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CableLabs Recaps VOD Advertising Interop

CableLabs and Canoe Ventures ended up attracting 10 suppliers to an interop event held last month to test standards-based dynamic video-on-demand advertising, as part of Canoe's efforts to establish a national VOD ad footprint.

The May 23-27 event at CableLabs' Louisville, Colo., headquarters was aimed at demonstrating the latest SCTE-130 and Stewardship and Fulfillment Interfaces (SaFI) 2.1 advanced-advertising specifications. SCTE-130 defines communication among advanced ad components, while SaFI is a CableLabs/Canoe-developed suite of specs to define different attributes for interactive, VOD and addressable advertising across multiple operators.

Participants in the interop were: Ad-ID LLC, Arris, Avail-TVN, Canoe, Ericsson, Harris, Nielsen, Sigma Systems, S&T, This Technology and Unisoft. Several other notable VOD and advertising vendors -- including Cisco Systems, SeaChange International, Motorola, OpenTV and BlackArrow -- did not attend.

The interop test bed comprised two VOD servers supported by several ad management servers (ADMs) and ad decision servers (ADSs). Video content was stored in these systems, and each participant could utilize their software interfaces to dynamically insert advertisements into the VOD sessions.

"It was, for us, another opportunity to ensure proper validation of our content and advertising systems," Avail-TVN chief technology officer Mike Kazmier said.

According to CableLabs, one of the major accomplishments of this interop was demonstrating the ability to run interactive applications within VOD content by following the latest version of the proposed SaFI 2.1 specification. One of the technical details was the inclusion of a VOD server playing an advertisement with a pre-bound interactive request for information (RFI) application. The RFI data was processed in an aggregator, at which point the data was accessed by the appropriate cable operator.

"The interop's results are valuable to cable operators, programmers and advertisers," CableLabs senior vice president of advanced platforms and services Don Dulchinos said. "Providing a national footprint where advertisers can dynamically place ads on cable VOD assets has been a goal for a number of years."

Bruce Dilger, Canoe's vice president of Advanced Advertising Architecture, added, "There's no substitute for this level of hands-on teamwork within the technology community. Moving forward from this event, we have deployed our latest ADS software revision at the CableLabs facility to continue integration with vendors through CableLabs' Ad Lab and the Canoe Innovation Program."

Canoe is the advanced-advertising joint venture of the six largest U.S. cable operators: Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Charter Communications, Cablevision Systems and Bright House Networks.

Canoe wants to initiate VOD dynamic ad-insertion field trials with the aim of commercially launching the national platform in 2011.

CableLabs also noted that the interop integrated the Advertising Digital Identification LLC (Ad-ID) advertising asset identifier and metadata within the broader SCTE 130 architecture. By tagging each advertising asset with the Ad-ID, "the most appropriate ad is selected from available inventory and our metadata ensures shared identification of the advertising asset across multiple cable operators," Ad-ID managing director Harold Geller said in a statement.

As part of its SCTE-130 Emulator Project, CableLabs provided its Document Profile Architecture (DPA) Toolset which helps the industry formalize interoperability criteria. Additionally, the participants brought other SCTE-130 components, such as subscriber information services (SIS) or placement opportunity information services (POIS) and had the opportunity to validate how their interfaces interacted with the other SCTE-130 implementations.

CableLabs said future interoperability events may include using the DPA toolset to create a virtual interoperability lab. The consortium said a virtual environment would benefit participants "by providing a continuous development environment on a 24x7 basis."