée’
In 2020, in France, network operators and broadcasters addressed the problem of ads scalability, when they introduced Targeted Advertising on legacy IPTV channels delivered to STB.
Through collaboration, they built the TV Segmentée Protocol, to limit drastically the need for Unicast resources to serve targeted ads in parallel with multicast transport streams. The Protocol built upon existing standards, SCTE35 Time Signal and IAB VAST, and introduced two innovations
- A new SCTE35 Segmentation Descriptor named Call Ad Server to tell the Inserting process to call for Targeted Ads. By making this Descriptor explicitly independent of the others, it can be placed repeatedly up to 15mn in advance of the break.
- A mechanism allowing the Inserting processes to randomly call for ads and for video content in order drastically smooth the load on Ad Servers and CDNs.
With 9M of addressable households, this protocol allowed a very fruitful partnership:
1. From a technical standpoint, Operators effortlessly catered to millions of simultaneous users during Prime-Time using just a fraction of CDN resources, thanks to spreading out the peak demand over time.
2. On the commercial front, Operators capitalized on this cost reduction, offering it as a value-added service to Broadcasters. This arrangement allowed Broadcasters to entrust the Operators with timely ad displays without incurring extra CDN expenses.
A similar blueprint for Multicast ABR: Server Calls Descriptors in SCTE35
As a partner of both Broadcasters/Streamers and Operators, Broadpeak has been working on porting these innovations from the old IPTV world into the new Streaming era.
- On the Inserting Side, Broadpeak will soon release the world-first implementation of Call Ad Server Segmentation Descriptors, on SSAI, allowing to manipulate the manifest in advance and just for the required ads to replace.
- On the Loading Side, Broadpeak will leverage the unique edge-side component, the NanoCDN, to preload from a smaller customized Open Cache provisioned CDN in the Operator’s network, mimicking what was done with IPTV, but in the modern streaming era.
In IPTV, this strategy minimizes scaling costs, empowering Operators to enhance the mABR value for Streamers through Targeted Ads Serving. This service comes at a significantly lower cost compared to what Streamers would bear if attempting it solely in a pure OTT manner.
In closing, Multicast ABR emerges as a dual force, guaranteeing exceptional Quality of Experience (QoE) for consumers while efficiently managing CDN capacity during traffic peaks. Notably, during these high-demand events, targeted ad strategies yield to broad viewership approaches, capitalizing on prime ad slots during sports halftime breaks within TV and OTT live ad models to reach larger, non-targeted audiences.
Moreover, we know that the Ratio of Unicast Multicast is weighted down by three factors: User Consent Rate, Video Compression, and Viewer Behaviour during ads.
Ultimately, Multicast ABR and targeted ads aren’t adversaries; they operate independently. Ongoing refinements to these technologies promise a more harmonious integration, enriching our entertainment experiences and solidifying their mutual contribution to seamless content delivery.
As the Business Development Director for Advertising, Julien Boyreau aims to further the position of Broadpeak as the premier provider of the most advanced advertising technologies for the streaming era
In his 20 years career in digital products, Julien gained extensive experience in three industries, Telco, Performance Advertising and TV, specializing in tech product discovery and delivery and now eager to make these three worlds converge. Before joining Broadpeak, he co-authored the TV Segmentée protocol and held consulting and managing role at Beijaflore for Orange, SFR and Bouygues Télécom and at Criteo and TF1
Julien graduated from Ecole Polytechnique engineering school and holds a Master’s degree in Project, Innovation and Design from Institut Polytechnique De Paris.