Title: Vice president of system architecture, Tandberg Television
Broadband Background: Adams is responsible for overseeing Tandberg’s architectural strategy across all product lines for the Americas and the development of next-generation technology initiatives. Before joining Tandberg, he served as vice president of video architecture and technology at Terayon and has held senior positions at AOL, Road Runner and Time Warner Cable. He also is the author of OpenCable Architecture and co-author of Modern Cable Television Technology (Morgan Kaufmann, October 2003). Adams has been granted eight patents in the digital video technology area and is a senior member of both the SCTE and the IEEE.
Your recent CT article, co-authored with Jonathan Bokor, deals with targeted advertising. How did you first get involved with this aspect of cable?
That dates back to my involvement with the SCTE Digital Video Standards organization when digital program insertion (DPI) was just getting started under the capable leadership of Paul Woidke in the late 1990s. Subsequently, I worked on MPEG splicing technology at Terayon as part of the digital simulcast transition. Since I’ve been with Tandberg Television, I’ve become more aware of the end-to-end advertising value chain, and with the help of my co-author, Jonathan Bokor, I have developed a new appreciation of the intricacies of this fascinating subject.
The article suggests that cable and the Internet are in a race to provide both quality video and a one-to-one ad experience. Which is best set up right now to win, and why?
I think either one could win – it’s tough to call it. However, I think both can learn from each other. What we wanted to communicate in the article is that cable has a tremendous amount to gain from some of the strides made by the Internet model, specifically ad targeting and unified reporting.
What’s the biggest hurdle for addressable ads, and what’s the best way over it?
Probably, it is a change in mindset on the business model. MSOs and programmers have historically been in competition with each other on ad sales and have sometimes tended to get locked into an "us vs. them" mentality. But, with the threat of the Internet becoming the platform of choice for addressable video ads, there is now a real imperative for MSOs and programmers to work together. In fact, we believe there is a strategic opportunity to create a much bigger pie for TV advertising on cable. And that the best way to do this is to fully exploit dynamic ad placement technologies across linear, on-demand, and switched digital video in an integrated way.
The article says that engineering and ad sales folks will have to get together to make addressable ads work. Isn’t that a bit of a tall order, as in "ne’er the twain shall meet"?
Yes, it is a tall order. However, necessity makes for strange bedfellows! Seriously, I think it is our job at Tandberg Television to develop products that can help to bridge that gap. Our vision is a single campaign management system that connects with on-demand, linear, and switched digital video delivery platforms using emerging, industry-standard interfaces.
In terms of customer relations, is it really a good idea to put more ads in on-demand content? Might not the subscribers rebel?
That’s really a question of relevance and duration. If the ad is appropriate and of reasonable duration, then I don’t think it will be too much of a problem. There was a recent survey that asked consumers if they would rather pay $1.99 for a program or view it free of charge with embedded ads. More than half of the respondents said they could live with the ads if the event was free.
In the article, you describe ad reporting as "a can of worms." Could you explain?
This is the area where ad agencies are least satisfied with cable ad sales. The level of reporting for cable ads is still fairly primitive, especially when compared with the Internet, which is measured to down to the last click.
You recently did a Webcast with us on ETV. Can you expand a bit on your work there?
Interactive TV has been a passion since Full Service Network (the project that gave me my chance to move into cable with Time Warner). It is also part of OCAP, something I was involved in with the definition of the CableCard/Host interface. So, when I joined Tandberg Television, I was fascinated about the possibility of migrating existing, successfully deployed, interactive applications to ETV. We ported the Home Shopping Network "Shop by Remote" application to ETV to prove the technology, and people were able judge our success for themselves at the National Cable show.