Although no one wants to watch commercials, digital ad insertion technology generates billions of dollars in revenue each year. This article explains the origins of ad insertion technology, the transition to digital ad insertion technology, the problems the technology solves, how the standards were developed, and how they have evolved over time.

The original SCTE standard “Digital Program Insertion Cueing Message” defined how to insert cuing messages into MPEG-2 transport streams. Two later standards, “Real-time Event Signaling and Management API” and “Event Scheduling and Notification Interface (ESNI),” standardized out-of-band metadata communication between a content provider and their distributors to communicate business rules around content blackout, substitution, and ad insertion. As a result of the revolutionary nature of these standards and the worldwide adoption of them, the three core SCTE standards on ad insertion technology have each received Technical Emmy Awards.

Television is a huge part of most people's lives, and...

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