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RokuJohnC
Level 7

Enabling Your Channel for Video Ads

Roku Community,

Just to make a quick intro - my name is John and I manage the video ad business for publishers at Roku. Ad-supported channels are now the fastest growing segment on Roku, making it all the more critical that we are as communicative as possible with our developer community on how to monetize content effectively. Below I provide a comprehensive overview of several core aspects of the business and how you can work with Roku:

The Roku Ad Framework

The main goal of RAF is to create a universal standard for client side ad insertion on the Roku platform that enables our publishers to better sell their inventory. To clarify - RAF is not an ad server. To give a high level example of how RAF works in relation to a video ad server:

1) Channel sends out an ad request.

2) RAF extracts client side macros as targeting parameters to the ad server.

3) Ad Server returns a valid VAST response.

4) RAF parses out the VAST response.

5) Impression and relevant beacons are served.

Some of the key features include:

- Natively integrates baseline & advanced advertising capabilities
– IAB VAST 2.0/3.0 processing
– IAB VMAP playlist management
– Interactive ad units (via Innovid in RAF V1)
– Nielsen Digital Ad Ratings (via planned RAF update in summer ’15)
– Utilizes Roku’s new privacy-friendly device ID (“RIDA”)
– Client-side macros for key variables like content ID, genre, device ID
– Automatically updates without rebuilding/resubmitting your app

We are constantly improving the capabilities of RAF and I am very excited to unveil what we've been working on at a later date. I will update the Roku community on the latest features for subsequent RAF releases.

Navigating the Video Advertising Landscape

The digital video advertising ecosystem is complicated - and even more complicated on Roku and OTT! Fortunately video inventory on OTT is worth more (based on CPM - cost per thousand impressions) than Online or Mobile.

There are fewer ad sources that are selling Connected TV ads in the marketplace than Online or Mobile. Here are a few that should be able to get you started:

YuMe
Tremor
BrightRoll
Amobee

And of course, we can help fill your inventory as well!

In order to manage multiple ad sources you need an ad server. There are a plethora of options out there but I would recommend looking into the following:

DFP for Video
LiveRail
FreeWheel
AOL One (formerly known as Adap.tv)

Working with Roku to Fill Your Advertising Demand

We have an incredibly robust direct ad sales team and are happy to work with our publishers to help monetize their content and grow their audience. There are no upfront volume commitments required - we understand that it can take time to grow your user-base and we want to help get you there. Please contact me (jcarter@roku.com) to further discuss opportunities related to video monetization.

-John
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34 Replies
EnTerr
Level 8

Re: Enabling Your Channel for Video Ads

Hi RokuJohnC - welcome to the dev.forum!

This R.A.F. (if finished) seems significant enough to warrant a post on the developer blog.
(It will also help creating the impression RokuCo does something to popularize Roku as a platform 8-))

As a developer i have this question - does RAF and/or any of your publishers provide skippable video ads (akin to YT TrueView)?

Meaning ads that don't hold the viewer hostage if they so choose to opt-out from a particular ad that has started showing for a few seconds. Unlike "legacy" TV, OTT model has interactive potential which can benefit all sides. Neither viewers enjoy forcibly seeing ("gavage") the same gecko/duck/Flo over and over again, nor do advertisers win more business - but in the old system, with no way to discriminate they keep doing the carpet bombing hoping to cover those few who haven't seen it and in the process causing collateral damage, incl. lower conversion rates and consequently lowering CPM for intermediaries.
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RokuJohnC
Level 7

Re: Enabling Your Channel for Video Ads

RAF is in release form. I'm not currently aware of ads being sold as skippable outside of the YouTube channel on Roku.

However, with the RAF capability for interactive ads (via Innovid and others) there is the capability to sell skippable ads moving forward.

I think the main issue I see with skippable ads is how to make them economically viable. YouTube has such a massive audience that they can make the economics work with users skipping ads en masse. But smaller publishers that don't have a billion unique users in which to cast such a wide net and make the numbers work. As the AVOD market continues to mature the ad diversity/frequency issue should resolve.

-John
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DeanLach
Level 7

Re: Enabling Your Channel for Video Ads

May I have an invite to the RAF program?
Cut that Cable!
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RokuJohnC
Level 7

Re: Enabling Your Channel for Video Ads

Hi DeanLach,

Please email at jcarter@roku.com to discuss.

Thanks!
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EnTerr
Level 8

Re: Enabling Your Channel for Video Ads

I am trying to wrap my head around the overall usefulness of this R.A.F. and not having much luck so far. Can someone help me see the light?

So it parses the templating of VAST, i get that. But if i have the VAST ad server on hand and am not afraid of parsing XML, why would i want to use "RAF"? The argument that it will update itself with the rOS is kind of weak.

And i find it disturbing that the library BRS source is kept hidden from us. Using the library (content unknown) makes RokuCo a man-in-the-middle intermediary between publisher and advertiser. What do we know about the "privacy" of the exchanges? What of them will the Co collect/aggregate/peruse? - i don't see a statement on that.
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TheEndless
Level 7

Re: Enabling Your Channel for Video Ads

"EnTerr" wrote:
I am trying to wrap my head around the overall usefulness of this R.A.F. and not having much luck so far. Can someone help me see the light?

