Sports Streamers Bet Picture-in-Picture Ads Can Bring Revenue Without An Ad Break

Streaming networks and programmers are eager to secure more ad inventory as CTV demand surges. But they’re hesitant to include more ad breaks, since that means some users will change channels.

Enter the picture-in-picture (PIP) ad.

Major broadcasters with sports rights deals have already used this strategy for years, but the streaming ad platform Transmit is bringing the strategy to other CTV content companies with a product launch on Thursday, said co-founder and Chief Product Officer Scott Young.

“Across the industry what we’ve seen is there’s immense appetite for incremental revenue,” he said.

Transmit’s bread and butter is working with live sports, but the product also works for video on-demand (VOD).

FloSports, a subscription sports streaming service, is a pilot partner for Transmit’s PIP ad unit.

FloSports considered PIP ads, but didn’t have the in-house bandwidth to build and test a commercial product, said Jason Ford, FloSports SVP of integrated partnerships.

And the company is taking a conservative approach, only using the PIP units with VOD content for now, at least, and relying on Transmit to fill the ad units with its own demand.

“VOD for us is a stepping stone to doing live better,” Ford said.

VOD is a useful CTV testbed because integrating new ad products into a live stream is risky.

If the WiFi connection isn’t strong, new ads could disrupt the content stream itself with more lag. Ford also said that live PIP ads pull from different demand sources – such as direct-sold sponsors and programmatic demand – and must work seamlessly across TVs, phones and the web, where the content could be streaming.

“It gets complicated behind the scenes when you’re producing an event and that feed is leveraging programmatic demand, direct demand and third-party demand [e.g. a distribution channel such as Roku, Fire TV or Pluto TV, a CTV app that holds inventory rights deals],” he said.

For now, Ford said FloSports is having Transmit fill the ad units, instead of patching its direct-sold ads into the PIP units. If there is any breakage, FloSport doesn’t want to leave a key brand sponsor hanging.

Another important piece of the PIP puzzle is Transmit learning when and where to place a box during a live sports event.

“We’re looking at meta-data cues frame by frame, Young said of Transmit’s tech. Those meta-cues dynamically place the PIP ad so it won’t disrupt the flow of content.

Though FloSports is using PIP ads only for VOD streams rights, live action is a big opportunity, Ford said.

FloSports would like to use PIP ads when it can maximize high viewership numbers and a time when people won’t switch channels – at the start of an overtime period, say, or in a stoppage of play before the game resumes.

“Right now, we have to be very delicate because we have to place a break on the action to show an ad, and it’s a tough choice to show an ad if some viewers might leave,” Ford said.

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  1. Jeff S.

    This is annoying business with greed from the programmers. We see these ads and are the allowed to do this? We pay big money for these services and yet we get the over the top amount of ads in the programming. Then we see the profits the programmers are making. I guess our government and the rules do not apply anymore. Then we got the corrupt pay to play FCC who are un-elected people making rules up as they go along! What a joke this industry has become. No wonder people are not switching to gaming during the covid crisis.

  2. Jake Lamb

    Put the ads on the field where they belong. Do not kill the volume on the game. Stop having ads on subscription TV that we pay for. If you’re going to show ads use a variety because of if still see that girl pitching Hulu I immediately mute.