Title:
Systems and Methods for Collecting Media Broadcast Audience Participation Data
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Systems and methods for collecting viewership data of television and radio broadcast programs. The methods include receiving an AV signal of a broadcast program and supplementary content which contains a tag identifying the broadcast program. The supplementary content is combined with the AV signal to form a data-augmented signal which is subsequently modulated with a carrier signal to form a transmit signal for broadcasting to receivers. Each receiver includes a decoder for extracting the supplementary content and recording the tag identity and time the tag is received. The recorded information is subsequently output to an electronic device or sent directly to a viewership data collection entity.



Inventors:
Gupta, Ajay (Karnataka, IN)
Venkatraman, Chandrasekar (Saratoga, CA)
Application Number:
11/918087
Publication Date:
11/12/2009
Filing Date:
09/27/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
725/133, 725/119
International Classes:
H04N7/173; H04H60/32
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
PARRA, OMAR S
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HP Inc. (Fort Collins, CO, US)
Claims:
1. A monitoring method comprising: receiving a transmit signal at a receiver, the transmit signal containing a program and a supplementary content associating therewith; demodulating the transmit signal to provide a data-augmented signal; recovering the supplementary content from the data-augmented signal at substantially the same time the program is rendered at the receiver; and keeping a record upon successfully recovering the supplementary content.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein recovering the supplementary content comprises outputting the data-augmented signal to a decoder where the supplementary content is extracted, the supplementary content having a data portion and a meta-data portion containing a tag identifying the program.

3. The method of claim 2, wherein keeping the record comprises recording the tag identity and time the tag is detected.

4. The method of claim 3 further comprising sending the record to a data collection entity.

5. The method of claim 4, wherein sending the record comprises arranging the record in a pre-determined format prior to sending the same to the data collection entity.

6. The method of claim 4, wherein sending the record comprises automatically sending the record to the collection entity at a specified time.

7. The method of claim 4, wherein sending the record comprises sending the record to the collection entity in response to a request.

8. The method of claim 4, wherein sending the record comprises sending the record to an electronic device and thereafter to the data collection entity using a communication infrastructure of the electronic device.

9. The method of claim 8 further comprising providing the electronic device with an application for editing the record before sending the same to the data collection entity.

10. The method of claim 1 further comprising: combining the supplementary content with an AV signal of the program to provide the data-augmented signal, wherein the supplementary content is inserted into a non-program portion of the AV signal, the supplementary content having a data portion and a meta-data containing a tag identifying the program; and modulating the data-augmented signal with a carrier signal to provide the transmit signal for broadcasting.

11. The method of claim 10, wherein combining the supplementary content comprises inserting the supplementary content into the non-program portion of the AV signal at a regular interval.

12. The method of claim 10, wherein combining the supplementary content comprises inserting different supplementary contents into non-program portions corresponding with different program segments, each of the supplementary contents having at least a different tag in the meta-data for identifying the different program segments.

13. The method of claim 12, wherein each supplementary content further includes information relating to the different program segments.

14. The method of claim 10, wherein the AV signal comprises a television signal having a vertical or horizontal blanking interval for use as the non-program portion and the receiver comprises a television.

15. The method of claim 10, wherein the AV signal comprises a digital audio broadcasting signal having a program associated data channel for use as the non-program portion and the receiver comprises a digital radio.

16. A monitoring system comprising: a receiver for receiving a transmit signal and demodulating the same to provide a data-augmented signal, the transmit signal containing a program and a supplementary content relating thereto, the supplementary content including a data portion and a meta-data portion having at least a tag for identifying the program; and a decoder coupled to the receiver for receiving the data-augmented signal and recovering the supplementary content therefrom, the decoder including a monitoring application for keeping a record upon successfully recovering the supplementary content.

17. The system of claim 16, wherein the record comprises the tag identity and the time the tag is detected.

18. The system of claim 16 further comprising a communication means for sending the record to a data collection entity.

19. The system of claim 16 further comprising an electronic device coupled to the decoder for receiving the record and sending the record to a data collection entity using communication means of the electronic device.

20. The system of claim 19, wherein the electronic device is a printer and the communication means is a fax machine connected to a telephone line for sending the record printed out using the printer to the data collection entity.

21. The system of claim 19, wherein the electronic device comprises one of a mobile phone, PC, and a PDA and the communication means comprises at least one of a cellular network, Internet connection, and a cable link.

22. The system of claim 21, wherein the electronic device includes an editing application for editing the record before sending the same to the data collection entity.

23. The system of claim 16 further comprising: an inserter for combining the supplementary content with an AV signal of the program to provide the data-augmented signal; and a modulator for modulating the data-augmented signal with a carrier signal to provide the transmit signal for broadcasting.

24. The system of claim 23 further comprising a content server for storing and providing the supplementary content to the inserter.

25. The system of claim 24, wherein the content server comprises a synchronizing signal between the content sever and the inserter for coordinating the combining process.

Description:

FIELD OF INVENTION

The present invention relates to systems and methods for polling audience participation in media broadcasts. More specifically, it relates to systems and methods for collecting viewership data of television and radio broadcasts.

BACKGROUND

Television and radio broadcasters broadcast a large number of programs. The viewership rating of each program is the basis on which the broadcasters charge the advertisers for airing an advertisement during the programming. If a program attracts high viewership, the charge of the advertisement increases accordingly. Thus, accurate measurement of audience participation in a program is important to both the broadcasters and the advertisers.

