What is Server-Side Ad Insertion (SSAI) or Dynamic Ad Insertion (DAI)?
SSAI is a process used to insert ads into a piece of high-quality, long form content. For media owners, the ad insertion process allows for a buffer-less transition from content, to ad, then back to content, providing the same user experience as broadcast TV.
Who is involved in the workflow?
This process involves an SSAI vendor that sits between the Online Video Player (OVP) and Ad Server to mediate the stitching of the ads into the content. Some media owners in the landscape also have their own proprietary solution.
What are some of the benefits of SSAI?
- Help prevent ad blocking by seamlessly stitching together content and ad.
- Provide users with an optimal, broadcast-like viewing experience that often provides high quality video and ad creatives. Moreover, the technology can adapt to different bandwidths to support poor connections by rendering a lower quality stream without buffering.
- SSAI provides some operational efficiencies as it eliminates the need to maintain multiple SDKs.
- Allows broadcasters to insert digital ads over a linear slate.
- Helps media owners with large scale live event inventory deal with concurrency.
What are the typical roles of an SSAI vendor?
- Identify ad breaks in the content.
- Transcode ad creatives into low, medium, and high-quality versions to allow the stream to play without buffering in a wide range of connectivity levels.
- Transcode the ad into the proper adaptive bit rate formats. The two most common formats are MPEG-DASH and HLS.
- Insert ads and stitch the ad and video content together.
- Communicate with the player via a manifest to indicate which files need to be played at which time.
How do SSAI vendors limit buffering?
SSAI vendors put a stitched stream through a transcoding process that converts it into an adaptive bitrate (ABR) streaming format. ABR is able to detect an end-user’s current bandwidth in real-time and tailor the stream to the optimal output. Allowing vendors to return a lower-quality stream for poor internet connections, and a higher quality stream to those with strong bandwidth.
What devices can support SSAI?
SSAI-supported content can be accessed across all devices in both web or app environments. This means users can stream SSAI content on desktop, mobile, and connected TV devices.
Is SSAI beneficial for live inventory and events?
Yes, for SSAI is helpful for any media owner that is transferring over from the traditional linear space. Server-side ad insertion can be used to replace traditional ad breaks with digital ads, whether that is a live or pre-recorded event. Broadcasters will also utilize an SSAI vendor’s technology to handle high spikes in concurrency normally seen with large-scale events. Some vendors have the ability to pre-cache ads, so they can start calling their ad server before the break actually occurs.
What types of media owners primarily use SSAI?
Operators, pay TV providers, broadcasters and programmers. This includes media owners that stream live events, live-linear cable TV, or have Video on Demand (VOD) assets. However, any media owner that finds the features of SSAI to be beneficial can utilize the technology to stream their video inventory.
Are you able to match cookied users in SSAI environments since there is an additional partner involved?
Normally, no. However, SpotX has developed a solution that enables user syncing in web-based SSAI environments. Enabling user-syncing adds value to your inventory as DSP’s often look for known users when making ad decisions.
I have more questions. Where do I start? Who can answer my SSAI-related questions?
If you are a media owner with questions about SSAI or how to utilize it with your current inventory setup, direct any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also begin by evaluating which SSAI vendor best meets your needs. For any one-off questions, also feel free to contact the author of this article, Matthew Smith, at email@example.com.
This article was written by Matthew Smith, manager, advanced solutions group at SpotX.