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CableLabs, SCTE To Host Advanced-Advertising Test

More than a dozen technology vendors are set to participate next week in the first large-scale test of a key cable specification for advanced advertising.

The event, to take place Nov. 10 to 14 at CableLabs’ headquarters in Louisville, Colo., is being hosted by CableLabs and the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers.

The purpose: to provide a technical forum to kick the tires on SCTE 130, a specification that defines how advertising-placement servers communicate with video-delivery equipment. Canoe Ventures, the joint venture among the six biggest cable companies, is looking to use SCTE 130 as part of delivering and measuring targeted ads across each of the MSOs.

Vendors scheduled to participate in the interoperability testing include Arris Group, BIAP, BlackArrow, Concurrent Computer, Invidi Technologies, Motorola, OpenTV, Sigma Systems, Tandberg Television and Visible World.

The event “shows that advanced advertising is moving out of the theoretical discussion and that operators can run this in their environments—and make money,” BlackArrow vice president of distribution David Stengle said.

Systems using the SCTE 130 spec promise to let cable advertising become more Internet-like, by delivering different ads to different viewers based on demographic and other data. For example, a pizzeria promo could be shown to a household of college kids, while subscribers with young kids get pitched on a family restaurant. SCTE 130 also provides the ability to collect advertising data from disparate systems.

The weeklong gathering at CableLabs will include a Demo Day on Thursday, during which technical personnel from the top MSOs will peruse the vendor setups.

But the main goal, according to participants, is to let the vendors see how well systems written to the SCTE 130 standard work together. It’s one thing to say you have a wing nut with a No. 8 thread, but you need to screw it on a bolt produced to the same specification to see if it actually fits.

“This is the first real public showing for SCTE 130,” Concurrent vice president of product line management Jim Brickmeier said.

The specification, formerly known as SCTE Digital Video Subcommittee (DVS) 629, is largely completed but some sections are still being modified. Generally, it defines components of functionality in an advanced-advertising system and ways those components communicate with each other.

In the language of the spec, the ad decision manager (ADM) is the piece that recognizes that there’s an ad avail. (This may reside in a video-on-demand server.)

The ADM communicates with an ad decision service (ADS), which uses various parameters to select which ad will be inserted. A third component, the content information service, pulls together and delivers relevant data about a customer in a format that’s not personally identifiable.

What such systems ultimately can do is provide a way to finely target and segment advertising messages, even based on viewing behavior if an MSO has obtained permission using opt-in procedures.

“Providers have all this information in disparate repositories, and this brings it all together,” Sigma Systems chief technology officer Brian Cappellani said.

The SCTE 130 standard is important because—theoretically—it lets advertising systems across multiple cable systems talk to each other, a primary technical goal for Canoe. In addition, the specification should provide more flexibility in deploying a multiple-vendor solution.

“If you’re Comcast, and you decide to use Invidi as your ADS vendor, you don’t want that to lock you into your ADM vendor,” said Bruce Anderson, CTO of Invidi, which develops ad-decision systems.