Television and radio broadcast are one-way communication systems. This makes it is difficult to determine the number of viewership of a particular program without a feedback channel. Current methods of collecting the number of viewership of a particular program generally adopt a sampling approach. Typically, this involves dividing the audience population into classes and a representative sample of each class is selected for surveying. To keep the surveying costs manageable, the size of the representative sample is kept small. At the same time, the class definition has to be as broad as possible in order to include a large demography of the audience population. For example, economic categorizations (in terms of SEC-A through SEC-C) are primary drivers. While these classes give broad contours of viewership of a particular channel (e.g., the National Geographic channel), they are not able to obtain data on viewership of an individual program, which is what the viewers watch and hence are of interest to the broadcasters.

An example of an existing solution to viewership survey is by installing dedicated monitoring devices in selected homes (i.e. selected representative sample). These monitoring devices are typically single function devices and are costly to be distributed for free to home owners. The main task of such monitoring devices is to identify the program being tuned to (i.e. viewed or listened) and record this data on a non-volatile memory. The data is subsequently off-loaded for analysis through an on-line connection or an off-line storage media such as portable hard-disk or optical disc. The programs are either identified by special codes sent by the broadcaster at the beginning of the programs, image-matching to determine a specific channel, or using the electronic program guide to compare with the tuned channel (in the case of digital television). A problem associating with this approach is that the broadcaster has to reverse calculate which program or advertisement was broadcast at a certain time. Since this information is usually not available to the independent data collection agency (due to the huge amount of constantly changing data), the compiled data is usually presented as viewership of a particular channel instead of viewership of a particular program or viewership of a particular advertisement, which is what the advertiser is most interested in.

The above approaches do not provide a satisfactory result accuracy as viewers tend to switch channels during the advertisements (channel surfing). Therefore, it is desirous to provide an alternative method and system for surveying viewership of television programs or listenership of radio programs that alleviates at least some of the foregoing limitations.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Embodiments of the present invention are herein described, purely by way of example, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1A illustrates the location of a vertical blanking interval in a conventional broadcast television signal employed in an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 1B illustrates the location of a horizontal blanking interval in a conventional broadcast television signal employable in an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2A illustrates a system for providing a data-augmented AV signal in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2B illustrates a method of providing a data-augmented AV signal in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3A illustrates a system for processing a data-augmented AV signal in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3B illustrates a method of processing a data-augmented AV signal in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3C illustrates a radio system for processing a radio data-augmented signal in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4 illustrates a functional block diagram of a supplementary content processor shown in FIG. 3A in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 5A illustrates a system for collecting viewership data in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 5B illustrates a method of collecting viewership data in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6 illustrates a functional block diagram of a supplementary decoder of FIG. 5A; and

FIG. 7 shows examples of viewership data according to an embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Methods and systems for collecting viewership or listensership of broadcast programs are described hereinafter with references to FIGS. 1-7. For clarity and convenience, the following definitions are used herein:

The term “data-augmented AV signal” refers to an AV signal of a television program content or an audio signal of a radio program content (hereinafter generally referred to as AV signal) which has “supplementary content” added to the AV signal. The data-augmented AV signal has the format of the original television or radio AV signal. Typically, the supplementary content is inserted into “a non-program portion” of the AV signal while the program content is carried in a program portion of the AV signal.

The term “supplementary content” refers to information or data relating to the program content of the AV signal of a television or radio broadcast program. The information or data can be, for example, mobile phone ring-tones, music, games, pictures, video clips, sound bites, general information, and the like audience desired information all of which are associated with or in connection to the program content. The supplementary content is able to be printed on a printer, reproduced or rendered on an electronic device, or stored in a data storage device, in an embodiment, substantially concurrently with the rendering of the program content.

The description “non-program portion” refers to the portion of the AV signal which is reserved for conveying information or data other than the program content. Exemplary embodiments of the non-program portion of the AV signal include the vertical blanking interval (VBI) of an analog television signal or an equivalent signal portion of digital television broadcast signal (referred to as DVB-VBI and DVB-TXT in the Digital Video Broadcast (DVB) Standard), as well as equivalents in digital radio broadcasting (e.g. the programming associated data channel in a digital audio broadcast signal).

The term “conventional broadcast receiver” refers to radio and television receivers or sets which are primarily dedicated to the function of receiving radio and television broadcasts, respectively. A conventional broadcast receiver typically has a demodulation circuit operable to extract program content from the data-augmented AV signal which has the same format as the conventional AV signal.

“Conventional radio receivers” within this definition include digital audio radios as described below. Other digital and analog receivers operable to extract program content from a radio broadcast signal may be employed in alternative embodiments. As used herein, the term “conventional television set” refers to conventional analog television sets, such as those configured to process television broadcast signals transmitted in NTSC format, using, for example, North American Basic Teletext (NABTS), PAL and SECAM broadcast formats, using, for example, the European Broadcast Union (EBU) Teletext Standards. In a further embodiment, the term “conventional television set” includes digital televisions receivers, such as those operable to process HDTV broadcasts using, for example, the Vertical Ancillary Data (VANC), and the like standards. Notwithstanding specific references made herein, the term “conventional television set” extends to television sets primarily operable to receive and process broadcast signals, regardless of when it is developed, which employ a non-program portion of the AV signal onto which the supplementary content can be inserted. Specifically excluded from “conventional broadcast receivers” are systems, such as computers, which can be programmed or otherwise modified to emulate the functionality of a commonly known television or radio receiver. Such systems do not have as its primary function to receive and process such broadcast signals, and are not specifically dedicated to operate as broadcast receivers, and accordingly are not within the scope of the present disclosure.

The term “conventional” as used with regard to broadcast, radio, or television receivers/sets refers to the primary functionality of the broadcast receiving system as described, and does not refer to the timing of when such a broadcast system was developed or deployed, which may be at any time during the past, present or future.

The term “viewership” refers to audience participation in a broadcast program. When used in a general sense, it includes audience of a television broadcast program or a radio broadcast program depending on the context.

