Disney Media Entertainment CTO Shares More Info About Disney Ad Server Tech, “YODA” and “DRAX”

Disney Media And Entertainment Distrubution’s Chief Technology Officer recently sat with Variety, sharing more information about their ad server technology and “YODA.”

What’s Happening:

  • Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution Chief Technology Officer Aaron LaBerge recently shared more information about what went into creating their own proprietary Disney Ad Server that is used on Disney+ and Hulu.
  • For the last several years, LaBerge and his team have created their own ad-delivery stack from the ground up, deploying it on Hulu last year, and now on the new Disney+ with ads, which launched last month. Reportedly, the Disney Ad Server delivers 500 million ad impressions per day.
  • LaBerge explains that Disney built their own proprietary tech for digital ads because it gives the company greater flexibility and control, prioritizing delivery behavior for ad clients and their own business while simultaneously being able to integrate with partner ad solutions on Disney’s timetable without relying on a third-party vendor like those on Netflix or other competitive streaming platforms.
  • Disney+ has debuted their subscriptions with an ad-based tier recently, though the Walt Disney Company has not revealed how many subscribers have chosen that option, though it is expected to be revealed during the Feb 8th earnings call.
  • The DAS has direct control over core ad-decision mechanics and provides support for proprietary ad formats developed by Hulu, including Pause Ads, Binge Ads, and GatewayGO, which itself features interactive, personalized marketing.
  • Since Disney owns and controls the server, they can use first-party data without any privacy concerns about sharing info with an external company. LaBerge has also explained that Disney’s Audience Graph of first party data gives advertisers access to more than 1,800 segments with visibility into 100,000 audience attributes.
  • Part of the system is something called “Yield Optimized Delivery Allocation” or “YODA.” YODA, in this instance, is an engine that follows an algorithm that determines when to serve an ad to a viewer. LaBerge explains that later in the year, YODA will enable automated competition between direct-sold and programmatic ad buys that theoretically will let Disney boost yield optimization. A feature that will tap into DRAX, (Disney Realtime Ad Exchange), an in-house supply side platform (SSP) that hosts internal auctions across all programmatic endpoints to select the highest value ad while simultaneously supporting key partner deals.

What They’re Saying:

  • Aaron LaBerge: “We’re filling up the entire curve with appropriate demand…Building a dynamic ad platform that includes measurement is incredibly complicated. This is a ‘forever’ investment for Disney.”

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