Next in Interactivity: Audio Watermarking

Last week, we looked at the ways operators are considering to extend the work that is EBIF - the embedding of a clickable thing into an MPEG video stream - into the technology tsunami that is IP.

(Acronym soup descrambler: EBIF stands for Enhanced Binary Interchange Format; IP stands for Internet protocol.)

This week, we’ll look at what can be done to make TV shows and ads more interactive, when it’s not necessary to lug along the legacy base of set-tops. Aside: Throughout the storied interactive- TV timeline - every chapter, every decade - there’s that chasm, carved out by the question of where to draw the line between old and new.

On the one side are those who learn how anemic those older set-tops are, in terms of processing power, memory footprint and graphics engine, then throw up their hands, mutter “what’s the point?” and walk away. Enough with the legacy albatross, they say.

On the other side are the ITV stalwarts - in today’s chapter, the people whose work includes EBIF and Tru2way. Either they or their bosses made the decision to not strand a fielded base of 25 million boxes and growing, sitting in America’s living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens.

At the recent TV of Tomorrow event in San Francisco, during a session titled “Broadcast- Synchronized Companion Apps: Lessons From the Field,” that legacy albatross was weighing heavy. Interactivity synchronized with a broadcast TV show. Sounds very EBIF-ish, right?

In this case, though, no triggers, no user agents. Instead, The Weather Channel’s From the Edge show on one screen, and a whole lot of companion interactivity on Apple iPad.

The show follows the adventures of nature photographer Peter Lik; interactive enhancements on the second screen allowed viewers to capture more details about each location (Jurassic Falls, in this case), map his path and so on. It was all very Apple-sexy. How does it work? Hello, audio watermarks. In this case, provided by Nielsen as part of its “Media Sync” platform - meaning a 32-Kilobit stamp tucked into Nielsen’s encoders. Download the app, it syncs with the show by listening to the audio coming from the TV.

Producers on the panel raved about the creative freedom, cool factor and efficiency. (TWC’s John Hashimoto finished coding the interactive features from his hotel room, earlier that day.)

Advertising? Yes. Watch for a new category - “run of app” - that lets advertisers buy presence within the app, for the duration of the show to which it’s synchronized. That ITV chasm between old and new just got a whole chapter wider …


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