Television Data-Augmented AV Signal

As known in the art of analog television broadcasting, program content of a television program is provided in the form of an AV signal which includes a program portion and non-program portion in each frame. The program portion is used for carrying program content while the non-program portion is used for carrying extra information or data such as the vertical and horizontal traces information. In the television broadcast standard, the non-program portion of the AV signal is typically the vertical blanking interval (VBI) found in each frame of the AV signal.

More recently, a variety of digital video broadcast (DVB) standards are also used for broadcasting programs via satellite (DVB-S), cable (DVB-C), terrestrial (DVB-T), or via handheld and mobile terminals (DVB-H). Similar to the VBI in the analog AV signals, DVB broadcast signals also allow the simulcasting of supplementary content or data through DVB-TXT or DVB-VBI. When a digital broadcasting system is employed, the DVB-TXT/VBI is used to deliver the supplementary content as described in the foregoing. For convenience, the description “vertical blanking interval” refers to the vertical blanking interval (VBI) of the analog broadcast television signal, as well as the equivalent non-program portion of the digital broadcast television signals.

FIG. 1A illustrates the location of a VBI in a conventional television broadcast signal employed in the embodiments. A standard television signal consists of 625 horizontal lines (575 in North America) which are divided into two frames of 312.5 lines each. The VBI makes up the first 21 lines of each frame. Lines 1 to 9 are typically used for timing setup and lines 10 to 21 are available for carrying data 102.

Each VBI line is capable of transmitting 288 bits per television frame (one packet). At 50 frames per second, 12 VBI lines per frame translate into a raw data rate transmission of about 144 Kbits per second. However, ensuring data integrity requires forward error correction and this reduces the throughput to about 70 Kbits per second. This throughput is better than those provided by asynchronous telephone lines which have a throughput of 19.2 Kbits per second. The error rate after error correction is 1.0e-5 and this compares favorably with telephone network based data transmission technologies.

FIG. 1B illustrates the location of a horizontal blanking interval (HBI) in an analog television AV signal 100 which may also be employed in the embodiments instead of the VBI. Data 102 which is inserted into the horizontal blanking portion 104 is not displayed on the television screen along with the program content, as the television tuner is operable to process only the program content embedded in the other portions of the television AV signal 100. Accordingly, references made to VBI herein also extend to HBI.

In a teletext system, a separate channel of information is formed by inserting various types of information, such as news, sports, advertisements, and so on, in the VBI of the television AV signal 100. Typically, the various types of information do not have any correlation with the particular program content of the television AV signal 100. In an embodiment, the VBI is utilized to transport supplementary content specific to the program content of the particular television AV signal 100. In a further embodiment, the supplementary content inserted in a particular VBI represents a supplementary content associating with the program content embedded in adjacent program portion of the AV signal. In this way, each program segment may have a different supplementary content associated therewith and the supplementary content can be accessed substantially concurrently with the rendering of the program content segment at the conventional television set.

An embodiment of a system 210 and corresponding method 250 for providing data-augmented AV signals are respectively illustrated In FIGS. 2A and 2B. Referring first to the system 210 illustrated in FIG. 2A, the system 210 includes a content server 212, an inserter 220, an RF module 224, and a transmitter 226, which may include a satellite transmitter 226a, a cable television transmitter 226b, or a transmitting tower 226c. These transmitting means are only exemplary, and other transmitter embodiments will be apparent to those skilled in the art.

The content server 212 is operable to provide supplementary content 214 which is associated solely with a program content conveyed in an AV signal 216 provided to the inserter 220. The supplementary content 214 may further include information concerning the program content, such as additional facts, figures or other data, contact information such as a telephone number, physical or email addresses, and the like information which is specific to the program content of the a particular broadcast program. Further, identifying information such as the version number, size, copyright/digital-right status, author and language of the supplementary content file may be included. Additionally, program-specific advertiser or sponsor information may be included in the supplementary content 214. For example, information such as a list of manufacturers who provide cooking equipment shown in a cooking program.

In another embodiment, the supplementary content 214 may include interactive information which is designed to create an interactive session with the television viewers. Such information may include viewer queries which poses questions regarding the content of the broadcast program, and which invites a response thereto. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that other types of supplementary content may be included.

The supplementary content 214 may be parsed into two or more segments with each segment corresponding to a different segment of the program content as conveyed in the AV signal 216. For example, a cooking show may describe the processes of preparing several different dishes. The supplementary content 214 may accordingly include different content segments which include details regarding recipes, recommended cooking times, and so on for the different dishes. The content segments are accordingly sequenced so that the supplementary content conveyed therein is synchronized with the corresponding segments of the program content received by the inserter 220. This process may be facilitated by the use of a synchronization signal 218 communicating between the content server 212 and the inserter 220.

In an embodiment, the supplementary content 214 is organized into a structured file or document, such as an extensible markup language (XML) document. As such, the supplementary content 214 may includes meta-data which is tagged using known or broadcast industry adopted tags and fields. For example, identification of an advertiser or sponsor associated with one or more segments of the supplementary content may be identified using a meta-data tag “Sponsor ID”. Other meta-data tags corresponding to additional information may also be used. For example, meta-data tag “Lang ID” may be used to identify the language of the supplementary content, “Date ID” to identify the composition date of the supplementary content, “DRM ID” to identify digital rights management information, “Exp ID” to identify an expiration date of the supplementary content, and “Enc ID” to identify encryption information applied to the supplementary content. The aforesaid tags represent only a small sample of the possible meta-data tags and types of information which can be conveyed, and other meta-data tags may be used alternatively to or in addition thereto in other embodiments.

