SCTE 130 and Advanced Ads

Earlier this year, I tagged an advanced-advertising standard, then known as SCTE DVS 629, as one of the “big things in cable tech” in 2008.

Since then, and to keep us all on our toes, the SCTE Digital Video Subcommittee changed the number of the standard, from DVS 629 to DVS 130. Not sure why. It reminds me of a funny friend’s funny child, who counts in this order: “One, two, skip a few, 99, 100.”

So: DVS 629 is now DVS 130. And DVS 130 is the sockets and sinew of addressable, targeted, interactive advertising, on cable.

On Aug. 4, the first four parts of the eight-part DVS 130 standard were approved by the SCTE’s Engineering Committee. That green-lights the vendor community to begin interpreting and building. (Many already have. Doing business in a standards-populated economy often means sprinting ahead, hoping your work becomes “the standard.”)

This week’s column attempts to untangle the context of SCTE 130. The actual nuts and bolts are a different translation. Consider: The four finished parts of the standard run across 429 pages.

If you’d rather fast-forward to the summary translation, it goes like this: DVS 130 creates the framework to pick, on the fly, which ad, of which length, to splice into a TV show — whether that show is linear, stored or switched. It’s how to advertise the stackable washer/dryer to Condo Connie and the lawnmower to Harry Homeowner.

For VOD, DVS 130 leapfrogs the “bookend” ads currently glued to the front and back of a video title. It adds things like replacement ads, pause ads and telescoping capabilities.

Replacement ads do what the name implies: Splice a newer ad over the existing one. (It’s harder than it sounds, because it crosses industries. Not all program networks have the gear to put the necessary flag into the ad breaks of a TV title, to indicate when a cable ad substitution can happen.)

Pause ads pop something up when you decide it’s time to break for a ham sandwich.

Telescoping is the clickable thing that invites the interested viewer to see a longer, stored video.

As a framework, DVS 130 defines the language to be spoken between participating machinery, and what messages they’ll exchange. Likewise, it defines how to connect the machines doing the work of addressable and interactive advertising.

SCTE 130 doesn’t define how that targeting and campaign work should be done — that’s the job of innovation.

Here’s the deeper dive:

If you haven’t observed a technical presentation on DVS 130, know going in that it’s pretty architectural. That means diagrams best absorbed by printing them out and staring at them. For a long time. With a clear head.

DVS 130 registers heavy on the jargon meter, too. Its official title: Digital Program Insertion — Advanced Advertising Interfaces. Its remaining four parts are expected to be approved this year. They’re juicier. They get at the raw materials of how to address ads to Condo Connie, based on what she approves you to know about her.

And yes, this whole thing will work best when all eight parts are done and in motion. In reality, that means this is a 2009-2010 thing, if everything goes well.

But until then, here’s the short version of the four approved parts of SCTE 130:

Part One, Advanced System Overview (16 pages) summarizes parts two through eight.

Part Two, Core Data Elements (77 pages), defines how to phrase XML (Extensible Markup Language) messages for addressability and interactivity.

Part Three, Ad Management Service (ADM)/Ad Decision Services (ADS, 246 pages), gets pretty dense. In essence, an ADM issues messages about what ads to place, An ADS figures out how to place them.

Part Three puts “real time” into the equation. It’s the “advanced” of advanced addressability. Today, it works like this: Ads are sold. Traffic schedules are built. At 4 p.m., those schedules get loaded into the ad insertion machines. If something needs to change after that, it better be important.

Part Four, Content Information Service (90 pages) is the keeper of the metadata about the ads and the video content they’ll run within.


The fact that DVS 130 is chunked into eight parts illustrates one of its intents: To be modular in design. In premise, modularity attracts a wider supplier community. Plus, it lessens the risk of ganging stuff together that grows at different rates — scale matters.

Remember the first days of VOD gear, when storage and streaming worked in the same box? Storage grew faster. Decoupling happened.

Another handy consequence of SCTE 130 is the data it gathers — house by house, system by system, region by region, operator by operator — all the way up river to Canoe Ventures LLC, if so desired. (Yes, it’s an actual company now, with headquarters in the Chrysler Building in Manhattan.)

When it all comes together, advanced advertising will send you the ads that are best for you, assuming you’re OK with it. Your viewing becomes collectable data, which gets ganged together with everybody else’s collectable data. Once the data is sufficiently smooshed and “anonymized,” cable advertisements become targetable and measurable.

That’s huge for the people who live and work in cable advertising. It’s several giant steps towards being “more like Internet advertising.”

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