2013: The Year of DAI?

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Far be it from us to declare anything the year of anything. It’s usually a fruitless exercise, fueled by the revenue yearnings of a vendor community, and it almost always turns out wrong. As the venerable Bob Miron, retired head of Advance/Newhouse Communications, once said: “The difference between early and wrong is indistinguishable.”

This column succumbed, incorrectly, to the allure of “year of” hype at last three times over the last decade: In 2001 (VOD), 2006 (OCAP) and 2010 (EBIF). In chronological order: Early, wrong and wrong.

Yet, were we to again tiptoe along the slippery slope that is “year of” guesses, we’d have to go with “DAI.”

Why? Because anytime a studio honcho foists such an arcane tech-term into a speech, it gets instantly embued with a dash of authenticity. Like so: “We need DAI,” said Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer, during a CTAM Summit keynote in late October. “Our FearNet channel has 30 million subscribers. Without DAI, we can’t monetize it.”

“DAI” stands for “dynamic advertising insertion.” It’s the three letter acronym comprising the technologies that splice refreshed ads into stored VOD content. So, instead of settling in to Fargo during the first big snowstorm, only to see ads for lawnmowers, maybe you see an offer for a parka. Or a wood chipper.

Networks and MSOs want DAI as a way to monetize VOD, especially as the category expands into a repository for not just movies, but also the new-ish category that is “marathon viewing” of episodic TV.

It ties into the Nielsen C3 world, too. Right now, C3 is a DVR (digital video recorder) thing, created to account for content viewing that doesn’t happen in real time. It creates a number for average commercial ratings, over a three-day period, after the live broadcast.

Work is underway to extend that model to VOD, too. It’s called “ODC3,” for “On-Demand C3.” For an episode of, say, Top Chef, an ODC3 number would collect ratings for the live airing, plus the following three days of DVR viewing, plus ratings for any subsequent VOD viewing.

On the tech side, it’s happening. Here’s how a Comcast technologist put it recently: “Two years ago, we were at the cave-writing stage. Now, we’re ready to roll it (DAI) out pretty much everywhere.”

If that’s true, and if more studio and network CEOs are as keen on it as Feltheimer is, then maybe 2013 becomes the year of DAI. If nothing else, it’s a plausible new revenue daydream — for networks and operators.

Stumped by gibberish? Visit Leslie Ellis at translation-please.com or multichannel.com/blog.