MSN Names Ad Partner for Live Streaming Events

Microsoft tapped Lightningcast to handle video ad management for MSN Video’s live streaming events, an area portal execs have described as growing in strategic importance.

Lightningcast has supported some real-time online events for Microsoft since 2004, when it began serving ads into WindowsMedia.com’s Media Guide. Among other events, it has supported MSN’s live streams of Fox Sports college football broadcasts and its own coverage of the New Year’s Eve festivities in Times Square.

The company launched its dedicated platform for live streaming video and audio back in July. The offering addresses the unique problems of ad management within streamed, real-time events. For instance, it removes and replaces ads that may already occupy a broadcast video feed.

“It’s the same thing we do for on-demand but we have an additional chunk of technology that reads the feed, and when the ad comes in that may have been distributed by the school or by the local broadcaster, we block and replace [it with the client’s ads],” said Tom MacIsaac, CEO of Lightningcast.

The platform also has support for display ad elements that are synchronized with a streaming ad.

Other Lightningcast clients in the live event streaming area have included AOL, ABC News and Scripps Network.

Serving ads in live streaming events, a growing area of interest to all the portals, poses inherent challenges to inventory prediction. Portals are accustomed to forecasting inventory in terms of impressions and pageviews, whereas with live events, duration of time watched is an equally important metric. Lightningcast claims to address this by analyzing the historical duration of user connections for its publisher clients. However, it remains difficult to predict the audience for certain types of real-time events. In the case of AOL’s coverage of the Live8 concerts, for instance, the number of streams was far beyond what most industry watchers anticipated.

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