Paul Woidke joined Comcast Spotlight, the advertising sales division of Comcast Cable, in July 2002 and is charged with creating technology standards and best practices for the company’s numerous markets. These efforts encompass commercial insertion and distribution (including satellite opportunities with NCC’s CableLink and Comcast’s HITS and Digital Media Center), traffic systems and rollout of segmentation products. Prior to Comcast, Woidke served as Adlink’s senior VP and CTO and was responsible for Adlink’s 80 plus cable advertising insertion sites while leading strategic technology planning. He has more than 30 years of cable and broadcast experience. Woidke designed the Adtag and Adcopy targeted advertising infrastructure, first used by Adlink and licensed by Comcast Spotlight. He is active in industry working groups including CAB’s Committee on Local Technology and is the chairman of the SCTE Digital Video Subcommittee’s "Working Group Five (DPI)." He has participated on the Ad Hoc Committee of CableLabs’ Advertising Technology Task Force and on CableLabs’ Digital Program Insertion Subcommittee. You’ve been chairman of the SCTE Digital Video Subcommittee’s Working Group Five on digital program insertion (DPI) for quite a few years. The splicing and cueing standards (SCTE 30 and 35) are now five years old. Are they well-established and stable? Both SCTE 35 (the "grand-daddy" of DPI functionality which handles cue messaging) and 30 (the server-splicer API) are not only well-established, but have also been revised to refine the specifications and to keep up with advances in the industry and the supporting technologies. These two standards were critical to the cable industry for advancing the deployment of digital simulcast; they formed the underlying specifications that enabled ad server and splice/grooming vendors to operate. Without this, maintaining advertising insertion (and the important revenue that it represents) would have been far more complicated and costly … possibly to the extent that digital simulcast would not have been financially possible. Is targeted advertising the area of current standards work? Could you elaborate? The transition to a complete digital environment for all ad support networks is fundamental to the enhancement of advertising opportunities. The ability to "address" television advertising messages to groups of people who would be interested is a significant step forward. Television advertising has always been segmented; advertisers have always promoted themselves on the programs watched by those who are most likely to want or need that product or service. Television is even geographically "segmented" in a gross way: Products advertised in Los Angeles may be different from those promoted by the same manufacturer in Boston. "Addressable advertising" brings to television the same capabilities that have previously existed in direct mail. Addressable advertising means that within a market (or DMA, if you wish) and even within the exact same television program, an advertiser can reach viewers segmented into key demographic groups, such as families with children, retired seniors, single family dwellings vs. condos and apartments, and a vast array of other useful divisions or parameters. Not only do advertisers benefit by reaching viewers likely to be interested in their product or service, but also viewers themselves see advertising that is useful, informational and relevant to their lives. Everyone wins in this environment. How have digital simulcast and Internet protocol (IP) environments helped DPI operations, from either a cost and/or technology perspective? Well, most importantly, DPI has been an enabler that has allowed digital simulcast to be launched in a viable and timely manner. As the first step to (ultimately) completing a transition to an all-digital environment, this has been significant. IP is just another method of transport. What’s the technical link between video on demand (VOD) and DPI? I guess the best way to imagine a "link" is that within the digital realm, we can begin to deal with programming and advertising in the same (or at least very similar) manner, whether the specific environment is "linear" or "on-demand." While the content may be stored in different formats, data rates and even through different coding mechanisms, the fundamental developments of DPI will be carried forward. DPI provided the core technologies for signaling the "ad avail" opportunity and then actually joining the two pieces of content (a program and an advertisement) in real time. In the VOD realm, there will be differences to be addressed, but the underlying standards will allow us to make the transition to this new viewing environment more easily. How do playlists take advantage of VOD servers for ad insertion? VOD is a one-to-one relationship between a viewer and the program content chosen to be viewed. It is, if you will, "addressable programming!" Right now, however, advertising that is associated with this otherwise "free on-demand" programming is married and merged directly with the content. When the program is encoded to be placed on the VOD server, the advertising content is "fixed-in-place" with the program material as a single file. Playlists will allow on-demand programming (and the advertising that might be associated with it) to have the same flexibility as "addressable advertising" allows in the linear program realm discussed earlier. The playlist breaks the hard link between the programming and the advertising and will allow different commercials to be related to the same program material based on when the content is being watched and even by the location and demographics of television viewers. The playlist will be a sophisticated "schedule" of advertisements that are available to be associated with on-demand content. Is it realistic to think we can create playlists that target individuals? Since an on-demand stream is, in fact, a one-to-one relationship between a viewer and a piece of programming content, it is hypothetically possible to create an advertisement addressed to a specific person. The reality is that this won’t happen for a wide variety of reasons: The most significant reason is that advertisers don’t really imagine reaching "an individual" in the context of "John Doe" … especially in a pricey medium like television. They really want to reach a group of John Does that are interested in buying mini-vans vs. a group of Jane Does who are looking for hot sports cars. What is the impact of ads for VOD? Advertising on VOD is a significant component to the entire business case. It won’t be advertising as it is experienced today in linear television, where commercial pods of two minutes in duration break into the middle of a program three to four times every half hour; instead, advertising will be entertaining, brief and relevant to the viewer. Viewers want to watch high quality programming content; they want to be in control of the viewing process; but they also want it to be "free." Useful, engaging advertising is what will pay the freight. How will the ads be inserted for VOD? Are there different types of architectures? Vendors are aggressively pursuing extension of the basic signaling and splicing standards to function in the on-demand environment today. Not only are there various on-demand system architectures to be considered, but also the development of advanced codecs will certainly affect this area. Likewise, changes in the cable plant, such as switched broadcast, and the location at which on-demand content might be stored (for example, the set-top with a personal video recorder is really another on-demand platform) are just some of the issues to be considered. What are the ad insertion opportunities with NCC’s CableLink and Comcast’s HITS and Digital Media Center? These entities and others will play an increasingly significant role as the television medium continues to grow and expand. Even five years ago, who would have imagined watching video content on an iPod? Or a cell phone? Video will become an even more significant component of the entertainment and advertising businesses … but the context (watching a spot in a TV show at 8:30 p.m.) will change radically, and the audience will continue to fragment. The advanced technologies will need business partners, such as these and others, to take advantage of the new opportunities.