BlackArrow News:

Secures $20 Million in New Funding
Launches New Tool Suite, BlackArrow AdMaps
Teams with Arris, BIAP, Sigma Systems on "Personalized Advertising"
Integrates with Adobe Media Player, Motorola VOD, IAB VAST, Akamai
Signs VOD/Broadband Video Advertising Deal with Kabillion

BlackArrow, a company that offers an ad-management system designed for video distributed over any on-demand platform, has generated a fair amount of news over the past few weeks:

  • The company has secured $20 million in a funding round that saw the participation of its existing investors, Cisco, Comcast Interactive Capital, Intel Capital, Mayfield Fund and Polaris Venture Partners. The company, which says it has secured a total of $38 million in private financing to date, says it will use the new funds to further develop its products, expand distribution platform support, and increase worldwide sales and marketing efforts. "BlackArrow has achieved key milestones with our ad-management technology, and we're well positioned for growth, as television and other professionally produced video content extends its reach over various viewer-controlled platforms," BlackArrow president and CEO, Dean Denhart, said in a prepared statement. "This additional funding validates BlackArrow's performance to date, and our strategy for delivering advanced, multiplatform video advertising systems that help customers maximize revenues. As audiences continue to embrace viewer-controlled video, BlackArrow is increasingly the partner of choice for reaching viewers wherever and whenever they are watching television-quality content." According to BlackArrow, its system is designed to dynamically manage, decide and report on targeted advertising inserted against on-demand programming across multiple playout platforms. The company claims that the system works across any combination of ad types, ad-sales models, distribution or syndication strategies, and media playout environments.
  • The company has announced suite of tools called BlackArrow AdMaps, which it says will allow content providers and distributors to easily define and manage ad avails in and around video content, and will extend its advertising system by providing tools to manage ad-placement opportunities for programming delivered over broadband and SCTE 130-5-compliant VOD environments. The tool suite allows the creation of "AdMaps," which BlackArrow says will provide a time-saving workflow to create new advertising inventory, integrate ad formats easily, and update ad-sales models quickly--all without requiring changes to existing infrastructure or media player code. According to the company, the new suite consists of AdMap Builder for creating and managing AdMaps, AdMap Server for delivering the right AdMap to the viewer, and--for broadband deployments--an SDK for rendering AdMaps in common broadband players. "The lack of tools to easily define and manage rules for ad-placement opportunities in and around video is proving to be a major bottleneck for ad-supported business models," Chris Hock, SVP of product management at BlackArrow, said in a prepared statement. "With ad strategies undergoing rapid-fire change, programmers and distributors are wanting to experiment safely--in a way that maximizes revenues, without jeopardizing innovation or user experience. BlackArrow's AdMaps suite addresses this need head-on with practical conventions for creating new ad avails and managing ad-insertion opportunities for viewer-controlled video platforms." According to BlackArrow, AdMap Builder is a rich Internet application that allows users to create an unlimited combination of permissible ad types, durations and other insertion rules. All user-defined ad-insertion points are displayed graphically, the company says, in order to help clients visualize and package ad inventory effectively across multiple video platforms. AdMap Server, meanwhile, selects from multiple AdMaps, BlackArrow says, in order to return the best fit, based on viewer data and on such targeting criteria as audience demographics, content genre and playout environment, before fulfilling each request with the most relevant ad, or series of ads, as defined by the AdMap. The company says that AdMap Server conforms to SCTE 130-5 standards for a placement opportunity information service (POIS) in VOD environments, enabling rapid deployment and product interoperability with other SCTE 130-compliant vendors. For broadband distribution, AdMaps are stored as standard SMIL files, which BlackArrow says can be easily read by widely used media players from Adobe, Move Networks and others, using the enhanced BlackArrow Player Framework. BlackArrow says that the AdMaps suite is designed to scale and to manage intricate affiliate relationships and complex ad-split arrangements within a centralized environment. In addition, the company says, AdMaps supply an important framework from which content providers and distributors will be able to manage and accurately forecast their video inventory.
  • The company has teamed with Arris, BIAP and Sigma Systems on a solution called Personalized Advertising for Cable and IPTV that was demo'd as part of TM Forum's Content Encounter 3 event, which took place at the Management World Orlando conference last month (note: the Content Encounter initiative encourages companies to collaborate on solutions that address the creation, delivery and monetization of digital media services). According to the partners, their demo illustrated that advanced advertising is "real and doable with today's telecommunications and cable standards, and that service providers can use a common deployment architecture to deliver rich entertainment services, including content-specific ad-insertion and addressable ad-insertion." The solution consists of: 1) Arris's VOD server and ad decision manager; 2) BIAP's EBIF/tru2way middleware and applications and its ad decision manager; 3) Sigma Systems' service fulfillment, active mediation and subscriber information service solutions; and 4) BlackArrow's SCTE 130-compliant campaign manager, ad decision server and placement opportunity information service (POIS).
