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Forging a Pay TV-OTT Ad Link

Related: Up Periscope

As more video viewing occurs online, there’s a good bet that the ad dollars will follow.

One company that has slid a few more chips into that pot is Wurl, which has developed a streaming platform tailored to pay TV operators. In addition to helping those partners stitch over-the-top video together with traditional TV fare, Wurl has introduced an ad platform that aims to develop and cultivate a new, potentially lucrative revenue stream.

AdSpring is designed to simplify the process of stitching ad-supported, streaming video to an operator’s traditional programming guide. Wurl is introducing the product as pay TV operators continue to develop and roll out hybrid video platforms that support QAM and Internet-protocol delivery, and as they introduce and integrate over-the-top content.


Wurl estimates that pay TV operators have deployed more than 150 million connected set-tops, citing specific examples such as Cablevision Systems, DirecTV, WideOpenWest, RCN, Suddenlink Communications and Comcast, which is aggressively rolling out its Internet protocol-capable X1 platform. Of this group, WOW has rolled out Wurl’s iGuide streaming platform via a service called Streamland that runs on IP-connected “Ultra TV” set-tops from Arris.

While many of those providers in the early going tapped those IP connections to support guide data and simple apps and widgets, they are increasingly making use of those capabilities to deliver high-quality streaming video and to integrate services such as Netflix.

“All of the major operators are negotiating” to get subscription-based OTT services such as Netflix and Hulu onto their set-top boxes, Sean Doherty, Wurl’s CEO and co-founder, said, noting that many are also eager to stitch in free, ad-supported online video services. OTT services are also interested in gaining a new, coveted distribution channel through pay TV.

Those connected pay TV boxes represent a “giant installed base,” Doherty said.

The trick is getting those services onto set-tops using native apps supported by the pay TV providers, he said, rather than requiring third-party streaming players and clients. It’s a technology-integration challenge Wurl intends to address through a hosted platform (in tandem with partners that include Bright-cove, Google, Amazon and SpotXchange) that handles key parts of the ad-delivery process, including ingesting the video and transcoding it into a format that works with the operator’s set-top box.


“All of that needs to happen in the cloud,” Doherty said, adding that the system also enables pay TV providers to monitor and access important data such as completion rates, rather than requiring them to obtain that information in the device itself.

Wurl hasn’t announced any deployments for AdSpring, but it has conducted beta trials with about 140,000 subscribers spread across a handful of cable operators.

Doherty said he hopes the broader debut of AdSpring will attract more OTT providers that are trying to secure beachheads on MSO-leased boxes.