Furthermore, the structured document may be linked (i.e., associated) with the program, either as one complete document which contains one or more segments of the supplementary content, or as a document having only a single segment of the supplementary content. In the latter case, two or more such documents are used to compose the entire stream of supplementary content 214 with each document is linked to a corresponding segment of the program content. The supplementary content 214, in this exemplary embodiment, includes both the supplementary content associating with the program content and identifying information (e.g., “Sponsor ID”) in XML meta-data file.

The following is an example of a structured document having a file extension “.pcm”:

<?XML V = “1.0”?>
<ContentType>
<DocumentTitle>Test3</DocumentTitle>
<DocumentSize>221</DocumentSize>
<Akey>0001</Akey>
<Document>
<language>en-us</language>
<PageId>1</PageId>
<PageSize>221</PageSize>
<Description>
<![CDATA[_%-12345X@PJL ENTER LANGUAGE=MIME
Content-Type: application/vnd.pwg-multiplexed;
type=application/vnd.pwg-xhtml-print+xml
CHK 1 379 LAST
Content-Type: application/vnd.pwg-xhtml-print+xml
Content-Location: test2.htm
<?xml version= “1.0” encoding=“UTF-8”?>
<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//PWG//DTD XHTML-Print
1.0//EN”
“http://www.xhtml-print.org/xhtml-print/xhtml-
print10.dtd”>
<html xmlns= “http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml” >
<head>
<title>test</title>
</head>
<body>
abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz
</body>
</html>
CHK 0 0 LAST
_%-12345X]]>
</Description>
</Document>

This structured document (pcm file) is inserted into the VBI lines by the inserter 220. The pcm file consists of two portions, a meta-data portion and a data portion of the supplementary content. In this exemplary pcm file, the data portion is enclosed by the begin tag “<![CDATA” and end tag “]]>” with the rest being the meta-data portion as further described herein.

Tag 1: <?XML V=“1.0”?>

Tag 2: <ContentType>

These two tags form the mandatory beginning of the pcm file. Tag 1 is used to indicate the beginning of the pcm file. Tag 2 indicates the type of content being conveyed, for example, a text message, a sound bite, a video clip, or a combination thereof.

Tag 3: <DocumentTitle>Test3</DocumentTitle>

Every pcm file has a unique document title. The value of tag 3 is used to distinguish one document from another during broadcasting.

Tag 4: <DocumentSize>221</DocumentSize>

The value of tag 4 indicates the size of the data portion in bytes in hexadecimal. This is not the size of the pcm file. In this example, the data portion is printable and is presented in ASCII text. It is also possible to use other formats such as postscript, pdf, and the like document formats. The data portion can also be in the form of binary data and non-printables.

Tag 5: <Akey>0001</Akey>

“Akey”, in this example, refers to access key. The supplementary content processor (such as the one shown in FIGS. 3A and 4) decodes pcm file only when the value of tag 5 is a known or recognized value. Thus, for pcm files that are meant for general access by the public, the “Akey” value would be one which is assigned as such, for example, “0001” as in this example.

Tag 6: <Document>

Tag 7: <language>en-us</language>
Tag 6 indicates the beginning of the details of the data portion. Tag 7 indicates the language of the data portion (printable in this example). This information is displayable on the screen of the television or the display of the supplementary content processor.

Tag 8: <PageId>1</PageId>

Tag 9: <PageSize>221</PageSize>

The value of tag 8 indicates the page number. The value of tag 9 indicates the size of the data portion of the page in consideration. In this example, the size of the document and the page is the same as there is only one page. In multiple page documents, the size of the page would be smaller than the size of the document.

Tag 10: <Description>, Tag 11: </Description>, and Tag 12: </Document>

Tags 10 and 11 enclose the data portion. Tag 12 indicates the end of the document details.

Referring back to FIG. 2A, the inserter 220 adds application level forward error correction (FEC) to the supplementary content 214 and thereafter embeds the treated supplementary content 214 in the non-program portion (i.e. VBI in the case of a television AV signal) of the AV signal 216. The output from the inserter 220 is a data-augmented AV signal 222 which is fed to the RF module 224. The RF module 224 channel codes the data-augmented AV signal 222 before converting it to an intermediate frequency and finally to an RF broadcast signal for broadcasting. The RF broadcast signal is broadcast using the transmitter 226 via one of the transmitting means described in the foregoing.

In DVB standards, the data-augmented AV signal 222 is broadcast in MPEG2 and the like digital formats. Thus, an encoder (not shown) is provided to converted the data-augmented AV signal 222 output from the inserter 220 into an MPEG2 stream before feeding the MPEG2 stream to the RF module 224 for further signal conditioning.

Referring to FIG. 2B in which the corresponding method 250 of providing the data-augmented AV signal is illustrated. Initially at step 252, the inserter 220 receives streams of AV signal (containing a program content) 216 of a broadcast program. In one embodiment, the program content typically includes ready produced audio/video of the broadcast program and is provided along with supplementary content identifying information, sponsor/advertiser information, or other program related contents. In another embodiment, however, such as live televised sports programs, the program content is produced in real-time. Thus, the corresponding supplementary content 214 (for example, the batting average of a currently displayed baseball player at-bat which may be prepared beforehand and stored in the content server 212), is supplied to the inserter 220 synchronously with the live program content.

In step 254, the inserter 220 receives the supplementary content 214 associating with the program content from the content server 212. Subsequently in step 256 (also referring to FIG. 2A), the supplementary content 214 is combined with or inserted into the VBI of the AV signal 216 to provide the data-augmented AV signal 222. Additional processes may be used to complement the combining processes at the inserter 220. For example, a forward error correcting algorithm may be applied to the supplementary content 214 to improve transmission reliability. It is apparent that other coding algorithms may be used in alternative embodiments.

In an embodiment, the provision of the supplementary content 214 can be synchronized with the appropriate program content segment using the synchronization signal 218. Thus, the combining process involves synchronizing segments of the supplementary content 214 with the vertical blanking intervals of the AV signal 216 portions which carry the corresponding segments of the program content.

