Which is more engaging: Facebook, or your EPG?

Posted On: 12th December 2016

Which is more engaging: Facebook, or your EPG?

Pay TV viewers spend a remarkable amount of time browsing the TV user interface (UI). This offers new opportunities for service providers. Using easy to set-up tools, the UI can be used as a promotions vehicle for content and services, or space for ads can be sold to advertisers to provide an additional source of revenue. The picture above features Zenterio’s Engage product.

According to Ericsson ConsumerLab’s recently released TV and Media 2016 report, the average number of minutes per day spent searching for content on broadcast TV in the U.S. is 23 minutes. On top of this, users spend further minutes searching in operators’ video-on-demand stores – 47 minutes per day in the case of AT&T’s U-Verse. In comparison, the amount of time that U.S. consumers spend on Facebook is 35 minutes per day – a little higher than Facebook’s global average which is nearer 20 minutes per day.

Alongside that, according to SNL Kagan the number of pay TV subscribers worldwide at the end of 2015 was 957 million. Considering that many subscribers have more than one television (2-3 in the U.S.), and that each television is often watched by more than one person, this makes the number of pay TV viewers comparable with, if not greater than, the number of worldwide monthly active users claimed by Facebook – 1.79 billion in Q3 2016.

Putting these two sets of facts together implies that globally people spend as much time interacting with their TV program guide as they do with Facebook.

In Q3 2016 alone, Facebook generated $6.816bn in advertising revenue, suggesting that the pay TV user interface offers significant potential for similar monetization. Many operators are now beginning to take advantage of the opportunity.

Simple advertising in the program guide

The simplest way to go about this is to embed banner advertising in the electronic program guide (EPG). This is possible on even the most basic set-top box. Real estate can be set aside in the EPG and the inventory can then be sold to advertisers. Banners are transmitted over the air to the box to fill the space for the paid-for period. As screen sizes have grown the area available for this type of approach has correspondingly increased.

Adverts are not restricted to passive banners. Ads can click through to apps downloaded alongside the image inventory, which can then offer more information on the product or service, or can offer games and quizzes to increase engagement. Promotional codes and vouchers for use online or in a shop can be distributed in this way.

Device connectivity extends the concept

Advances in processing power, and reductions in the cost of memory over time have allowed more fluid and responsive user interfaces to be designed. Taking advantage of this, many UIs are now a viewport that scrolls through a much larger virtual array of content. This is generally the case where the operator provides on-demand content via a broadband connection. In this case the list of available content is extensive and is continuously updated with new arrivals.

These wider and deeper UIs provide more opportunities for setting aside areas for advertising. The ads can be dynamically tailored to the content being viewed or being searched for e.g. adverts for trainers can be added to the now/next bar on sports programming and car promotions can be embedded with motoring show recommendations. Alternatively, banners promoting newly available content can be shown, to encourage take-up.

Having a return path allows the sophistication of the adverts themselves to be significantly enhanced. With a connected set-top box or mobile device, truly interactive ads can be created – if a viewer finds an advert interesting he or she can be connected directly to the advertiser for further information, to book a follow up interaction or to make a purchase. Although subscriber personal data held by the operator is required for the transaction, the decision about whether to send it to the advertiser is fully under the control of the subscriber, so privacy is not infringed.

If information on viewing habits is collected then this can be combined with other data to segment viewers according to their tastes and preferences. In this way adverts can be specifically targeted at those most likely to find them of interest. This increases the value of each slot to the advertiser. Operators can, of course, use this same concept to promote their own content and services, helping to maximize take-up and reduce churn. An operator could even use the technology to target messages to individual subscribers.

How does an operator put together a system?

A system to manage promotions and advertising embedded in the UI has several requirements. The UI has to be designed with slots that are defined as being available for advertising. An ad server is needed to fill the slots created. Tools are needed to create interactive ads and applications (if they are to be used), and a campaign management interface is required to allow ads to be allocated to slots according to the correct rules and to track performance in a user-friendly way.

Of course an operator could develop the infrastructure to do all this itself but it would be time-consuming and an unnecessary expense. Zenterio already has all the tools required to set up promotions and advertising via the UI. Everything is contained in a package called Zenterio Engage.

Zenterio Engage

With Zenterio Engage, adverts can be screen areas, pre-roll and post-roll full screens, overlays or linked pages and microsites. They can be static or dynamic, interactive or non-interactive, with or without video. They can run on a set-top box, mobile, smart TV or tablet. Engage offers complete flexibility. The slots can be added into an existing design by the operator, or if preferred Zenterio can provide development support through its JetUI user experience design and Zenterio Services software teams.

In a one-way system the slots would be filled from a carousel of over-the-air data. In an interactive system the content would be maintained in the cloud, allowing it to be varied depending on any number of parameters – time-of-day, user sub-group, channel being watched, day-of-the-week, etc.

Engage’s ad server, in combination with event data generated in the client, can count the number of impressions, number of clicks, etc. as is standard with online advertising. This allows a variety of performance reports to be automatically generated, so that the success or otherwise of campaigns can be understood.

Zenterio Engage also includes WYSIWIG tools that allow users to create interactive ads and apps without needing to have any programming knowledge. The apps are by default generated in HTML5 so that they run on any device with a modern browser. Versions in Lua, a highly efficient scripting language supported natively by Zenterio OS, are also created, so as to allow the same inventory to be embedded in simpler set-top boxes without a browser. Other languages can be supported as required.

To tie everything together Zenterio Engage provides a campaign management interface that is used to define the ad/app combinations that go with each slot, and to generate in-depth reports on performance.

For service providers new to the world of advertising, Zenterio can provide research covering their local ad market so that the business potential and competitive landscape are fully understood in advance of launch. In addition, customers get access to Zenterio’s expertise in setting up and running an advertising business, gained through many years of launching similar services with Tier-1 operators around the world.

In summary, Zenterio Engage is a ready-to-go solution.


Chris Carter
Product Marketing Manager
+44 208 432 6143

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