Building an advanced advertising business model replete with edgy new technologies is a small cable operator’s dream.

The harsh reality is that without the scale, capital and engineering-savvy to drive the model, an advanced advertising strategy is just that—a strategy.

For smaller operators such as SEMO Communications in Sikeston, Mo., the thought of integrating the required software, hardware and backoffice equipment to deploy an advanced advertising platform borders on fantasy.

“Our focus is on digital HD products, not advanced advertising. Advertising isn’t something we’ve made much revenue from,” said Tyrone Garrett, president of SEMO.

Yet for Garrett and other smaller operators, it’s a fantasy that could be showing signs of reality. One strategy is an aggregate-type system that could pull resources, Garrett says, and allow smaller systems such as SEMO to piggyback on a group of similar sized operations.

But going solo isn’t an option. “We can’t go it alone,” he admitted.

Trials and scale

Alone or not, some smaller operators are exploring various uses of advanced advertising technologies now being trialed and deployed under standards, such as SCTE 130.

Sunflower Broadband, for example, is field trialing SeaChange’s AdPulse ad insertion with Comcast Media Center and HealthiNation, Inc. to expand on-demand insertion options, according to news released by SeaChange in December.

Sunflower first launched AdPulse for local ad insertion in 2006

Wave Broadband is also partnering with Comcast Spotlight to test targeted and Internet advertising.

Additionally, vendors are paying attention to the small operator community, albeit with few illusions about the inherent challenges.

“The biggest challenge is reach,” BlackArrow President Nick Troiano said. “The advertising dollars to flow aren’t great, and smaller operators must build and deploy the infrastructure and back office and address operational issues like workflow and metadata.”

A provider of advanced advertising sales and decision technologies, BlackArrow nonetheless sees opportunity.
 
“We’re focusing more on smaller operators because they can target and deliver,” Troiano said. “Their value is how detailed they can get and how targeted.”

Standards, business case

Deploying the technology also requires close attention to standards, which are crucial to any advanced advertising deployment, said Laurel Gilbert, director of business development for advanced advertising at Sigma Systems.

Sigma provides subscriber information service (SIS) technology, part of the SCTE 130 framework, and is familiar with the situation of tier-two and -three MSOs.

“Smaller operators want to be engaged and are keeping apprised of developments with Canoe and its vendors,” she said. “But they’re pretty light on standards like SCTE 130, so they need to keep pace with standards development if they want to participate in the advanced advertising eco-system.”

Most do, including Massillon Cable in Ohio, although with some trepidation.
 
“We try to be early tech followers, but we haven’t seen enough (advanced advertising) to make it a business for us. We’re working to better integrate advertising into our guide, but not linking it to programs. No one has made a case for that, at least not yet,” said Bob Gessner, president of Massillon.

Making a case for advanced advertising is a challenge. More field trials and small operator collaboration could make the case more real.

–Craig Kuhl

The Daily

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