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The outlook for the future is even more positive with online video advertising in the US alone expected to be worth $4.3bn by 2011.

Despite these significant expectations for the US market, the format is still in the embryonic stages in Ireland, with the main broadcaster RTE only providing video streaming since June of this year.

"It is very early days for advertising around streaming video content, but we expect that it will become a popular format by Christmas and will be widely used in 2008," said Aisling McCabe, sales and business development manager for RTE.ie.

Video ads are delivered in two formats: Rolling over traditional banner ads can make them play video content, or ads are simply presented at the start or end of video content accessed by users online.

The latter format has been adopted by RTE, with 15-second ads appearing at the start of every second video stream, meaning users won't necessarily have to put up with ads on every video they access. Ford was the first to use the service with an ad for its Mondeo car.

Stephen McCormack, chief executive of Wildwave, a firm that provides and distributes online video channels, explains that the online video format offers advertisers a different way to engage with their target market.

"Video advertising is very attractive as you can get more attention and more interaction from the viewer than with banners or Google ads," he said.

The launch of sites such as YouTube has seen TV viewers flock online in search of new content. However, while the short burst of content available on video sharing sites such as YouTube is free, professionally-produced programmes online tend to come on a pay-per-view basis, a major disadvantage compared to traditional television.

McCormack said advertising offers a means to even the odds. "There is less of a willingness among internet users to pay for content online and carrying advertising presents a way to deliver this content for free," he said.

The past year or so has seen several video streaming providers, some legal and some not so legal, pop up and become popular among users. The provider creating the most buzz at present is the legal, and therefore advertiser-friendly, Joost. The service, pronounced "juiced", has over one million subscribers already, no small feat considering it has not officially been launched yet.

Viacom, which owns MTV and Paramount Pictures, and Wallace and Gromit creators Aardman animations are among the media companies committed to the format.

With Irish advertisers demanding more means to deliver video content online, providers like Joost may be just what they need to quench their thirst.

© 2007 ENN

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