News

Next in Interactivity: Audio Watermarking

5/30/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

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 …


Stumped by gibberish? Visit Leslie Ellis at www.translation-please.com or multichannel.com/blog.
October