BlackArrow Opens Up VOD Ad System, Adds Midroll Support

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BlackArrow has upgraded its dynamic ad-insertion system for video-on-demand to support "midroll" ads -- spliced into the middle of a VOD asset -- and has added programming interfaces to plug into third-party ad systems.

Release 3.2 of the BlackArrow Advanced Advertising System now allows owners of VOD advertising inventory to define whether to keep the existing hard-coded ads in a VOD asset, to take advantage of currencies such as Nielsen's C3 window, or whether to swap them out for other ads if an operator supports dynamic ad insertion.

Being able to insert midroll ads "touches on the last leg of the stool from a technology perspective, in terms of what we think the market needs to unlock the value of the VOD," BlackArrow president Nick Troiano said.

Programmers now can "single-pitch" the same VOD asset to all operators, to leverage the same asset for static or dynamic VOD distribution while being able to swap out ad copy, ad creative, ad loads and other parameters without having to re-encode and redistribute assets, according to Troiano.

In addition, the new release includes a series of application programming interfaces, or APIs, designed to make it easier to automate the flow of VOD orders from existing third-party linear or online ad systems into the BlackArrow system for execution.

The decision to open up the BlackArrow system via APIs rather than requiring programmers to use its own software was a key market requirement, Troiano said.

"While we provide the most robust end-to-end VOD monetization system, adding the APIs increases choice and flexibility for clients," he said.

BlackArrow's midroll support lets programmers flag via standard signal metadata where the static ads are, and then set policies that determine what to do when the system sees a baked-in static ad. "You can even just remove it if you want to skip an ad pod altogether," BlackArrow senior vice president of product management Chris Hock said.

The release also provides control over trick-mode policies (e.g., disabling fast-forward so an ad can't be skipped) and the number of ads displayed.

At the 2011 Cable Show in Chicago later this month, BlackArrow plans to show off the new features as well as the ability to perform dynamic ad insertion across multiple platforms -- including Apple iOS and Google Android-based tablets and smartphones. The multiplatform demo will be conducted in conjunction with at least one major operator and programmer.

Privately held BlackArrow is backed by Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cisco Systems, Intel, Motorola, NDS Group, Mayfield Fund and Polaris Venture Partners.

To date, BlackArrow has announced deployments of the VOD ad insertion system with Comcast, as well as trials Bresnan Communications (now part of Cablevision Systems), Rainbow Media and Fox Cable Networks.

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