QUALITY. FRAME-ACCURACY. MONETIZATION.
Solutions for advanced advertising and distributed playout.
Experience end-to-end control of content, advertising, and monetization across today’s diverse television distribution environment.
SCTE 104 & 35
Broadcasters, cable networks, and new OTT distribution companies understand the value of accurate metadata messages for signaling the critical timing associated with the origination of live/linear television.
SCTE 104 and SCTE 35 are well established standards defining those metadata markers for baseband and compressed streams, respectively, especially for local avails.
However, both SCTE standards have evolved significantly to include many more types of metadata which can now describe in greater detail the components of the video stream. This offers much greater application than the original intention (local avails), but also provides a much wider array of options, such that today there are more than twenty different types of boundaries between commercials and program segments defined. This has led to a lack of consistency of implementation between content providers and manufacturers which has, in turn, hindered the usefulness.
If you need to implement SCTE 104/35 as part of your OTT or TV everywhere strategy – whether your goal is additional revenue through new advertising opportunities or conformance to rights agreements – Crystal Connect can overcome the technical challenges and inconsistent implementation by broadcast automation and transcoder manufacturers with unique features that include:
- Messages that are Frame Accurate.
- Dynamic metadata payloads (not ‘canned’ or ‘static’) that can include calculated durations that are not possible with GPI.
- Interfaces to any automation/playout system – both legacy and new.
- Flexible, business rules-based messaging to suit your unique needs.
- Multi-input data sources for SCTE message content such as MAM and traffic.
- Full conformance with the latest SCTE and other standards. Just because an automation vendor or transcoder manufacturer lists SCTE 104 or 35 in their datasheet doesn’t mean that they comply with the FULL standard and almost always they don’t (and can’t).
- Capability to deliver SCTE messaging Out-of-Band to any downstream point using Temporal Fingerprinting – enabling applications such as Dynamic Advertising Insertion, Live-to-VOD, Automated Clipping, Personalized Graphics to be implemented practically anywhere – in the Cloud or on a Second Screen device or even a smartTV.
OTT CHANNEL ACQUISITION
Metadata describing the content being aired, together with the precise timing information, has become critical to delivering both video content and advertising over-the-top (OTT).
Manifest Manipulation is used to ‘stitch’ new, targeted/addressable ads into the manifest supplied to each viewer during streaming. In order for this to operate seamlessly the fragments of the streaming protocol (e.g. HLS, DASH) MUST be properly ‘conditioned’.
Crystal’s Connect solution now has the capability to perform this ‘conditioning’ directly or indirectly (using the Event Signaling and Management (ESAM) interface). ‘Conditioning’ involves ensuring that the fragments of HLS or DASH created by a streaming packager perfectly align with the events in the linear schedule so that, for example, a new fragment is always started at the beginning of a new event in the playlist. This enables the Manifest Manipulator to create a seamless experience for the viewer by writing or ‘stitching’ a different set of fragments into the manifest served to each viewer.
Crystal’s solution is unique in that it either:
- Inserts the in-band signaling – Frame Accurately – into ANY format of video from any vendor’s transcoding equipment so that a downstream packager knows when to start a new fragment, or
- Instructs encoders/transcoders and packagers directly if they support ESAM.
Whatever your configuration, Crystal can enable Manifest Manipulation across your entire playlist (and not just the local avail break).
DYNAMIC AD INSERTION
Advanced Advertising is the term used in the industry for advertising that goes beyond what’s typically been delivered using traditional Television or “linear TV”.
It is all the new advertising opportunities created by the shift in audience attention from the TV in the den to TV everywhere. With Advanced Advertising, advertisers and media companies seek to attain technology that allows them to target their audience more precisely from a national to personal level, provide interactivity with that audience and obtain more effective and meaningful measurement of its effectiveness.
One promising use of Advanced Advertising is when linear TV is streamed to a Second Screen device over-the-top (“OTT”) at the same time as it is broadcast on traditional TV, and some or all of the advertisements that were included in the broadcast feed are replaced with new ads which are targeted depending on what the device is, who the user is, or where the user is. For the same high-quality experience that viewers have with traditional TV to be possible with TV everywhere, the insertion of these new ads needs to be seamless, starting at precise times and matching the original durations – exactly to the frame.
Another example of Advanced Advertising may include triggering of actions on a Second Screen device (e.g. smartphone) based on content being watched on another device (e.g. TV) in close proximity. For these actions to occur at precisely the right time, the synchronization needs to be Frame Accurate.
Frame accuracy is what Crystal Connect does best – it extracts the precise timing and other metadata for every piece of content (including advertisements) that play out on a linear TV channel.
