Terayon Helps Cox Tackle HD Ad Insertion

Terayon Communication Systems Inc. said Cox Communications Inc. is the first MSO to take advantage of advancements in its digital video-networking platform to deliver high-definition ads within HDTV programming.

The rollout kicked off with HD insertions in ESPN programming in Cox's Rhode Island system.

Cox uses Terayon's DM 6400 CherryPicker, which allows advertisers to seamlessly splice ads into HDTV programming. The platform allows ads to be repurposed for HD insertion on the fly by integrating them with digital and HD network signals.

“The goal is to provide the best picture quality in as little bandwidth as possible,” said Terayon director of product marketing and partner development Mark Jeffrey. “We are able to leverage the technology we have in our chips to accomplish rate shaping for standard-definition and high-definition by processing a stream all the way from input to output without having to do loopbacks.”

Cox wants to provide advertisers with a desirable demographic — the HDTV home — which could translate into higher per-viewing payments and more advertisers, said Cox Media vice president of technical operations Guy McCormick.

Cox launched digital ad insertion in late 2001, and has now deployed the technology in 12 markets, with an average of eight channels in each market.

“The digital tier provides an interesting demographic and we have seen some great success in that area,” he said. “HDTV seemed very logical” to do the same thing, he said. “As soon as ESPN was made available, including local avails, we began to aggressively pursue that.”

Cox was able to leverage its existing platform, after tweaking the transcoding software in its SeaChange International digital ad insertion system, McCormick said.

The SeaChange gear upconverts standard-definition ads to HDTV format. The chief change was to encode them at 8 Megabits, instead of the standard 4 Mb for digital transmission, in order to avoid artifacts and other problems in the HD ad, McCormick said.

Jeffrey said the ad content has the SCTE 35 cue tone in it. The CherryPicker receives the cue tone and passes it to the ad server, which will check with the scheduling system, he said. “We'll receive the splice command and insert the ad,” Jeffrey said. “One CherryPicker can handle recoding up to 16 HD channels over four transport streams.”

McCormick has begun discussions with advertisers about creating HD ads from the get go. “There is a great deal of interest,” he said.

Many auto manufacturers are filming their current ads in HD, he said. One hurdle is to work with local production houses on tagging and localizing car ads, he said. Cox's own in-house marketing organization also is looking at creating ads in HD, he said.

Currently, ESPN is the only cable network that offers operators local ad avails in HDTV, although McCormick said Cox is in discussions with Discovery HD Theater about avails.

Cox's other digital ad-insertion markets with SeaChange gear are candidates for HD insertion on ESPN, he said.