NAB 2022

NAB 2022 Perspectives: Imagine CTO John Mailhot Says Aviator Improves Ad Delivery, Monetization of OTT Platforms

The goal is bring linear-network–quality advertising to streaming

Imagine’s Aviator platform was at the center of the company’s NAB Show activities, and, with advertising becoming a bigger part of streaming efforts, it’s well-timed to help improve the delivery of digital spots. “We have a lot of customers in the playout world that are making good economic use of popup channels launched for special events,” says John Mailhot, CTO/director, product management, Imagine Communications. “You can spin those up and down very easily, including traffic and advertising. And the strategy around Aviator is to pre-integrate and better link those subsystems.”

Aviator is designed to improve ad delivery for OTT and streaming platforms.

The key is linking Imagine’s advertising-decision–server system, SureFire, with the Versio master-control system so that the right stream and right ad are in front of the right viewer at the right time.

“Ultimately, consumers expect a television-viewing experience online,” Mailhot explains. “Currently, sometimes the ads are a little late, early, or inappropriate online — like when you see the same ad seven times in the first half of a game. We want to bring the same capabilities found in network television to the online experience, especially cloud-based ones.”

Versio, he says, powers broadcast-network playout for many channels, and now those capabilities are in the cloud.

“There’s a combination of the rules engine about when can ads run, which ads can run when, and that flow of information from the business system,” he adds. “The backend execution enables those ads, through triggers, to be played in the stream that then becomes events for the decision engine. The objective of Aviator is to make the integration effort repeatable so that it’s done well on every channel we deploy.”

At the end of the day, Mailhot says, the goal is to create more value for advertisers, thus increasing revenue, because a key advantage of online ad delivery is the ability to target ads. “If we can replicate the quality level of the placement and execution of the ads that you see on network television today in the online streaming environments, the premium ad buyers will consider those first-class ads.”

The continued evolution of platforms at Imagine, both IP-based and cloud-based, and the overall acceptance of both technologies by the industry at large validate a vision that, nearly a decade ago, put Imagine on the bleeding edge.

“When we started talking about using COTS switches in the TV environment in 2013 and 2014,” he says, “it was a radical idea, and there were a lot of naysayers. I spent seven years of my life being the editor of SMPTE ST 2110, and it’s really gratifying to see it succeed in the marketplace.”

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