The data-augmented AV signal 222 retains the signal waveform of the original television AV signal 216 and can therefore be processed by a television set in the conventional manner. In step 258 (also referring to FIG. 2A), the data-augmented AV signal 222 is provided to the RF module 224 for channel coding and modulation with a carrier signal to provide an RF broadcast signal. Subsequently, the RF broadcast signal is broadcast to receivers using the transmitter 226.

An embodiment of a system 320 and corresponding method 350 for processing data-augmented AV signals are respectively illustrated in FIGS. 3A and 3B. Referring first to the system 320 illustrated in FIG. 3A, the system 320 includes a receiving means 321 (a, b, c), a conventional television set 323, a supplementary content processor 325, a content output means 327 (a, b), and an optional a remote controller unit 328. Exemplary receiving means includes a satellite receiver 321a, a set top box 321b, and a television aerial 321c, each of which is adapted to receive RF broadcast signal 322 which can be processed by the convention television set 323 in the conventional manner. The television set 323 has electronic circuits to perform the reverse processes that take place at the broadcasting end. The television set 323 demodulates the RF broadcast signal 322 to provide a data-augmented AV signal (i.e. base-band signal) 324 which contains the program content and the supplementary content.

The conventional television set 323 then renders the program content on the television screen in the conventional manner. At the same time, the data-augmented AV signal 324 is output to the supplementary content processor 325, for example, via a video output port of the conventional television set 323, where the supplementary content is extracted therefrom.

The supplementary content processor 325 (hereinafter also referred to as Supplementary Decoder) further processes the extracted supplementary content to provide supplementary documents or data 326 which are associated with the program content being rendered on the conventional television set 323. Subsequently, the supplementary data 326 can be output to a printer 327a for hardcopy printout or can be stored in a data storage device 327b. The output device 327 can also include other electronic devices such as mobile phones, PCs, and PDAs.

In an embodiment, the remote controller unit 328 (the functionality of which may be incorporated into a remote controller unit of the conventional television set 323) can be used to control the supplementary data downloading process at the supplementary content processor 325. In an embodiment, the remote controller unit 328 is operable to instruct the supplementary content processor 325 to process the data-augmented AV signal 324 whereby the supplementary content 324 corresponding to the currently viewed program content is extracted and assembled to provide the supplementary documents or data 326 which are subsequently delivered to one or more of the output devices 327. In this manner, the viewer can download supplementary content concurrently with little or no disruption to the program viewing experience.

A method 350 of processing a data-augmented AV signal using the system 320 of FIG. 3A is shown in FIG. 3B. Initially at step 352, the RF broadcast signal 322 is received (or recovered by the receiving means 321). The RF broadcast signal 322 is in the format of an original television broadcast signal and thus, can be processed by the conventional television set 323 in the conventional manner. The RF broadcast signal 322 contains the data-augmented AV signal. In step 354, a demodulating circuit (not shown) of the television set 323 is used to demodulate the RF broadcast signal 322 (in the conventional manner) to provide a base-band signal (i.e. the data-augmented AV signal 324) which contains the program content and the supplementary content. The program content is subsequently rendered on the television screen in the conventional manner in step 356. At substantially the same time, the data-augmented AV signal 324 can be output to the supplementary content processor 325 for extracting and processing the supplementary content in step 358.

The supplementary content processor 325 is operable to extract the supplementary content from the data-augmented AV signal and assembles the supplementary content into one or more printable supplement documents or data 326. Further details of the supplementary content processor 325 are described below with reference to FIG. 4. The supplementary documents or data 326 are delivered to output devices 327, which in two exemplary embodiments include a printer 327a and a data storage device 327b in step 360. It should be noted that other output devices may be used alternatively or in addition thereto. Connection between the supplementary content processor 325 and the output devices 327 may be realized through various connection means, such as USB, IEE1394, SCSI, parallel connections, wireless connections (e.g. Bluetooth, WiFi), and the like communication means.

Radio Data-Augmented Signal

The system 210 and method 250 of FIGS. 2A and 2B can also be used to provide and process radio signals augmented with data. As an example, a digital audio broadcasting (DAB) system employs a non-program audio signal component, commonly known as a program associated data (PAD) channel, which can be used as the vehicle for transporting the supplementary content. In such an embodiment, the system 210 and corresponding method 250 can be used in substantially the same manner, as described in the foregoing, for receiving and processing a DAB broadcast signal of a DAB program and supplementary content associating with the DAB program. The supplementary content is provided by the content server 212. The inserter 220 which is adapted for processing the DAB broadcast signals is used to insert the supplementary content into the PAD channel of the DAB signal, thereby forming a (DAB) radio data-augmented signal. The radio data-augmented signal is subsequently converted into a radio broadcast signal for broadcasting via conventional transmitting means, exemplary embodiments include satellite, cable, and tower transmitters. The specific modulation process is a known art and is governed by the DAB broadcasting standards.

Likewise, similar system and method to those of FIGS. 3A and 3B may be used for receiving and processing the radio data-augmented signal. In an exemplary embodiment, a radio system 380 for receiving and processing the radio broadcast signal of the aforementioned DAB is shown in FIG. 3C. The radio system 380 includes a conventional radio receiver 382 for receiving the radio broadcast signal. Additionally, the conventional radio receiver 382 includes a demodulator or other such circuitries operable to demodulate the radio broadcast signal to provide a radio base-band signal (i.e. the radio data-augmented signal) containing the DAB program and supplementary content. The radio system 380 further includes a supplementary content processor 384 for receiving the base-band signal and extracting the supplementary content therefrom. The supplementary content is then assembled to provide one or more supplement documents or data, which, for instance, by using a remote controller unit 386, can be delivered to an output device 390. The output device 390 can be a printer, data storage device, PDA, PC, and the like electronic devices.

