AWS for M&E Blog

Expand your digital ad inventory with new advertising formats

Over-the-top (OTT) streaming is on a trajectory to becoming the biggest form of media consumption in the world. In the US alone, 65%1 of the population consume media digitally, through smart devices, connected TVs (CTV), game consoles, and streaming media players. Digital video ad spending in the US in 2022 was estimated at $2392 billion dollars, a number expected to grow by 50% over the next 5 years. There are hundreds of OTT streaming providers active today, which include both advertising based services (AVOD, FAST), and subscription based VOD & linear services, all competing for this global viewer base and advertising demand. This competition forces them to maintain competitive subscription rates, and start offering other advertising-based tiers to maintain revenue while in parallel trying to drive down operational costs.

Two of the key considerations that subscribers make when selecting an OTT service come down to quality of content and the price of the service. As these reasons pertain to advertising, OTT service providers must be very thoughtful around maintaining positive subscriber sentiment with regards to the frequency and duration of ad breaks on their platforms. Three ways to solve for this while maximizing potential revenue include; 1) making sure there’s enough demand sources for your available inventory, 2) making the available advertising inventory more valuable – ie. through contextual and hyper-local targeting, and, 3) leveraging a whole new type of non-intrusive advertising inventory, that augments existing ad insertion while maintaining a positive subscriber sentiment.

What is the new type of inventory?

There are new forms of OTT advertising growing in popularity that allows publishers more monetization opportunities without impacting user experience. The ‘ads’ are referred to as overlays, and they are displayed in-line with the underlying content. These overlays can be in the form of virtual product placement (ie. a dish soap company placing a bottle of product on the kitchen counter), banners/gifs/overlays/underlays/lower thirds, or slightly more complex options like side-by-side splits, or L-band advertisements. These overlays can be rendered in two ways: at the server side – meaning that player development is not required in order to leverage this type of advertising, or at the client-side – where the overlay metadata and tracking information is sent to the player to render on top of the content.

Benefits to Publishers (streaming providers)

According to studies by Conviva, poor online ad experiences can result in as much as 58%5  viewer churn. This can be from ad breaks that are too long, or too frequent, or have poor transition quality. Overlay ads introduce more opportunities for the publisher to monetize the stream/VOD, whilst keeping viewer sentiment positive as the advertising is much less intrusive. In fact, a recent case study by TripleLift-Kantar showed that 79%4 of viewers actually liked the format of in-content advertising, compared to 12% that enjoy traditional advertising. One of the other major benefits to publishers for using server-side overlays is that there is no work to do on the viewing client platforms.

Benefits to Advertisers

There is a growing demand from advertisers to leverage overlay ads to raise brand awareness. A recent study by Amazon Ads has revealed that advertisers are increasing their investment into in-program integration by 40%6 YoY. This growing investment is testament to the results seen from research and case studies being performed independently by various advertisers. Benefits that advertisers are seeing with in-scene advertising include; 1) increased engagement through emotional connections (brand placements are contextually placed in specific scenes), and 2) higher brand consideration, purchase intent, and actual sales.

Where can AWS help?

AWS Elemental MediaTailor is a scalable server side ad insertion (SSAI) service that performs dynamic ad insertion on OTT streams using a technique called manifest manipulation. Manifest manipulation refers to the process of dynamically modifying the manifest file of an OTT stream, which contains information about the available segments of the video. By manipulating the manifest, MediaTailor is able to seamlessly insert ads into the stream. The service has mature support for Apple HLS and MPEG DASH, enabling customers to reach a wide range of devices and platforms. SSAI with MediaTailor offers many benefits, such as maintaining a high quality of experience for viewers during ad break transitions – this includes seamless transitions between content and advertising, consistent video and audio quality between content and advertising (including audio loudness levels), and no stream buffering during the ad request and insertion lifecycle. With MediaTailor, customers can realize the benefits of SSAI for ad stitching, while also enabling client functionality and control through the client-side tracking interface, which returns all metadata associated with the ad break to the client device, including timing, tracking, and overlay metadata.

Client-side overlays

The primary use case for client-side overlays is for live streaming events where stream latency cannot be impacted, and natural ad breaks may be infrequent (such as soccer games) – the publisher is able to monetize the stream regardless of ad breaks.

The MediaTailor service offers an interface for client devices to retrieve advertising metadata and tracking event information to perform client side actions, such as client-side event tracking, countdown timers & player controls, and rendering of interactive ads. It is this same interface that MediaTailor customers can leverage for client-side overlays.

