Interview with Faultline: Nowtilus’ Serverside.ai gives MediaMelon some legs
Updated: Sep 2, 2020
Having made the move into ad analytics earlier this year, video intelligence firm MediaMelon has now partnered with a young server-side ad insertion (SSAI) platform called Serverside.ai - the newest offering from German video personalization company Nowtilus.
Launched just a few weeks ago, Serverside.ai is a cloud-hosted SaaS SSAI technology. It marks Nowtilus’ first attempt at a video monetization product, although the company has been going since 2007, initially focusing on VoD B2B business, before extending to OTT workflows.
Serverside.ai will now receive reporting from MediaMelon’s SmartSight for Ads, which monitors and analyzes streaming performance and content consumption on a deep individual level across devices.
Faultline caught up with Nowtilus’ co-founder and MD, Leander Carell, who told us that both companies are supporting each other’s weaknesses. “Our focus is adding more features on the server side of the service, whereas MediaMelon is on the client/player side,” he explained. The partnership has enabled Nowtilus to perform client-side measurement, thanks to a MediaMelon SDK. “It provides a whole list of metrics – buffer time and stream quality, for example,” Carell added.
Carell told us how this has rapidly improved Nowtilus’ time to market when deploying a device footprint for customers – an important leap considering how young the service is. “You never have a greenfield of just one or two devices. When we onboard customers, we are presented with potentially twelve device platforms, and MediaMelon is already working with these devices,” he said.
The partnership has also born a new integration which will provide greater transparency in ad measurement, and therefore greater accuracy in Serverside.ai’s SSAI. This apparently helps eliminate CTV ad fraud – a phenomenon that has troubled the industry as of late. “Communication confirming the ad impression is sent directly from the client device to the supplier ad server, with no additional SSAI in between,” he explained.
So, who approached who? “We’ve known Kumar Subramanian, CEO of MediaMelon, for years,” explained Carell. “There was a regular exchange of thoughts on how we can work together, but last year we realized how we could bring the companies together to bring added value.” MediaMelon was traditionally known for adaptive bitrate (ABR) streaming technology, but early this year it announced that it was set to launch into advertising.
Faultline interviewed Subramanian at the time, who told us that the company was already winning deals off competitors, such as Conviva and Nice People At Work. We were hoping that by now some of these client names would have surfaced in a press release, but it seems MediaMelon is still keeping a lid on exactly which clients it has nabbed.
For both companies, this year has been marked by expansion into ad tech – a fitting reaction to the ad-supported OTT video launches arriving hard and fast the world over. Carell seemed confident that the wide-reaching impact of the pandemic has only bolstered this position. He showed us some stats from a Comscore report, showing that during four days in March, OTT hours streamed on CTVs and set tops was up 34% and 20% YoY, respectively. Nowtilus is predicting that AVoD platforms are going to be “the TV networks of tomorrow” as tight household budgets will start to favor free entertainment services. Carell said that Serverside.ai is already seeing uptake from AVoD platforms, and that the drop in CPM that hit the industry in the first few months is beginning to resolve.
Nowtilus is already in discussions with SVoD services looking to integrate AVoD, although Carell was unable to say which services specifically. Another large potential client base for Serverside.ai is telcos and triple play operators, who Carell says are scaling up AVoD offerings. Carell explained that Nowtilus is increasingly in talks with operators looking to monetize their user data by establishing AVoD services. “Telcos are not interested in CPM or ad revenue. They are interested in user data which they can sell to ad marketplaces and broadcasters. They already know loads about households and styles of living and can easily use this data to create audience segments,” he explained. Serverside.ai is already serving telco clients such as TalkTalk in the UK.
Although new to the ad tech game, Nowtilus is hoping that its USP will narrow focus on SSAI technology, and the flexibility that comes with its SaaS offering. The company argues that SSAI services offered by companies such as Yospace, MediaKind, and Switchmedia – among others – are unattractive to many operators as they are only accessible in product bundles.
For now, Nowtilus does not operate in the US, but Carell made clear that this was high on his to do list. The company already has clients in a large chunk of Western Europe, as well as South East Asia. Serverside.ai is reliant on Microsoft Azure. Carell explained that his company’s SaaS approach uses a lot of Azure’s scalability tools, especially its TV Scale tool, which is important for live events.
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