AI and the AVOD Viewing Experience

Johan Bergström
August 28, 2023
As AVOD models gain traction, the combination of automation and human intuition will ultimately help deliver the right balance for both viewers and advertisers.

In the ever-evolving landscape of content streaming, VOD providers need to innovate to survive. But this doesn’t just apply to entertaining audiences with a media portfolio of original production, nostalgic archive content, or exciting new acquisitions. In fact, innovation is an intrinsic part of how a VOD platform is culturally positioned and commercially sustained.

While acknowledging the need to explore content monetization, entertainment providers are aware of how important it is to strike a balance. Naturally, there are some inherent challenges involved when putting media that viewers have an emotional connection with alongside commercial messages. This is particularly clear when catering to a Gen Z audience. A recent Vionlabs report found that “62% of the respondents ages 18-24, have abandoned an ad-supported service because of a poor advertising experience”. So how can VOD platforms get the mix right?

Maintaining a Media Equilibrium

The balancing act for entertainment providers lies with keeping two, very different groups happy and doing so cost effectively. The audience wants to gain access to premium shows and movies at a lower price point (or for free) without being irritated by interruptions to their viewing. But in order to facilitate this content bonanza, there needs to be a payoff, and that’s where advertisers come in.

Get it right, and viewers will stay captivated, and advertisers will see a return on their investment. Get it wrong, and a platform can open the floodgates to major issues, such as negative reviews and user churn. The Vionlabs report also highlights some of the most common issues audiences raised about the AVOD viewing experience. The main complaint viewers had across all age demographics, was directed at adverts that disrupt the story or interrupt the narrative flow.

Delivering to an Engaged Audience

What’s clear is that the current VOD model is unsustainable, the more saturation the M&E market experiences the more platforms are at-risk of user churn. Viewers can only afford so many monthly subscriptions, therefore introducing alternative ways to watch content cost effectively makes sense. Users will accept adverts if they serve their primary objective of enjoying watching content, but if advertising starts to encroach on that enjoyment, then the viewer is likely to reject the service.

Advertisers need an engaged audience. It’s not enough for consumers to tolerate commercial messages, they need to strike a chord. To ensure that viewers stay receptive during ad-breaks, the positioning, consistency, and flow of adverts all play an important role. VOD platforms need to delve into the intricate dynamics of both consumer perceptions and interactions with these messages.

Contextual advertising placement relies on several factors, such as content duration, scene changes, mood and emotional range. In order for the advert’s message to land effectively, context is key. But getting this right while trying to dynamically process thousands of hours of media assets, is not easy.

Ensuring a Seamless User Experience

AI and ML innovation is advancing at a rapid pace. Content processing workflows can analyze consumer mood and delve into the depths of long-form, video-audio files. By doing so, streaming services and entertainment companies can create immersive viewing experiences that incorporate well-placed adverts.

Contextual advertising leverages recent developments in computer vision and machine learning, to detect natural ad-breaks both accurately and efficiently. This ensures that commercials are seamlessly inserted into video assets, at the most opportune moments in a story.

If ad-breaks are aligned with natural cue points, rather than interrupting gripping scenes or critical dialogue, viewers are much more likely to engage with them. With the intelligent integration of contextual advertising and frame accurate video workflows, users are spared random interruptions or jarring moments. In this way, AI-driven solutions help facilitate a more symbiotic relationship between revenue generation and user satisfaction.

Balancing Automation and Human Intuition

By creating a more immersive and enjoyable experience, the dynamic of advertising and content consumption is redefined. But to manage a growing volume of content, media companies need to move away from the complexities of ad-break management spreadsheets and manually referencing timestamps. New AI-powered workflows will now allow users to visualize break points directly within a timeline, enhancing efficiency and precision.  

When frame accurate video workflows are combined with AI content analysis, operators can identify and create dedicated breaks, ranges, and cuts, to ensure advert placement is less intrusive. By using content spanning markers, operators can also set program start and end points, automatically calculate the duration, and identify optimal spots to get the best results.

Ultimately, experienced content operators need to make the final decisions to ensure the advert positioning flows well from a human perspective. But next-gen technology designed specifically for ad-break placement, can help content operators generate time-based metadata that can be formatted and integrated into downstream ad-insertion systems.

Managing Content at Scale

The upsurge in AVOD models across multiple regions, certainly means entertainment providers are facing issues around scale. Content preparation teams are already working to process and output vast amounts of media assets. New demands can quickly create bottlenecks, as ad-supported platforms with various requirements are rolled out. For these skilled operators, it’s important that we consider AI technology as a useful assistant, it can speed up the process, but not take over the content preparation completely.

In today's media and entertainment landscape, the potential for growth and profitability is undeniable, and it’s an area where advertising plays a pivotal role. The rise in AVOD platforms blends premium content accessibility with strategic advertising integration.

Automation is an important part of processing new content for ad-insertion and repurposing existing assets, fulfilling the demands of both precision and speed. But as AVOD models gain traction, the combination of automation and human intuition will ultimately help deliver the right balance for both viewers and advertisers.

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