  • The company says that it has added the Adobe Media Player to the list of distribution systems compatible with its centralized system for defining ad avails and managing targeted campaigns. It claims that its system provides video networks with a "syndication edge" by delivering advertising directly into Adobe Media Player programming, as well as other Web properties and platforms such as dynamic VOD. In order to simplify advertising operations, BlackArrow says, its system dynamically generates enhanced media RSS feeds that incorporate targeted ads formatted specifically for playback within the Adobe Media Player. "As an Adobe advertising partner, we are committed to enabling a sophisticated, engaging advertising experience for viewers--whether they watch their favorite content inside the browser, or outside the browser with the Adobe Media Player--while introducing new revenue opportunities for content and media publishers," BlackArrow's Chris Hock said in a prepared statement.
  • The company says it is integrating its technologies with VOD technologies from Motorola, in order to provide an SCTE 130-compliant addressable advertising solution that enables advertisers and content providers to exert control over ad placement and generate revenue through additional advertising opportunities. According to the companies, the integration allows ads to be selected in real time by BlackArrow's ad decision server and added dynamically to VOD content, using Motorola's B1 VOD server: one of the key features of the B1 server, according to Motorola, is its ability to create ranged playlists that allow it to dynamically insert targeted ads at any point in on-demand content; the companies say that combining this capability with the BlackArrow real-time ad decision server means that accurately targeted ads can be dynamically inserted before, after, and during on- demand content playback. As a result, they claim, it is possible to deliver pre-roll, mid-roll and post-roll ads that are always "fresh, relevant and targeted." "We are enabling on-demand content providers and distributors to maximize the relevance and timeliness of their advertising," BlackArrow's Denhart said in a prepared statement. "This not only optimizes content providers' ad revenues, but ultimately enhances the end-user experience. Once our powerful ad decision server has identified the right ad for the right audience, the unique capabilities of the B1 server enable it to be inserted on the fly anywhere into on-demand content." Added Buddy Snow, senior director of on-demand video for Motorola's Home Networks and Mobility business: "Time-shifted or on-demand content is already personalized due to the way it is requested and delivered, so it can enable better targeting than live broadcast. By working with BlackArrow, we can enhance this one-to-one relationship with the user, and leverage the world's most widely deployed solid-state, on-demand platform to open up new advertising opportunities to leading operators."
  • The company says it will support the Interactive Advertising Bureau's (IAB) "Digital Video Ad Serving Template" (VAST), a recently announced XML-based solution that is designed to standardize communication between video players and servers. By supporting the VAST standard, BlackArrow says, it will enable its customers to increase digital video yield by utilizing ad networks to sell unsold inventory and reduce friction with buyers via the support of third-party ad tags. BlackArrow is an active participant in the IAB's Digital Video Committee.
  • The company has released a "Connector" (software development kit) that integrates its ad-management system with Akamai's Media Framework. According to the company, this integration will allow broadband video providers to "ad-enable" video content distributed using the Akamai Media Framework. BlackArrow also says it is participating in the Open Video Player initiative, a community site whose goal is to facilitate the development and sharing of open standards and best practices for video player applications that support a wide range of advertising technologies. The company claims that the integration will allow premium content owners and publishers to adopt turnkey video player solutions to maximize the return from their digital video content. This, it says, will reduce the complexity of developing ad-supported video players, speed deployments, and stimulate new advertising revenue opportunities. "It's critical that we make it easier to integrate and deploy advertising solutions, given the escalating demand to monetize video content," Tim Napoleon, Akamai's chief strategist for digital media, said in a prepared statement. "BlackArrow's support for the Akamai Media Framework and participation in the Open Video Player initiative addresses this demand. Together, we can enable content providers to more easily develop and deliver ad-supported broadband video content." Added BlackArrow's Chris Hock: "The BlackArrow and Akamai systems work together to provide an optimal platform from which to monetize premium content, and this reflects BlackArrow's support for open standards. We've built an extensive network of broadband ecosystem partners, and our integration with Akamai furthers our goals of reducing the complexity of integrating multiple systems, while ensuring seamless deployments of the BlackArrow ad-management system."
  • The company has signed a deal with multiplatform children's programmer, Kabillion, that sees the latter implementing the BlackArrow video advertising platform within its broadband and VOD programming, in order to enable its advertisers to deliver dynamically targeted ad campaigns to its audience of six to 12-year-olds. "BlackArrow's incredibly innovative technology provides a centralized ad-management environment in which to manage our Web, VOD and display advertising--along with the freedom to support any ad type or combination of ads," Deb Pierson, VP of advertising and marketing at Kabillion, said in a prepared statement. "This is great news for our advertisers, who count on us to effectively reach targeted audiences viewing our programming, whether it's on VOD or via the Internet." BlackArrow claims that its multiplatform advertising system enables content providers to solve the problem of how to reach increasingly fragmented audiences (i.e. audiences that are watching programming distributed on broadband, VOD and other platforms outside of linear TV). The company says that its system enables Kabillion to dynamically rotate ad creative targeted against viewing platform, specific programming, time of day viewed, geography and other parameters; and that it also allows the programmer to package sophisticated creative ad-type combinations--such as overlays, pre-loads on games, and mid-rolls--in new ways that serve to differentiate it from other children's programmers. In addition, the company claims that its pre-integration with thePlatform, which provides Kabillion's media player technology, has ensured a seamless and quick deployment of its advertising system.