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Yospace ad tech becoming key to BT Sport’s OTT future

British Telecom has spent prodigiously on bagging sought after soccer broadcasting rights, but a tumultuousness year involving an Italian accounting scandal and a broadband battle with the UK watchdog has set some alarm bells ringing. Brushing these setbacks aside, BT casually wrote a check for £1.2 billion ($1.5 billion) earlier this year to secure Champions League soccer rights until 2021, showing just how much the UK operator is increasingly relying on its BT Sport business – a service delivered mostly OTT.

BT is therefore ramping up its return on investment efforts for these major sporting events by deploying ad insertion and programmatic campaign software. This week, BT extended its deal with dynamic ad insertion (DAI) technology company Yospace – which has proven its worth in monetizing matches for the globally watched English Premier League, Champions League and Europa League tournaments.

Yospace says the multi-year extension deal comes on the back of a successful year in which its technology has inserted ads into over 700 sports broadcasts for BT.

So Faultline Online Reporter got in touch with Yospace to ask what made this past year of handling DAI for BT so successful, and in fact what lies ahead with the new extension deal. To our disappointment, Yospace declined to comment on these questions, so we can assume the extension deal isn’t covering any new aspects of BT’s business.

We’re also surprised Yospace didn’t take the opportunity to talk about scaling its software to cater for wider audiences as BT Sport continues to encroach on Sky’s sporting territory.

The Yospace platform works by stitching in replacement ads to the multi-platform BT Sport service, in a way that Yospace claims seamlessly replicates original broadcast channels, while allowing full addressability so that the relevance of the ad to the user is enhanced.

Its server side ad stitching also helps beat ad blockers and delivers programmatic ads across multiple streaming protocols, while also providing ads that cannot be skipped.

Yospace CEO Tim Sewell said at the Connected TV World Summit in May that sports content accounts for 68.3% of live ads, and he commented on the difficulties of matching audiences when between 80% and 90% of viewers don’t log on until 5 minutes before kick-off, and then bail out as soon as the final whistle blows.

In a bid to combat this issue, Yospace has recently signed a targeted advertising deal for live streams with video inventory management platform SpotX. This opens up ad slots in live TV commercial breaks, allowing broadcasters and advertisers to send personalized ads based on age and gender data sets.

Yospace isn’t the only ad tech firm being recruited by BT to gets its ad campaigns performing. In May, BT’s Digital Advertising arm selected US online advertising technology firm Rubicon Project to build and deliver a data-driven programmatic advertising campaign to over 10 million users across BT’s online platforms BT.com, BTSport.com, and the BT Sport and BT WiFi apps.

This is an issue that Yospace was willing to comment on this week, after asking if this was a potential threat to its contract at BT or if the two were working side by side in BT’s ad campaigns. We were told that Rubicon Project is actually a step removed from Yospace.

Yospace’s Marketing and Communications representative, Paul Davies, explained to Faultline Online Reporter that Yospace’s integration with the ad selling workflow is via Google’s DFP (DoubleClick for Publishers) ad management software. It decides which ads to stitch into the stream and Yospace acts on its instructions. The ad buying and selling process feeds into Google so it doesn’t touch Yospace, although Davies believes that the companies are all part of the same workflow.

Sky has been equally bountiful with its sports check book in the gambit against BT, spending over £1 billion ($1.3 billion) a year on Premier League rights alone, and it too has put its faith in Yospace, along with AT&T/DirecTV, Bell Canada, ITV and Channel 4.

Sky Sports this week announced it will be growing its broadcast lineup to 10 channels, in a package costing £27.50 ($35.40) a month, while BT Sport on Sky TV costs £22 ($28.30) a month for 4 channels. The basic BT Sport on BT TV package costs £3.50 ($4.50) a month for 4 channels, then £5 ($6.40) a month after the first 12 months, on top of a £19 ($24.40) monthly line rental.

BT’s MD of TV, Greg McCall, said, “Yospace has enabled us to seamlessly deliver unskippable and clickable ads within BT Sport live streams across our digital platforms and we are delighted to be extending our partnership.”

Sewell added, “BT Sport is a key player in sports broadcasting and it was clear early on just how important the user experience is to its success. This attitude reflects that of Yospace, a fact that BT Sport was quick to recognize. We are delighted that our platform’s robustness has been proved so convincingly across a regular program of major events, and that BT Sport has committed to a long-term agreement. I’m looking forward to working with them across their impressive list of sports rights in the coming years.”

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