So it parses the templating of VAST, i get that. But if i have the VAST ad server on hand and am not afraid of parsing XML, why would i want to use "RAF"? The argument that it will update itself with the rOS is kind of weak.

And i find it disturbing that the library BRS source is kept hidden from us. Using the library (content unknown) makes RokuCo a man-in-the-middle intermediary between publisher and advertiser. What do we know about the "privacy" of the exchanges? What of them will the Co collect/aggregate/peruse? - i don't see a statement on that.

It's not just about parsing XML, but also implementing all of the features of VAST, as well as a custom video player for ad playback. The primary benefit, in my opinion, would be the fact that you don't have to implement the entire VAST spec yourself in BrightScript. If you already have a VAST library that you wrote yourself (which I do, incidentally), then there's probably not a lot of benefit to using RAF, but if you don't, it will save you a lot of development time.

As for the "man-in-the-middle" concern, I don't think that's any different than using the third party libraries for VAST on iOS and Android, which most ad services also provide. Some, like LiveRail, also provide a BrightScript library which you could use instead, if you were so inclined.
My Channels: http://roku.permanence.com - Twitter: @TheEndlessDev
Instant Watch Browser (NetflixIWB), Aquarium Screensaver (AQUARIUM), Clever Clocks Screensaver (CLEVERCLOCKS), iTunes Podcasts (ITPC), My Channels (MYCHANNELS)
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EnTerr
Level 8

Re: Enabling Your Channel for Video Ads

"TheEndless" wrote:
As for the "man-in-the-middle" concern, I don't think that's any different than using the third party libraries for VAST on iOS and Android, which most ad services also provide. Some, like LiveRail, also provide a BrightScript library which you could use instead, if you were so inclined.

It's different in that RokuCo is a 3rd to the party, hence "a man in the middle". Sometimes three is a crowd. In this particular perspective, the two parties are the (channel/app) Publisher and the Advertiser - and RokuCo as a friend is letting us use its bedroom. I don't want to be ungrateful - since it's indeed a cozy, well-lit bedroom - i just have questions about the security camera and the full-wall mirror 8-)
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Roku Employee
Roku Employee

Re: Enabling Your Channel for Video Ads

The RAF is all about Ad monetization. Without good statistics, it is hard to get paid for ad playback.

The points of RAF are:

  • Support for advanced interactive ad technologies

  • Support for Roku Ad inventory delivery either in the typical percentage deal or in the 100% deal or in what ever we have negotiated. Either way we need to know how many of our ads are delivered in order to be able to collect funds from the ad companies or in the 100% Roku ads situation, pay the Roku developer.

  • Support for midrolls which our previous libraries did not have.


If you are using your own Ad server with RAF and not running any Roku ads I don't think we will see any transactions as they will occur between your server and the device and you won't be sending any beacons to our ad server

- Joel
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EnTerr
Level 8

Re: Enabling Your Channel for Video Ads

"RokuJohnC" wrote:
RAF is in release form. I'm not currently aware of ads being sold as skippable outside of the YouTube channel on Roku.

However, with the RAF capability for interactive ads (via Innovid and others) there is the capability to sell skippable ads moving forward.

I think the main issue I see with skippable ads is how to make them economically viable. YouTube has such a massive audience that they can make the economics work with users skipping ads en masse. But smaller publishers that don't have a billion unique users in which to cast such a wide net and make the numbers work. As the AVOD market continues to mature the ad diversity/frequency issue should resolve.

In the long term, being able to skip ads is in everybody's interest:
  • It's good for the viewers, because they don't have to waste life watching ads unrelated to their needs/interests.

  • It's good for the advertisers, because they don't have to pay $$$ promoting to the wrong segments of audience.

  • it's good for app developers like me, because playing ads "hardball"-style alienates audience, turning them into unwilling hostages. Having the "safety valve" - if you will - of opting out to skip particular ad decreases friction in app adoption/user retention.

Skippable, interactive, non-intrusive, better-informed ads are the ads of the future. The stupid video ads we get now are remains from the only way TV and radio could work last century - one-way, no feedback broadcast and everybody sees/hears exactly the same content, whether it applies to them or not. It's a "thermonuclear option", akin to a broad-spectrum antibiotic that kills all bacteria - good, bad and indifferent - risking to leave one with ruined intestine, potentially in need of fecal transplant. The alternative is sniper precision, with innocents spared.

Beyond YouTube, you can see the new kind of ads in many places the last couple of years. Take for example freemium games like Angry Birds Epic, Plants vs Zombies 2 etc with skippable interstitial ads. Being a 2-way-interaction kind of set-top box, Roku is in position to jump early on the "smart video ads" bandwagon and remain relevant. Or you know, the other thing.

Seems we had little misunderstanding above though - i took @RokuJohnC's answer to mean "there is no way out of prison with Roku ads" when i think he meant "we don't have ad inventory akin to YT, where you'll get paid something even if ad gets interrupted". Now that i have dug into the docs, i found this method:
RAF.setAdExit(isEnabled as Boolean)
I tested and - yes indeed! - if that's enabled, one can back off from RAF ads with the "Back" remote key - with RAF.showAds(adPods) call returning false to flag the interruption.

So after all, i can let users opt-out of a video ad! As long as i don't mind getting unpaid for the unfinished ad. That is a bargain i personally will take. Wasting 30 seconds of unwilling viewer's life - or forego a fraction of a penny? Sign me in for the latter!
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