There are many challenges that media owners face in today’s OTT industry with how to handle live streaming events. How can media owners learn to equip themselves and combat these challenges? Vice president of the advanced solutions group at SpotX, Kevin Schaum, shares best practices for the OTT space.
Hi there! I’m Kevin Schaum, vice president of the Advanced Solutions Group here at SpotX.
There’s a challenge that media owners are facing today in the OTT space with how to best handle an overload of concurrent ad calls during live sporting and news events when potentially millions of people are simultaneously watching an OTT internet delivered broadcast stream. There are several strategies that you as a media owner can employ to avoid losing out on the huge monetization opportunities that are presented with live-streaming events. In this video, we’ll walk through an overview of live-streaming traffic, what challenges this brings for media owners, and 5 best practices to employ when enabling live-streaming inventory. Let’s get started!
What is live-streaming traffic?
To begin, let’s first introduce how live streaming OTT ad serving works. Live streaming OTT traffic is content delivered over the internet to end users in real time. It often consists of live events such as sports, news broadcasts, and concerts. Typically, live streaming traffic utilizes “server-side” ad insertion, or SSAI, which is technology that stitches ads into content. This reduces latency and buffering and ensures that ads are played in the same adaptive bitrate format as the content, guaranteeing a seamless watching experience for the end user.
Example of a traditional integration compared to an SSAI integration.
Let’s walk through an example of a traditional integration compared to an SSAI integration.
Traditionally, a video player makes a request for an ad or pod of ads to an ad server or SSP, like SpotX, who then sources ads from buyers and returns ads to the player. In this scenario, the video player is responsible for knowing when to request an ad and how many ads to request.
However, in a live streaming OTT broadcast, a video player wouldn’t know when an ad break is coming nor how long the ad break is. So, an SSAI vendor is used to identify ad breaks and make ad requests on behalf of all of the end users watching the broadcast.
Challenges in Live Streaming
The biggest challenge that we see today in live streaming OTT traffic is high numbers of concurrent viewers. When a live event that has millions of viewers cuts to a commercial break, the SSAI vendors has to make an ad request to SpotX for each viewer. SpotX then makes requests to DSPs for each of these inbound requests, which can overrun a DSP’s capacity for ingesting bid requests and can overload the DSP’s buying and pacing algorithms. This also leads to missed monetization opportunities for you.
SpotX Certification Process
To combat this, SpotX puts our demand partners through a rigorous testing and certification process to ensure that our DSPs who transact on live inventory can properly handle large loads on their servers. If a DSP can’t meet these certification standards we will disable them from transacting on this live inventory.
Five Live-Streaming Best Practices
There are also several best practices that you can apply to ensure you’re making the most of these live streaming opportunities.
1. SpotX Live Endpoint
First, ensure that all of your live-streaming inventory is making ad requests to SpotX’s live endpoint at live.spotxchange.com, instead of our traditional endpoint at search.spotxchange.com.
We’ve reconfigured load balancers for the live endpoint to queue high volumes of incoming requests, which spaces inbound requests to our servers over several milliseconds and reduces loads on DSPs. This greatly increases both SpotX’s capacity to handle concurrent requests and helps DSPs decision on live inventory.
2. SSAI Timeouts Threshold
Second, it’s important to note that SpotX can only queue requests for as long as an SSAI vendor’s timeout threshold allows. Longer timeout thresholds in your SSAI server help extend the queue used by the SpotX live endpoint, which helps SpotX and downstream DSPs process requests and successfully return ads.
SpotX’s max queue length for live traffic is 6 seconds, so we suggest extending response timeouts in your SSAI server to as long as 6 seconds in order to match that as closely as possible.
Third, the single most important tool for overcoming concurrency issues is pre-fetching, where SSAI vendors make ad requests in advance of an upcoming commercial break. This allows ad calls to be spaced out, and in turn, reduces server loads for SpotX and downstream DSPs. Pre-fetching can also help ensure a creative is transcoded to the appropriate formats for the stream ahead of the ad break.
4. Beacon and Tracking Events
Fourth, any SSAI vendors sending VAST tracking events server-side should ensure that these events are not sent all at once. VAST tracking events are notifications used to tell ad servers, DSPs and verification vendors that ads have been played, and sending all these events at once could result in impressions not being counted by DSPs and buy-side ad servers.
In addition, SSAI vendors sending server-side beacons should also ensure that they have completed certification with buy-side ad servers.
5. SSAI Vendor Evaluation Process
And lastly, make sure that every SSAI vendor that you utilize has undergone SpotX’s certification process. This process ensures that all VAST tracking events are firing properly and that there’s a seamless end-to-end solution from the end-client to SpotX. Reach out to your SpotX Account Team for a complete list of certified vendors, and if you work with a vendor that isn’t yet certified by SpotX, let us know and we’ll conduct testing to complete their SSAI certification.
Live streaming is an exciting and growing sector in the OTT industry. By applying these five best practices, you can make the most of all your live-streamed events. If you’re interested in exploring ways to optimize your live-streaming traffic, please reach out to your SpotX Account Team. Thanks for watching.
This article was written by Liz Vana, client education training specialist at SpotX