Microsoft has upgraded its Azure Media Player, the company's cloud-based streaming technology, to help Azure Media Services customers monetize their online videos.
During the National Association of Broadcaster's NAB Show 2017 in Las Vegas, Microsoft announced version 2 of its Azure Media Player, which now supports video ads. In an April 25 announcement, Saili Raje, a program manager at Microsoft Azure Media Services, stated that the offering now "supports the insertion of linear advertisements for pre-roll (before regular content), mid-roll (during regular content) and post-roll (after regular content) for video on demand. These linear video advertisements are fetched and inserted into your content using the VAST standard."
In essence, customers can now incorporate video advertisements into their content. VAST describes the Interactive Advertising Bureau's (IAB) digital Video Ad Serving Template specification. Customers will need to upgrade Azure Media Player to at least version 2.1 to insert adds into their content.
Microsoft also announced revamped pricing and billing schemes for the company's media encoding services. Microsoft has moved from a per-gigabytes-processed pricing model to one that determines the cost according to output minutes. It's a money-saving move that can cut the cost by half on typical use cases.
Microsoft has also added a new auto-scaling feature, allowing customers to monitor their streaming workloads and scale their Azure cloud resources accordingly. The company has also added the DTS-HD surround sound standard to the available options in the Premium Encoder.
Blurring faces on the fly is made easier with the new Azure Media Face Redactor, one of the media analytics products offered by Microsoft. Available now in preview, it can be used to protect identities by news organizations, among other use cases where customers wish to mask the faces of people appearing in their content.
The software maker is also conducting a private preview of Azure Media Video Annotator, which can identify objects like homes and cars in video. The technology can be used by customers to add deep search capabilities to applications that fetch video content based on certain criteria.
In addition, Azure Media Service's streaming solution gains Common Media Application Format support that can enhance video consumption on mobile devices.
"Microsoft and Apple worked closely to define the Common Media Application Format (CMAF) standard and submit it to MPEG," said Sudheer Sirivara, partner director of Azure Media and Azure CDN (Content Deliver Network) Services at Microsoft, in a separate blog post. "The new standard provides for storing and delivering streaming content using a single encrypted, adaptable multimedia presentation to a wide range of devices. The industry will greatly benefit from this common format, embodied in an MPEG standard, to improve interoperability and distribution efficiency."
Meanwhile, Azure CDN gains support for Custom Domain SSL, a security-enhancing feature that safeguards data in transit. On the management front, the company has enabled "one-click" integration with other Azure services (Streaming Endpoint, Storage and Web App), simplifying the process of configuring the CDN when used in conjunction with those services.