The metadata can be as granular as every event (including secondary events – e.g. graphics) on the linear channel playlist, providing the metadata needed to replace individual ads, if desired. It can also be transmitted to Advanced Advertising insertion and decisioning systems in any format: In-band via SCTE 104/35, out-of-band using Crystal’s Temporal Fingerprinting and Metadata Cloud, or direct via a custom API. In addition, some of the metadata can be transmitted in advance, using SCTE 224 or any custom format, thereby providing more time for Advanced Advertising decision systems to optimize ad placements for a given inventory which improves the efficiency of Dynamic Ad Insertion in general.
The metadata extracted by Crystal Connect can also be used to ‘condition’ the linear stream in preparation for downstream Manifest Manipulation by ensuring that all fragments in the live streaming protocols (e.g. HLS, DASH) are aligned with the events in the playlist. This greatly improves the viewers’ perception of quality by ensuring transitions are completely seamless.
Rights Enforcement/Management can be a costly, complex, and imprecise process. A well thought out approach that leverages fundamental metadata and standards can vastly improve the efficiency and effectiveness.
In the broadcast and streaming worlds, this means knowing what is going to be playing, as well as exactly when it actually plays and exposing content ids and breaks between items as Frame-Accurately embedded SCTE 104/35 messages. SCTE 224 extends these standards to rich out of band descriptions of access, audiences, and alternative content. Crystal offers a suite of solutions for both baseband SDI and IP transport streams that allow for Frame Accurate extraction, transformation, insertion, and validation of SCTE messages both in and out of band via the cloud using Temporal Fingerprinting. Crystal Connect interfaces with any existing broadcast automation system as well as external data sources to provide rich metadata and rights information for SCTE insertion, SCTE 224 generation, and the driving of external APIs such as splicers, Manifest Manipulators, Live-to-VOD, or Live-Clipping services.
Watch almost any broadcast or cable program and you will see graphics with the video. Often – as in the case with sports, news, and financial programs – the graphics are extensive and data driven, providing the viewers with a wealth of additional information, such as scores, player stats, headlines, weather conditions, and stock prices.
Graphics are also a key component of broadcasters’ branding process, providing information on the channel and the program being watched in addition to information on other content that may be playing later.
Graphics can, of course, be generated manually, but Crystal’s focus is on automated and data driven graphics. The delivery of data to and the triggering and control of the graphics generating devices are operations that essentially use metadata, a Crystal area of expertise.
Crystal’s ability to abstract the graphics from the video as metadata (what information to show, where to show it, and when it should be shown), send that metadata via the Internet, and then resynchronize it at any point downstream using its Temporal Fingerprinting and Metadata Cloud technologies allows these automated, data driven graphics to be personalized and designed for a specific viewer on a specific device (Second Screen or smartTV).
Coupled with an extensive array of data parsers, broadcast or viewer specific automated graphics can be delivered for a range of applications including Branding, Sports, News, Elections, Social Media, and Financial.
AUDIT & VERIFICATION
Reliable transmission and distribution is at the core of television and essential for generating its revenue.
The success of any network management system is its ability to identify, capture, alert users to, and (if possible) automatically repair problems in the end-to-end transmission and distribution. Faults run the gamut of degraded signal, static frames, lip-sync errors, to complete blackouts. Human error such as incorrectly loaded playlists, may be difficult to detect using traditional methods – which are largely reliant on operators watching television monitors. To protect your bottom line and your viewers’ experience, it is crucial to have a network management system that can deal with these types of issues in a quick, efficient, and (ideally) automated manner.
With more than thirty years of experience in the monitor, control, and automation of video delivery, Crystal has developed Temporal Fingerprinting technology to Frame-Accurately synchronize two feeds with the same content such as coming from a main and standby (or offsite DR) playout, or a return feed from OTT or off-air and then compare the two feeds frame by frame. This provides a near instant ‘alarm’ that something is amiss. If the main and standby playout do not output the same frames of video there is potentially a problem that an operator can be alerted to investigate. Issues that are often missed altogether or remain undetected until a viewer calls in can now be instantly detected, recorded, and reconciled automatically.
In the OTT world there are many situations where Blackouts need to be executed for Rights Enforcement. Crystal’s Temporal Fingerprinting and Metadata Cloud technology can automatically detect an enforcement error – perhaps an NFL game has not been blacked out on a smartphone from a particular provider. Crystal can verify that the blackout was enforced correctly or not and provide an audit trail as well as real time alarms when there are problems – enabling them to be fixed in a timely manner.