August 4, 2011 - 12:00am

For media companies, commercial insertion problems come with real-world consequences. If the wrong ad runs, the provider may not get paid. If regular programming is disrupted by an ad, the annoyed viewer may complain, cancel the service, or turn off the TV. For nearly 60 years, SENCORE has been manufacturing technology that supports consistent video signal delivery. Recently, SENCORE Product Manager Nick Bethard sat down to answer questions about technology that can be used to support commercial insertion.

Q: What makes it so tough to insert a commercial in a video stream?

A: Commercial insertion has always been technically tricky, and in the digital domain, new engineering challenges arise.  Likewise, with commercials being inserted at points further and further down the delivery chain – even to the set-top box – ad-insertion becomes an even greater challenge.

Q: Can you describe some of the challenges?

A: The main one is the number of transitions that the data contained in the video signal has to go through as it moves from the source to the home. It is difficult to keep the data intact through all the changes, and performing frame-accurate insertion of new data in the form of a commercial makes for even more complexity.

Q: Are there technology solutions to help automate this process?

A: Yes. One is an advanced receiver-decoder platform. This device can help by incorporating an alert message in the data signal making its way to downstream devices like set-top boxes. For example, the receiver-decoder adds to the signal output an alert that effectively “tells” the downstream device: Insert this commercial in 30 seconds.

Q: How does this work?

A: It’s not easy. The receiver-decoder has to take from the compressed to the uncompressed domain the ad insertion message contained in the signal, and do so while retaining frame-accuracy. This requires that the receiver-decoder has the ability to decode SCTE 35 and then re-encode it as SCTE 104. Some receiver decoders can do this while also adjusting for any potential system delay.

Q: Encoding is a piece of the commercial-insertion puzzle. Playout is another. How can a server support accurate commercial insertion?

A: An advanced video server can serve as a versatile platform for a number of applications, including commercial insertion. One such server is SENCORE’s TSS3530A, which enables multiple concurrent ASI ingest and play-out ports as well as ingest and streaming of unicast and multicast traffic. The server is equipped to process SD and HD in both MPEG-4/H.264 and MPEG-2 formats. Because it works in the compressed domain, audio and video quality remains high and onboard storage is abundant.

Q: How does a server like the TSS3530A support locally targeted ad-insertion?

A: A good example of this is KSEE-TV, the NBC affiliate in Fresno, Calif. KSEE is using the TSS3530A for split-stream ad insertion. KSEE’s video content, sourced as a transport stream file, is transcoded into MPEG2 and AC3, along with its 608/708 closed captioning, and stored on a playlist in the server.

As programming coming from the network flows through, automation triggers frame-accurate cut-in and cut-out of the appropriate clips from the stored stream. This solution enables cable TV ads to be inserted in programming targeted to non-cable subscribers, and other local ads to be inserted in the programming seen by cable customers.

Visit www.Sencore.com for more information on video delivery, monitoring, analysis, and signal sources solutions.

For media companies, commercial insertion problems come with real-world consequences. If the wrong ad runs, the provider may not get paid. If regular programming is disrupted by an ad, the annoyed viewer may complain, cancel the service, or turn off the TV. For nearly 60 years, SENCORE has been manufacturing technology that supports consistent video signal delivery. Recently, SENCORE Product Manager Nick Bethard sat down to answer questions about technology that can be used to support commercial insertion.

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