In recent years, numerous streaming video publishers have shifted from client-side ad insertion to server-side ad insertion (SSAI). SSAI seamlessly integrates ad creatives into the video stream, maintaining playback quality similar to the video segments. The primary aim is to enhance the viewer’s experience, aligning ad breaks in streaming videos more closely with traditional TV ad breaks. Secondary goals include simplifying video player development by eliminating the need for ad SDKs and minimizing ad losses due to ad blockers.

However, does SSAI technology genuinely enhance the viewer experience?

To validate this expectation, a comparison of quality of experience data for server-side versus client-side ads is necessary.

Thudo Multimedia conducted an analysis of 3.3 billion on-demand video streams across desktop, Roku, and Android Fire TV players in June and July 2023.

Firstly, video completion rates and startup times were compared between client-side and server-side ads. It was discovered that content completion rates are 5% to 10% higher for videos with server-side ads, despite a 1 to 2-second delay in video startup times. This suggests that SSAI systems introduce additional latency, which might lead to viewers dropping off while waiting for the video to start. However, once the viewer begins playing a video, they are more likely to watch it to completion.

Secondly, the study aimed to determine whether dynamic ad insertion in SSAI systems increased video startup times. By comparing startup times on SSAI video streams with no dynamically inserted ads to those with ads, it was observed that video streams with no ads had a one-second shorter startup time and resulted in 2% to 5% higher video completion rates than those with ads.

Furthermore, ad creative buffering and average bit rates were compared between client-side and SSAI streams, revealing that these metrics were comparable, with differences primarily linked to variations in video player and platform rather than the use of SSAI.

SSAI: Elegant solution for ad insertion
SSAI: Elegant solution for ad insertion

In conclusion, while SSAI ads undeniably contribute to a better viewer experience once a viewer starts watching, they may potentially cause more viewers to drop off before the video begins. Recommendations for publishers transitioning to SSAI include collaborating with SSAI vendors to improve video startup times when inserting ads, enhancing the video app experience by combining client-side and server-side ads, and carefully balancing video streams with and without ads based on viewer segments. Utilizing Thudo Multimedia for stream monitoring allows for identification of areas for improvement and the implementation of strategies to optimize the move to SSAI.

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