If you had a time machine that could take you back 30 years, you’d find that the media landscape was fairly settled. Content was broadcast over the air to the viewer; broadcasting was regulated and licensed; revenues came from sales of spot placements.

As a viewer, you sat back and watched whatever was aired at the time. But you had the comfort of knowing that the broadcaster was constrained to send you appropriate content and commercials for the audience and the time of day.

Jump forward to today and the situation is completely different. Those linear TV channels are still there, of course, but a proliferation of game-changing delivery approaches unleashed by the growing capacity of the internet (VOD, OTT, DTC, FAST...) has given today’s viewers almost unlimited access to content.

To meet consumer demand in this audience-first, data-centric world, many broadcasters now deliver high-quality, appointment-based viewing for live sports and premium events (“the playout piece”), augmented by high-quantity streaming and VOD (the “digital piece”). Historically, these have been siloed entities, but it no longer needs to be the case.

For linear services, the legacy playout has moved from multi-vendor environments to a much more integrated software environment. Playlists bring together programs, promos and — most important — commercials into a seamless sequence. The software-defined playout system might be on premises or in the cloud.

For nonlinear services, advertising is normally added to streaming by third-party providers who understand little of the traditional values of broadcasting. They drop commercials in with little regard for the content or the time of day. Viewers are frustrated by seeing the same inventory over and over, or worse still, slates saying the program will resume shortly.

What is needed is a means of treating digital services like broadcast services, with all the qualities of a traditional channel. Advertisers get the assurance of broadcast premium placement algorithms; viewers see advertising that is appropriate to them at that particular time; broadcasters get to aggregate audiences across all platforms, protect brand values and optimize revenue.

Add to this the increasing need for broadcasters and media companies to be agile. They must be able to scale elastically, try new concepts and adjust capacity for peak times and specific events. For example, when a major sports event comes along, they would need to spin up multiple additional channels to provide coverage and maybe add some premium UHD services to increase monetization.

That means eliminating silos between services. It also means unifying technology platforms across legacy hardware, software-defined environments and the cloud. And ideally, this must be achieved quickly, seamlessly, and without significant capital investment or risk-prone reconfigurations.

These were Imagine’s ambitious goals when we set about developing fresh approaches to working across digital and linear.

We started by proposing advertising sales across digital and linear together — an audience-first approach. A single sales offering, optimized automatically across broadcast channels, VOD and OTT. It means that what was previously considered broadcast-only functionality like competitive separation, frequency capping and time-of-day limitations can be applied to all outputs. That brings digital offerings up to the broadcast premium — again, raising potential monetization, while optimizing the use of inventory.

From there we developed what is a wholly revolutionary take on today’s media landscape, which we call Imagine Aviator. This is a unified approach to every step of delivering content, from planning the schedule through selling and managing the advertising to delivering the outputs.

We see the process in three broad steps: plan, make and monetize. Plan supports all the stages of scheduling, including rights management and content acquisition. Make oversees the media supply chain and manages secure content storage, as well as providing premium playout. Monetize implements the audience-first, cross-platform optimization and metrics.

Aviator is a software platform, designed for cloud implementation. The great benefit of the cloud, of course, is that it is scalable almost instantaneously, both up and down. So it enables media enterprises to spin up new channels and services and serve new markets as needed — driven by commercial impulses and not held back by technology.

Channels will be set up to support multiple variants: regional and international versions; different services for broadcast and online. Each will have different commercial insertions, as will dynamic ad insertion for streaming and VOD.

All media enterprises face an uncertain future. The ones who will succeed will be the ones who can respond most quickly to new opportunities, securing the most relevant content and achieving maximum monetization. A unified approach to planning, origination and monetization is the key to successfully navigating the changing media landscape.

May 12, 2022 - By Gareth Wills
Senior Product Manager
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