DirecTV Taps Invidi For Local Ads

Will push localized ads to DVR storage

Satellite operator DirecTV has signed a deal with addressable advertising firm Invidi Technologies to supply it with software that will allow it to deliver local advertising by playing pre-recorded ads off subscribers’ digital video recorder (DVR) set-tops.

Invidi is the first technology supplier that DirecTV has formally announced for the local advertising initiative, which won’t launch until January 2011. Geographically-targeted ads would be “pushed” in advance to be stored on subscribers’ set-tops, and the Invidi software would cue up the localized ads to be played off the hard drive in place of a national spot.

“It is an extensive undertaking, and we’re in the very early stages,” says Bob Riordan, SVP of advertising sales for DirecTV.

Invidi, whose investors include advertising firm Group M and Motorola, struck a similar deal with Dish Network back in November for its Advatar software. Interactive TV firm NDS, which supplies conditional-access and guide technology to DirecTV, has also proposed using DVR storage to deliver targeted advertising. And in 2007, News Corp. applied for a U.S. patent for a process by which an MPEG-2 compressed program would be broken up into a series of segmented files that separates program content from commercials and promos. Fresh commercials could then be delivered to the DVR on a “push” basis, through either broadcast or broadband delivery, and new software would be smart enough to record them and then “splice” them into the program when a viewer watches a time-shifted show.

DirecTV has begun offering some local avails on regional sports networks, in partnership with cable entities NCC and Comcast Spotlight, but that is through traditional linear satellite feeds. The new system, which could eventually also use broadband connections to deliver local advertising, would be a major improvement that could be available across DirecTV’s broader base of channels.

“It gives us the ability to get into the local marketplace,” says Riordan. “We’ve been a national platform, and we’ve done very well, but that’s kind of restricted our growth somewhat. Now we can get out in the marketplace at a local level.”

Invidi, which was founded in 2000, has working deployments of addressable advertising with multichannel operators today, says EVP Michael Kubin, but it hasn’t been able to disclose who they are.

When it was pointed out that NDS also has such a targeted-ad system, and that News Corp. has also applied for a U.S. patent relating to delivering targeted ads from a DVR, Kubin agreed that intellectual property was a big issue. But he says Invidi is only using technology it developed, and hasn’t licensed any outside [IP]. He says he is also sure that Dish and DirecTV have done their homework on the patent front.

“There’s a broad portfolio of IP that covers this, and the reason these deployments take so long is everyone is really careful to make sure the IP is in place,” he says.