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5 May 2022

CTS polishes SCTE 224 trophies to accelerate addressable

Comcast Technology Solutions (CTS) has launched a new ad creative management tool for national, linear addressable advertising. Linear Rights Metadata Management (LRM) aims to offer intelligent linear addressability by automating much of the contextual decisioning required when replacing ad segments.

Unsurprisingly, Comcast is the first national MVPD to implement LRM.

The new SaaS offering uses SCTE 224 markers to standardize linear metadata in a consistent format for triggering addressable ads. CTS says this alleviates the complexity and inconsistency that can arise from manual metadata entry, and that it will help scale and simplify the addressable advertising workflow.

LRM ingests and aggregates ad metadata, standardizes it into a SCTE 224 signal, and then stores this in the cloud. From there, the SCTE 224 data is distributed to multiple endpoints, ad decision managers and software adapters.

CTS was one of the primary drivers of SCTE 224 markers, with some of its own personnel involved in the creation of the standard back in 2015. It has since become a critical component of linear OTT workflows, for unifying metadata across the entire video workflow chain, from creation to delivery, able to quickly adjust on the fly in the event of time-sensitive changes – primarily benefiting rights enforcement and ad insertion.

CTS argues that the transformation to SCTE 224 markers is part of a wider effort to keep the reigns on a video landscape that is fragmenting across both devices and content providers. These two axes of diversion mean that business rules and playback rights are not only different from device to device, but from view to view.

Metadata standardized in the SCTE 224 format allows users to accurately define sources, upload assets, define regional or global distribution policies, and manage the unique permissions and programming schedules for each screen.

Faultline has observed before that CTS has struggled to break out of the shadow of its involvement with SCTE 224. We tend to find that, despite its name, the Comcast offshoot rarely brings much technological know-how in any of its announcements, which can certainly dull our faith in its R&D capabilities.

LRM is aiming to prevent consumers from accessing regional content when clearances have not been granted for their specific location, device, or time – a phenomenon which CTS says is a result of the proliferation of IP-based video devices.

“LRM is helping to further drive innovation and scale in addressable advertising by reducing much of the friction that currently exists,” said Bart Spriester, VP and GM for Content and Streaming Providers Suite at CTS. “We’re confident that LRM can help play a central role in accelerating addressable TV.”’

LRM can also be used to enforce rules for managing an ad campaign. Broadcasters and operators can create unique ad requirements on a per-MVPD, vMVPD or aggregator basis. Frequency capping is also enabled, as ad quotas can be created. Users can limit the number of spots over a certain duration for certain product groups, and or specify a minimum spacing between ads in a certain product group.

This means that a drinks brand can be shown to specific household segments based on consumer interests, while rules can specify than only four beverage ads are played only four times over a specific program, or that one beverage ad is only played in one in every four ad pods.

This is yet another sign that linear addressable in the US is finally getting off its backside in order to help pay TV operators cut their losses in the long-term. While AVoD inventory is ready and waiting for increased advertiser demand, live linear addressable has always proved more technologically challenging.

However, things are still just not moving quick enough. Just look at the latest report from ad tech vendor Canoe. In a 14 page PDF, seven of those pages are dedicated to ‘VoD Addressable Advertising,’ while just one gives a brief update on linear addressable. At present, Canoe serves 22 US TV networks across 120 addressable campaign lines, compared with 39 networks that are served for programmatic VoD.

It is also telling that Canoe’s workload spent servicing video devices that are not traditional set tops is expanding, up to 68% from 67% in Q3 2021. The expansion might be small, but the fact that linear addressable is less than one third of the workload of an addressable champion like Canoe says it all.

Canoe serves 38 million US homes across set tops, VoD, IP and OTT for MVPDs like Comcast, Charter Spectrum, Cox, and Frontier Communications.  Within this MVPD footprint, Canoe can insert ads across 105 TV channels spanning 19 network groups, including the likes of A+E Networks, Discovery, Fox, and Disney.

CTS has previously forecasted that the US addressable market will grow from around $2 billion in 2021, to $4 billion by 2024, although it has since clarified that this totally depends on the industry taking full grasp of the 14 minutes of ads available per hour of linear content.