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DETECTION OF MEDIA LINKS IN
This patent arises from a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/181,910, filed Jul. 29, 2008, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,757,248, which, in turn, is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/955,691, filed Sep. 19, 2001, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,421,723, which is, in turn, a continuation-in- 10 part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/226,521, which was filed on Jan. 7, 1999. U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/181,910, U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/955,691, and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/226,521 are hereby incorporated herein by reference in their entireties. 15
FIELD OF THE DISCLOSURE
The present invention relates to detection of media links (such as URLs) which are embedded in programs that are 20 transmitted by television and/or radio signal transmission sources, such as television and/or radio networks, local broadcasters, cable operators, video servers, Web sites, and the like.
As used herein, programs mean commercials, regular programming material, documentaries, and/or the like, which are transmitted for reception by televisions, radios, computers, 30 and other equipment provided with video and/or audio tuners. Also as used herein, media links include URLs embedded in video and/or audio, surrogate URLs, or any other links in video and/or audio that link a content recipient to content provided by a content provider (such as a Web site) or to 35 content provided elsewhere in the video and/or audio whether such content is stored in cache or not. A surrogate URL, for example, may be an ASCII or other code that is embedded in content and that may be used to look up an URL for linking to content. An example of a media link that links a content 40 recipient to content provided elsewhere in the video and/or audio is a trigger that, when received from the video and/or audio, causes content, which was previously transmitted in the video and/or audio and cached by the receiver, to be displayed to the content recipient. 45
Programs are transmitted by transmission sources through the use of satellites, over the air by way of transmitting antennas, or over cables such as wires or optical fibers. These transmission sources can be networks, local broadcasters, satellite broadcasters, video servers, Web sites, cable pro- 50 grammers, and the like.
It is frequently desirable to detect the transmission of programs by the transmission sources. For example, in preparing program rating reports, the receivers of statistically selected panelists are metered in order to determine at least (i) the 55 channels to which the receivers are tuned and (ii) the times during which the receivers are tuned to those channels. The resulting tuning data are extrapolated over the population as a whole, or over relevant segments of this population, in order to report ratings. However, because the identities of programs 60 carried in the channels reported in the tuning data cannot always be inferred from the tuning data, it is necessary to determine, or at least verify, the identity of the programs transmitted in the channels and during the times covered by the tuning data. 65
As another example, advertisers often desire to verify certain information regarding the transmission of their commer
cials by transmission sources. This information includes a verification (i) that the commercials were actually transmitted, (ii) that the commercials were transmitted in their entirety, and (iii) that the commercials were transmitted in the correct time slots and in the correct channels. This information allows advertisers to determine whether they received the value for which they contracted with the relevant transmission sources.
As yet another example, advertisers often desire to ascertain the advertising strategies of competitors. These advertising strategies may be discerned from the types of advertisements run by competitors, the competitors' expenditures on such advertisements, the media chosen to carry such advertisements, and the like.
Accordingly, systems have been developed in order to identify transmitted programs. For example, in connection with reporting program ratings, a program verification system known as the AMOL (Automated Monitoring of Line-up) program verification system is operated by the assignee of the present invention. In this AMOL program verification system, a code is inserted into the vertical blanking interval of programs. Monitoring equipment at sites located in relevant geographical areas read the AMOL codes from transmitted programs and detect the channels in which these programs are transmitted as well as the times during which these programs are transmitted. Accordingly, the AMOL program verification system is able to verify that particular programs were transmitted in corresponding particular channels, during corresponding particular time slots, and for particular corresponding amounts of time. The verified program/channel relationship, coupled with the channel tuning data acquired from the receivers of the statistically selected panelists, are used to determine the programs to which these receivers were tuned.
As another example, the assignee of the present invention operates a service known as the Monitor Plus service in which sets of commercial monitoring equipment are placed in selected geographical monitoring areas. The sets of commercial monitoring equipment tune to each of the channels available in the corresponding geographical areas and extract broadcast signatures from commercials carried in these channels. The channels, times, and dates of the broadcast signature extractions are also noted. The extracted broadcast signatures are compared to previously extracted reference signatures. In each geographical monitoring area, these reference signatures are stored in a reference signature library along with identification information regarding the commercials from which the reference signatures were extracted.
Because there are typically many reference signatures stored in a reference signature library, and because comparing the broadcast signatures to all such reference signatures would require a substantial amount of time, hash codes are used to focus the search such that the search finds only those reference signatures which are potential matches to the broadcast signatures. The hash codes are computed from one or more characteristics, such as luminance, of the broadcast signatures so that only those reference signatures producing similar hash codes within some range are compared to the broadcast signatures.
When broadcast signatures match reference signatures, the identities of the transmitted commercials are known from the identity information stored with the matching reference signatures. Also, the channels, times, and dates of commercial transmissions are known from the matching broadcast signatures. The sets of monitoring equipment can also detect the length of the commercial as transmitted by comparing multiple broadcast signatures and multiple reference signatures
extracted from the same commercial. Accordingly, reports can be generated that permit advertisers to verify that their commercials have beenrun in the channels, on the days, in the time slots, and for the durations desired, and/or to permit advertisers to ascertain the advertising strategies of their com- 5 petitors.