Advertising opportunities are signaled in-band using a specific SCTE-35 signal type, which serves as a standardized protocol for cueing and signaling within the video stream. This SCTE-35 signal triggers MediaTailor to send a request to the customer’s Ad Decision Server. In response, the Ad Decision Server provides a payload specifically designed for client-side rendering and tracking, often compatible with ad formats like Innovid/Brightline. MediaTailor can optionally insert metadata for this advertising medium into the manifest, as well as in the client-side tracking interface. The player obtains the metadata containing instructions on how to render the overlay and would leverage a 3rd party software development kit (SDK) to ensure the overlay renders correctly, and that associated tracking events are emitted accurately. The below image outlines where an operator might signal the overlay opportunity, and what the viewer might see as a result in their personalized playback session.

The below image outlines where an operator might signal the overlay opportunity, and what the viewer might see as a result in their personalized playback session.

To learn more about MediaTailor’s support for client-side overlays, visit our Documentation pages []

Server-side overlays

Server-side overlays are rendered into the main content at the server-side. This workflow is common in FAST channels, where the programming content can be processed before being made available in the programming schedule. The OTT service provider, along with the content owner’s permission, will work with an advertising supply-side platform (SSP) that will analyze the media asset and determine suitable ad positions for the various advertising types mentioned above, and will then work with advertisers to produce branded versions of small moments or entire scenes. The creative ad server or SSP works with the customer’s ADS to import these types of creatives.

To MediaTailor, these ad opportunities look like any other ad break, triggered by a SCTE-35 signal. In order to ensure the ADS realizes that the avail is for a server-side overlay and not a linear ad break, the OTT service provider should pass this metadata in the SCTE-35 signal. MediaTailor can then parse this data and send it to the ADS so that it can make the right decision on how to fill the opportunity. The below image shows a timeline view of a piece of content and how it can be analyzed using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to find appropriate scenes and accurate locations for overlay and in-scene advertisements. The SSP will then connect with various demand sources (advertisers) to created branded version of this scene and make those creatives available on the streaming provider’s ad server.

Side by side comparison of a regular stream vs a stream with in-scene replacement on the analyzed content and blends in the existing content

Where can AWS technology partners help?

The utilization of in-scene or in-content overlay advertising remains relatively nascent; however, there exists a cohort of early adopters who play a pivotal role in furnishing publishers with comprehensive assistance throughout this operational procedure. Notably, the following entities merit recognition for their influential contribution to MediaTailor’s demonstration of these innovative formats at the NAB tradeshow held in Las Vegas in April 2023:

Innovid is an innovative ad technology company that excels in overlay ads, providing powerful client-side SDKs for seamless integration. Their SDKs enable quick-loading and highly targeted overlay ads, capturing attention and driving engagement. Innovid’s comprehensive tracking and measurement features empower advertisers to optimize campaigns in real time, achieving better conversion rates.

TripleLift is an advertising technology company known for supporting overlay ads that seamlessly blend into content. Through content analysis and advanced rendering techniques, they ensure non-disruptive integration and visually appealing overlay ads, enhancing brand sponsorship opportunities and user experience. Their flexible ad formats further optimize engagement and brand impact.

castLabs is an innovative ad technology company that specializes in overlay ads, offering advanced video players and client-side SDKs for seamless integration. Their solutions enable advertisers to deliver engaging overlay ads within video content, enhancing viewer engagement and monetization opportunities. castLabs’ advanced technology and seamless integration empower advertisers to create compelling overlay ad experiences that captivate viewers and drive results.

HisPlayer is a leading video player solution provider that excels in supporting overlay ads through advanced technology and client-side SDKs. Their seamless integration and strategic ad placement within video content enhance user experience while maximizing revenue potential for advertisers.

Spring Serve is an innovative advertising platform that specializes in overlay ads, providing extensive features for enhanced user engagement and increased publisher revenue. With seamless integration, precise targeting, and comprehensive analytics, advertisers can deliver visually captivating ads while publishers have control over ad placement and monetization for maximum impact.

Pricing and Availability

The pricing for insertion and delivery of server-side and client-side overlays through MediaTailor is the same cost per thousand (CPM) as linear ad avails.

Visit the MediaTailor pricing page for more information on MediaTailor pricing and regional availability.

To learn how to get started with this solution, refer to the MediaTailor getting started page.

Scott Cunningham

Scott Cunningham

Scott Cunningham is a Senior Product Manager for the AWS Elemental MediaTailor service. Scott has been serving customers in the Media & Entertainment industry for over 10 years.

Sunny Bhullar

Sunny Bhullar

Sunny is a Principal Solutions Architect at AWS.