FIG. 4 illustrates a functional block diagram of a supplementary content processor 400 (such as the supplementary content processor 325 shown in FIG. 3A) that includes a data extractor 421, an optional forward error correction (FEC) decoder 423, a document structure decoder 425, an application suite 427, and associated application drivers 429. During operation, streams of base-band signal 402 containing the supplementary content is provided to the supplementary content processor 400. The data extractor 421 extracts embedded supplementary content, for examples applets or programming, from the base-band signal 402. Additional operations within the data extractor 421 may include parsing the supplementary content into segments, if this format is needed or the recovered supplementary content is not so arranged.

Once the supplementary content is extracted from the base-band signal 402, the supplementary content is put through the FEC decoder 423 to correct any errors introduced during broadcasting. The output from the FEC decoder 423 is subsequently fed to the document structure decoder 425.

In an embodiment, the supplementary content (which may include more than one segment, as described above) Is recovered in the form of structured data such as XML-formatted data. In such an embodiment, the document structure decoder 425 is employed to decode the meta-data, or other such similar data used in alternative structured document. The decoded data is provided to the application suite 427 which further assembles the decoded data into the desired format (i.e. data 404) for a particular application. The application drivers 429 are operable to interface with a particular output device 327, and may be incorporated within the application suite 427 in an alternative embodiment. The appropriately formatted data 404, referred to in the foregoing FIG. 3A as supplementary documents or data 326, is subsequently provided to one or more of the output devices 327.

The supplementary content processor 400 may further include a remote controller interface module (not shown) to which various command signals can be issued for instructing the supplementary content processor 400 to perform one, some, or all of the aforementioned supplementary content processor functions. As an example, the supplementary content processor 400 continually processes streams of supplementary content segments as described in relation to the content server 212 of FIG. 2A. Each supplementary content segment includes supplementary content corresponding to, and synchronized with, a segment of the program content. When the viewer is presented with a topic that the viewer desires to acquire more information on, the viewer actuates the appropriate buttons on the remote controller unit. The signal produced thereby in turn activates the supplementary content processor 400 to generate the supplementary document or data 404 for output to one or more of the output devices. In this manner, the corresponding content segment can be downloaded (as a printed or stored electronic document, for instance) conveniently with minimal disturbance to the viewing experience.

In many broadcasting situations, whether radio or television, it is desirable to obtain data on viewership of broadcast programs (including advertisements). In an embodiment, the systems and methods described in the foregoing can be used for collecting such data as described hereinafter with reference to FIGS. 5-7. FIGS. 5A and 5B respectively illustrate a system 510 and method 550 for collecting viewership data using broadcast programs augmented with multiple types of supplementary content for identifying broadcast programs and monitoring the viewership thereof.

The system 510 as shown in FIG. 5A according to an embodiment includes a data-augmented broadcast signal providing system 512, a data-augmented broadcast signal processing system 516, and a viewership data collection entity 526. The viewership data collection entity 526 can be a broadcaster, rating agency, advertiser, research center, and the like entities interested in the viewership data. In this exemplary embodiment, the data-augmented broadcast signal providing system 512 and the data-augmented broadcast signal processing system 516 are similar in makeup to the respective systems shown in FIGS. 2A and 3A (and 3C) as described in the foregoing. Information or data associating with a broadcast program is provided as supplementary content to the data-augmented broadcast signal providing system 512.

The supplementary content is combined with the broadcast program to provide a data-augmented AV signal which is subsequently modulated with a carrier signal to provide a transmit signal 514 for broadcasting in the conventional manner (i.e. television or radio broadcasting). At the receiving end, the transmit signal 514 is received by the data-augmented broadcast signal processing system 516. The data-augmented broadcast signal processing system 516 demodulates the transmit signal 514 to provide a base-band signal (i.e. the data-augmented AV signal) containing the program content and the supplementary content. The program content is rendered and at substantially the same time, the base-band signal is output to a supplementary decoder 518 where the supplementary content is extracted and further processed.

In this embodiment, the supplementary decoder 518 is similar in makeup to the supplementary content processor 400 (as shown in FIG. 4) and further includes a program monitoring application 602 as shown in FIG. 6. The program monitoring application 602 is coupled to the document structure decoder 425. One of the functions of the program monitoring application 602 is to detect identification tags of broadcast programs. As described in the foregoing, supplementary contents associating with broadcast programs are organized as structured documents, each having a meta-data portion and a data portion. The meta-data portion includes at least one tag for identifying the broadcast program. For finer tracking details, tags identifying episodes or sections of the broadcast program can also be included. In the same manner, tags identifying specific advertisements and sponsors can also be included in the structured document for monitoring purposes.

The program monitoring application 602 scans the meta-data and identifies tags relating to the broadcast programs or other tags which the program monitoring application 602 is programmed to monitor. The identities of the tags are subsequently recorded and stored in a memory (not shown) of the supplementary decoder 518 along with the time the tags are detected. This information constitutes viewership data and it can be tallied or organized in a table format or other easily understood formats. The viewership data can then be sent to the viewership data collection entity 526 in a number of ways. In an embodiment, the viewership data can be sent to the viewership data collection entity 526 via an electronic device 522. The electronic device 522 is linked to the supplementary decoder 518 via a communication link 520. The electronic device 522 can be a printer, mobile phone, PDA, PC, and the like utility devices. Accordingly, the communication link 520 can be a wired connection such as USB, Firewire, serial, and parallel connections, or wireless connection such as Bluetooth, WiFi, infra-red, and the like electronic communication means. The electronic device 522 is registered with the supplementary decoder 518 in order to receive the viewership data. However, not all electronic devices registered with the supplementary decoder 518 need to receive the viewership data. The supplementary decoder 518 can be provided with a user option to select which of the electronic devices registered therewith should receive the viewership data and only sends the same to the electronic device specified to receive such data. The user option can be presented on a display of the receiver (e.g. television screen) or a display of the supplementary decoder 518.