When broadcast signatures do not match reference signatures, however, it may be possible that a new commercial has been transmitted for which there are no reference signatures stored in the library. In this case, the extracted broadcast signatures corresponding to each possibly new commercial are stored for later transmission to a central facility where the possibly new commercial is viewed and identified by an attendant. This viewing and identification process is usually referred to as new commercial labeling. Once identified, the new commercial's broadcast signatures are converted to ref- 15 erence signatures and are stored in the reference signature libraries.
Clustering is performed in each geographical monitoring area so that a geographical monitoring area does not send the same new commercial multiple times to the central facility for 20 new commercial discovery. During clustering in a geographical monitoring area, the broadcast signatures of each possibly new commercial are compared to the broadcast signatures of the other possibly new commercials in order to detect duplicates. Duplicates are not transmitted to the central facility. 2s Accordingly, the efficiency of new commercial discovery is increased because only one instance of each possibly new commercial is transmitted to, and processed by, the central facility. However, because an instance of a possibly new commercial may be received at the central facility from more than one geographical monitoring area, clustering is again performed at the central facility prior to each initiation of new commercial discovery.
Furthermore, it is expected that other appliances, such as computers and set top boxes, will be equipped with tuners so that these appliances can display video and/or audio, such as 35 television and/or radio programs. It is also expected that this video and/or audio will contain media links. Accordingly, if a user of a computer, digital television, set top box, or other video and/or audio receiving device is viewing a program of interest, and desires to access other information associated 40 with the program, the user can click on the program. Clicking on the program will cause a media link, which is embedded in the program, to be sent back to a Web site or other content provider with the result that additional information will be downloaded to the user's appliance. In the case where the 45 media links are self-activating, such as where the media link is a trigger, clicking on the program need not be required. Instead, the media link, when detected by the video, audio, and/or data receiving device, automatically causes the display of ancillary content which, for example, may have been pre- 50 viously transmitted in the video, audio, and/or data signal and cached in the receiving device or in auxiliary equipment.
Because these media links will likely uniquely identify the programs in which they are used, the present invention is directed to an arrangement for detecting these media links in 55 order to determine the identities of the programs in which the media links are embedded. Accordingly, the present invention is useful in an AMOL type system, a Monitor Plus type system, or in other systems in which the identity of a transmitted program is desired. 60
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
These and other features and advantages of the present invention will become more apparent from a detailed consid- 65 eration of the invention when taken in conjunction with the drawings in which:
FIG. 1 illustrates an example metering system having monitoring equipment located at a monitoring site and a central facility located remotely from the monitoring site;
FIG. 2 illustrates in flow chart form one embodiment of a program that may be executed by the monitoring equipment at the monitoring site of FIG. 1;
FIGS. 3 and 4 illustrate in flow chart form an alternative embodiment of a program that may be executed by the monitoring equipment at the monitoring site of FIG. 1; and,
FIG. 5 illustrates in flow chart form a clustering program that may be executed by the monitoring equipment at the monitoring site and/or by the computer at the central facility of FIG. 1.
As shown in FIG. 1, monitoring equipment 10 is located at a monitoring site 12 and includes a tuner 14 which tunes to a channel contained in a signal received by a signal acquisition device 16. The signal acquisition device 16 may be a modem, a satellite dish or other antenna, or the like and acquires signals transmitted by transmission sources. The signal carried in the channel to which the tuner 14 is tuned is supplied to a meter 17 which includes a media link detector 18 and a signature extractor 20. The media link detector 18 is arranged to detect media links in a manner which is similar to present metering equipment that detect other ancillary codes, such as AMOL codes. In the present case, however, the media link detector 18 is arranged to decode the signal carried in the channel to which the tuner 14 is tuned in order to detect a media link. When the media link detector 18 detects a media link, it causes the media link to be stored in a log 22.
In the event that a media link is not contained in a program which is carried in the channel to which the tuner 14 is tuned, the signature extractor 20 extracts one or more broadcast signatures from the program. Broadcast signatures are likewise stored in the log 22. Signatures may be extracted in a manner disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,677,466. This patent discloses example conditions which initiate signature extraction. However, although specific conditions are disclosed, it should be understood that other conditions may be used to initiate signature extraction. For example, a signature may be extracted from each nth frame of a program. Moreover, any suitable techniques may be used to collect the data that form the signatures.
A clock 24 is associated with the log 22 so that the time and date that each media link is detected by the media link detector 18 may be stored along with the corresponding media link. Similarly, the time and date that each broadcast signature is extracted by the signature extractor 20 may be stored along with the broadcast signature. Also, the channel to which the tuner 14 is tuned at the time that a media link is detected by the media link detector 18 or a signature is extracted by the signature extractor 20 may be stored in the log 22 along with the corresponding media link or broadcast signature.
Periodically, the data stored in the log 22 is transmitted by communication equipment 26 from the monitoring site 12 to a remotely located central facility 28 over a communication medium 30. The communication equipment 26 may be arranged to periodically transmit the data stored in the log 22 to the central facility 28. Alternatively, the communication equipment 26 may be arranged to transmit the data stored in the log 22 when the log 22 has a predetermined amount of data stored therein. As a still further alternative, the communication equipment 26 may be arranged to respond to polls from the central facility 28 in order to initiate the transfer of