Video streaming service providers use various monetization models—advertising, subscriptions, pay-per-view options, and hybrid approaches. Advertising-based video streaming services have recently gained popularity for various reasons. One of the most important ones has to do with people switching from subscriptions to free ad-based services.

The problem with free ad-based services is that viewers can easily remove ads with ad blockers. As a result, they skip the ads, and a content provider doesn’t get their revenue. For such situations, developers created the dynamic server-side ad insertion (SSAI) technology. Let’s talk about it in detail.

What Is Server-Side Ad Insertion?

The era of traditional TV is not over. Many people still watch cable or satellite TV programs rich with ads. The problem for operators here is that TV ads target all people. They don’t take into account viewers’ interests and the performance of an ad campaign. It means that broadcasters spend resources showing ads to people who are not interested in the advertised product or service.

In the Internet landscape, dynamic ad insertion or SSAI is a method that allows advertisers to personalize ads for viewers based on their preferences. As a result, the viewers watch ads they might be interested in.

Another function of SSAI is to stitch an ad into a video so that it becomes part of it. Unlike client-side ad insertion (CSAI), which stitches ads within the browser on a user’s device, SSAI does the work on the server side. It means that ads are put into a video before it is played on a receiving device.

As a result, ad blockers cannot detect inserted ads. Getting around ad blockers was the main reason for the creation of SSAI.

How Does Server-Side Ad Insertion Work?

The following elements are necessary to enable SSAI:

  • Ad decision server (ADS): Creates a manifest on what ads to stitch into the video. ADS also considers different factors, such as the user’s location and Internet bandwidth.

How do all these elements interact to enable SSAI?

Now, imagine that you found a movie to watch. You click the play button, and almost immediately, the movie starts playing. What happened during that short moment of waiting? Here’s what.

  1. The video player requested your data, such as your location, search queries, Internet service provider (ISP), and other essential information.
  2. The ADS received the request, created instructions for the player, and defined what ads to show you and their duration.
  3. The CDN sent the requested video and data back to the video player.
  4. Now, you are watching the movie. When the video playback reaches the mark of the ad insertion, the CDN stitches the ad into the stream.

The ADS tracks the information about the user’s reaction to the ad, such as whether the viewer clicked it or not.

What Are the Positives and Negatives of SSAI?

SSAI has the following advantages:

  • Personalized ads: SSAI allows a content provider to deliver individualized ads to viewers. As a result, people watch ads with products or services they might be interested in.
  • Bypassing ad blockers: With the help of ad blockers, users prevent ads from appearing. Inserting ads into the stream before it is played on the viewer’s device is how SSAI bypasses ad blockers.
  • Suitable for live streaming: SSAI utilizes adaptive bitrate streaming when stitching ads into content. Adaptive bitrate streaming allows adjusting the video quality to connection requirements. If the connection is poor, the quality of the video will be lowered.

SSAI has the following disadvantages:

  • Exposure to fraud: Cybercriminals can use the additional layer that appears between the user’s device and the provider’s tech stack for spoofing.
  • Limited tracking: SSAI lacks the ability to measure interactivity. The server doesn’t always correctly recognize the data.

Final Thoughts

To summarize, SSAI is a method of inserting ads into videos on the server side. It was created to bypass ad blockers, but now it performs more functions. SSAI is used to personalize ads and enhance live streams. As a result, ad stitching improves user experience and boosts revenue for video content providers and advertisers.

SSAI Can Be Considered a Double-Edged Sword.
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