Using the electronic device 522, the viewership data can be provided to the viewership data collection entity 526 via a communication link 524. The electronic device 522 may also be provided with an application for enabling the user to edit the viewership data before sending the same to the viewership data collection entity 526. The communication link 524 is an existing communication infrastructure of the electronic device 522 such as a cellular network, Internet connection, land line, fax line, and the like communication links depending on the type of electronic device 522 in use. Thus, the electronic device 522 and communication link 524 serve as a feedback channel for the mono-direction link between a broadcast station and a conventional receiver. For example, if the electronic device 522 is a mobile phone, the viewership data is returned to the viewership data collection entity 526 via the mobile phone cellular network. If the electronic device 522 is a PC, the viewership data can be sent to the viewership data collection entity 526 via an Internet connection using email or any other acceptable file transfer protocols. Alternatively, if the electronic device 522 is a printer, the viewership data printed out by the printer can be faxed to the viewership data collection entity 526 using a fax machine connecting to a telephone line.

In an alternative embodiment, the viewership data can be sent to the viewership data collection entity 526 via a direct communication link 525 as shown in FIG. 5A. The communication link 525 can be a dedicated cable linking the supplementary decoder 518 to the viewership data collection entity 526 or an Internet connection. Thus, the supplementary decoder 518 is integrated with or linked to a modem (not shown) to facilitate the data communication.

In the foregoing embodiments, control can be given to the audience to determine if and when the viewership data should be released to the viewership data collection entity for privacy reasons. This is achieved by providing the audience with an option (e.g. by using a remote controller unit) to instruct the supplementary decoder 518 to compile the viewership data and specify the means for sending the viewership data. Furthermore, the audience can be given the option to decide what information is to be released. For example, the audience may only desire to release viewership data of a specific channel but not all channels viewed by the audience. Other options can also include only providing viewing information on certain days of the week or times of the day. Thus, the audience can decide whether or not to release information on the viewing habit, for example, according to a contractual agreement with the viewership data collection entity 526. Alternatively, the program monitoring application 602 can be programmed to automatically compile the viewership data in a pre-determined format and sends the same to the viewership data collection entity 526 at a specified time.

The method 550 of collecting viewership data using broadcast signals augmented with multiple types of supplementary content for identifying broadcast programs and monitoring the viewership thereof is shown in FIG. 5B. The method 550 includes receiving an AV signal of a broadcast program in step 552 and supplementary content associating with the broadcast program in step 554. In an embodiment, the broadcast program is a television broadcast program. In another embodiment, the broadcast program is a radio broadcast program. The broadcast program can be any information such as movies, news, sports, current affairs, and the like information typically broadcast. The supplementary content can be any information associating with the broadcast program which the audience members may be interested in. The supplementary content can be provided in the form of a XML-type document (structured document) which includes a meta-data portion and a data portion as described in the foregoing. In a multiple supplementary contents environment, the different supplementary contents are distinguished by providing identifying information in the meta-data portion. For example, in an embodiment where monitoring broadcast program viewing by audience members is desired, the supplementary content includes a tag, such as “Program=FRIENDS”, for identifying the broadcast program in the meta-data portion. Further, information relating to the broadcast program segments or episodes (e.g. a summary or still frame shot from the episode) can be provided in the data portion of the supplementary content. Therefore, multiple supplementary contents can be provided and received in step 554, wherein each supplementary content corresponds to a segment or episode of the broadcast program. The tags carried in each supplementary content are small in size. As such, the tags can be sent at a regular interval acting as a type of heart beat for monitoring the viewing of the broadcast program. Furthermore, the tags contained in each sequential supplementary content can be in a sequence. In this way, any missing tags at the viewing side indicate that portions of the broadcast program as indicated by the missing tags are not viewed.

The supplementary content is combined with the non-program portion (e.g. VBI) of the AV signal to provide a data-augmented AV signal in step 556. The data-augmented AV signal is subsequently modulated with a carrier (broadcast) signal to provide a transmit signal for broadcasting to conventional receivers in step 558. The data-augmented AV signal has the same format as the original AV signal. Thus, the data-augmented AV signal can be treated, broadcast and received in the same manner as a conventional television or radio broadcast signal.

In an embodiment, the supplementary content is inserted into the VBI of the AV signal as it is received in step 556. The supplementary content is combined with a specific non-program portion segment of the AV signal to closely reside with the specific program-portion segment of the broadcast program. For example, if a supplementary content is closely related to a segment of the broadcast program, the supplementary content is combined with the non-program portion adjacent to the program portion of the related segment of the broadcast program. Thus, there is synchronization between the segments of the broadcast program with the supplementary contents. In this way, at the receiver end, the audience is presented with the option to download the supplementary content at the appropriate time when the audience is most influenced by the program content segment.

At the receiver end, the transmit signal is received by a conventional receiver. The conventional receiver processes the transmit signal in the conventional manner. Typically, step 560 includes demodulating the transmit signal to provide a base-band signal (i.e. the data-augmented AV signal) which contains the program content and the supplementary content. In the case where the transmit signal is a radio signal, the conventional receiver is a radio receiver and it retrieves the program content from the base-band signal and presents the program content to the listener in audio form. In the case where the transmit signal is a television signal, the conventional receiver is a television receiver and it renders the program content on the television screen. The act of rendering the program content is performed in step 562, a process well known in the art.

