Mixed Signals Tracks Loud TV Ads

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Mixed Signals, a provider of video-monitoring systems, is promising to equip cable operators with a way to monitor changes in the volume level between TV programs and commercials to prepare for the possibility of new federal regulations on this front.

Under pending legislation introduced in the House of Representatives, cable operators and other video distributors would be required to ensure TV ads are not significantly louder than the programs they accompany. The bill, dubbed the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act, would give the Federal Communications Commission one year to adopt a technical standard that keeps the volume uniform between ads and programs and then give the industry a year after the FCC adopts rules to purchase and install the necessary equipment.

Mixed Signals' Sentry monitoring platform now supports the International Telecommunication Union's ITU-R BS.1770 audio specification for measuring the loudness of video programs. That spec is expected to be adopted by the Advanced Television Systems Committee in the U.S.

The system is sensitive enough to detect a difference of one-tenth of a decibel, said Mixed Signals CEO Eric Conley. "Blasting the volume in commercials has a long history - everybody complains about it, but it's been impractical to track until now," he said.

According to Mixed Signals, Sentry can monitor loudness within several hundred channels in a one-rack-unit system, compared with current solutions that can handle only one or two channels. The company expects to demonstrate the commercial-loudness monitoring and detection features at the SCTE's Cable-Tec Expo in Denver, Oct. 28-30.

The company says eight of the top 10 U.S. cable operators use the Sentry solution, including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Cablevision Systems and Charter Communications.

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