Unicorn Media Offers Live Video Ad Insertion With Unicorn OnceLIVE

Unicorn Media is launching a new product today that it says could become a key ingredient in helping video publishers make money from live content.

The company demonstrated Unicorn OnceLIVE for me last week. I watched a video of live TV sports coverage on my iPad, then it cut away to a short commercial break. On the surface, nothing too unusual, but founder and CEO Bill Rinehart says that’s kind of the idea — to deliver a “television-like experience” in an online environment.

At the same time, he said that if I’d been watching a normal video live stream, I’d probably just see the same ads that were being shown on TV — except the network isn’t getting paid for the online eyeballs, turning the live broadcast into a “cost center” rather than a moneymaker. Unicorn OnceLIVE should turn that around, allowing publishers to strip out the TV ads and replace them with videos from third-party ad networks and their own in-house ad services, with different ads targeted to different users. In other words, publishers should be able to monetize live video just like any other type of video.

Unicorn says its ads work on iPhones, iPads, Androids, BlackBerry devices, Roku, Boxee, TiVO, game consoles and smart TVs. The ads are delivered entirely on the server-side, with no plugins or software required for the viewer.

Rinehart says the company focuses on working with large media businesses. In fact, Anthony Baker, principal program manager of the video platform at MSNBC, says Unicorn has allowed MSNBC to support video ads on 27 different apps — in part because, as MSNBC builds new apps, it doesn’t have to spend as many development resources on the ad side. Baker’s team is using Unicorn’s video-on-demand ad product right now, but he says he’s also “very interested” in OnceLIVE.