At substantially the same time of rendering the program content, the base-band signal is output to a supplementary decoder in step 564. The supplementary decoder retrieves the supplementary content from the base-band signal as described in the foregoing with reference to FIGS. 3A, 4, and 6. In step 564, the supplementary content is further processed by the program monitoring application 602 as described in the foregoing with reference to FIG. 6. The program monitor application 602 scans the meta-data portion of the supplementary content for a tag identifying the broadcast program. Upon successfully detecting the tag, a record (viewership data) is kept in a memory module (not shown) of the supplementary decoder along with the time of the tags detection. The record can be arranged in a pre-determined format such as a table or graphical representation. FIG. 7 shows examples of the record layout. Table 702 shows a summary of the programs viewed for a given day according to channels. Table 710 shows a summary of the programs viewed over a one week period. Table 710 also shows two blocked portions 712 and 714, where the audience chooses to remove viewing information during these periods. Other information in the data portion (e.g. a summary of the program) of the supplementary content can also be included in the record (not shown). Furthermore, the audience can also add extra data 716 into the record. Such extra data 716 can include personal information such as age group, gender, family size, income brackets, ethnic group, location/geography, and the like information.

In an embodiment, the program monitor application 602 can be programmed to automatically and directly send the record to a viewership data collection entity upon detecting the end of the program broadcast. Thus, in step 566, the record is sent to and received by the viewership data collection entity. Further, prior to sending the record to the viewership data collection entity, the supplementary decoder can be provided with an editing application and an option can be given to the audience to edit the record using the editing application. For example, to block out viewing record periods (712 and 714) as shown in table 710 of FIG. 7. In this embodiment, the supplementary decoder is provided with a direct communication link with the viewership data collection entity. In another embodiment, the record can be sent to the viewership data collection entity via an electronic device in step 568. The electronic device can be a printer where the record can be printed out in a hardcopy. Subsequently, the printed record can be sent to the viewership data collection entity using a surface mail or fax machine. Alternatively, the electronic device can be a mobile phone, PC, PDA and the like devices. Therefore, the electronic device can be provided with an editing application so that the audience can further edit the record. In this embodiment, the record is sent to the viewership data collection entity using existing communication infrastructures of the electronic device.

In the foregoing embodiments, the sending of the record can be triggered anytime by the audience. This is achieved by sending an instruction to the supplementary decoder using a remote controller unit, controlling buttons of the supplementary decoder, or by using the electronic device to issue the sending instruction.

In an exemplary embodiment, a viewership data collection entity is interested in surveying the viewing habit of television audience. Using the system 510 and method 550 described in the foregoing, such information can be readily collected. At the broadcasting side, broadcast programs are provided with tags identifying the broadcast programs. The tags can include tags identifying the broadcast channels, names of the broadcast programs as well as episodes of the broadcast programs. These tags can be provided as supplementary contents associating with the broadcast programs. The supplementary contents are provided in the form of structured documents, each containing a meta-data portion for containing the tags and a data portion for containing other data or information relating to the broadcast program. The broadcast program and associated supplementary contents are combined and then modulated with a carrier signal to provide a transmit signal for broadcasting to television receivers.

At the receiver side, the transmit signal is received and demodulated to provide a data-augmented AV signal containing the program content and supplementary contents. The program content is rendered on the television screen. At substantially the same time, the supplementary contents are recovered by a supplementary decoder which is coupled to the television receiver. The supplementary decoder scans the meta-data in the supplementary contents and makes a record of the identities of the tags detected. The supplementary decoder also records the time the tags are detected. This information is compiled in an easy to understand predetermined format, such as a table or a graphical representation, and collectively provide information on the viewing habits of the audience. That is, the record keeps track of the time of the viewing as well as the channels and programs viewed by the audience.

The record can be forwarded to the viewership data collection entity in a number of ways. One way is to send the record in electronic form to the viewership data collection entity directly from the supplementary decoder. Thus, the supplementary decoder is provided with a communication link for transferring the record to the viewership data collection entity. Examples of the communication link include a cable link and an Internet connection. Another way is to send the record to a printer connected to the supplementary decoder. The printed record can then be sent to the viewership data collection entity either by surface mail or by using a fax machine. In yet another way, the record can be sent to an electronic device, such as a mobile phone, PC, or PDA, which subsequently sends the record to the viewership data collection entity using the communication infrastructure of the electronic device. Examples of the communication infrastructure include cellular network in the case of a mobile phone and Internet connection in the case of a PC or PDA. Further, before sending the record, the audience may be given an option to make changes to the record. The audience may want to remove certain information from the record such as viewing habit of a certain channel or during a period of time.

As readily appreciated by those skilled in the art, the described processes may be implemented in hardware, software, firmware or a combination of these implementations as appropriate. For example, the processes of modulating and broadcasting signals may be carried out by hardware component modulators and transmitter systems operable to modulate and broadcast signals at the desired frequency and in the desired format. The described supplementary content processor or supplementary decoder may employ a combination of hardware front-end receiver components operable to additionally demodulate and/or condition the received supplementary content, and firmware/software operable to FEC decode the supplementary content and to store/process the resultant data as well as the output applications and device drivers. In addition, some or all of the described processes may be implemented as computer readable instruction code resident on a computer readable medium (removable disk, volatile or non-volatile memory, embedded processors, etc.), the instruction code operable to program a computer of other such programmable device to carry out the intended functions.

The foregoing description is presented for purposes of illustration and description. It is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise form disclosed, and obviously many modifications and variations are possible in light of the foregoing description. The described embodiments are chosen in order to explain the principles of the invention and its practical application to thereby enable others skilled in the art to utilize the invention in various embodiments and with various modifications as are suited to the particular use contemplated. It is intended that the scope of the invention be defined by the claims appended hereto.