US 20060288366 A1
A program guide system is provided in which local advertisements may be distributed to interactive television program guides implemented on the user television equipment associated with a television distribution facility such as a cable system headend. The local advertisements contain information that is directed toward the particular users in a local area. The local advertisements may be displayed when a user selects a related global advertisement. The local advertisements may also be displayed automatically by cycling global advertisements and local advertisements. Advertisements may be blocked based on content or time shifted. Policies regarding advertisement usage may be enforced.
47. A system in which advertisements are distributed to user television equipment on which an interactive television program guide is implemented, comprising:
means for distributing the advertisements to the user television equipment; and
means for displaying only some of the advertisements on the user television equipment with the interactive television program guide based on the content of the advertisements.
48. The system defined in
49. The system defined in
means for providing the advertisements with content tags indicating the content of the advertisements; and
means for displaying only those advertisements with desired content tags.
50. The system defined in
51. The system defined in
52. The system defined in
53. The system defined in
54. The system defined in
55. A method for using a system in which advertisements are distributed to user television equipment on which an interactive television program guide is implemented, comprising the steps of:
distributing the advertisements to the user television equipment; and
displaying only some of the advertisements on the user television equipment with the interactive television program guide based on the content of the advertisements.
56. The method defined in
57. The method defined in
providing the advertisements with content tags indicating the content of the advertisements; and
displaying only those advertisements with desired content tags.
58. The method defined in
59. The method defined in
60. The method defined in
61. The method defined in
62. The method defined in
This invention relates to interactive television program guides, and more particularly, to techniques for providing local advertising with such interactive television program guides.
Passive television program guides provide a scrolling or paged list of television program listings on a dedicated television channel. A television user may view the television program listings by tuning to the dedicated channel. The upper portion of a passive program guide display may be used to display advertising videos and associated text descriptions. The content of the text descriptions may be targeted toward particular regions.
Interactive television program guides allow television users to perform more advanced operations, such as displaying program listings in formats that are selected by the user, genre searching, pay-per-view ordering, etc. Interactive program guides are typically implemented on microprocessor-based set-top boxes. Program listings data is transmitted to the set-top boxes from a centralized data distribution facility via the user's cable system headend. The program listings data is typically stored in memory in the set-top box, where it may be accessed by the interactive program guide.
Interactive program guides may be used to display advertisements, as described in Knudson et al. U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/034,939, filed Mar. 4, 1998, Knudson et al. U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/070,604, filed Apr. 30, 1998, Knudson et al. U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/070,555, filed Apr. 30, 1998, and Boylan, III et al. U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/070,700, filed Apr. 30, 1998, which are hereby incorporated by reference herein in their entireties. Interactive program guide advertisements provide the user with useful information on various products and services. For example, interactive program guide advertisements may be used to promote upcoming television programs. Interactive program guide advertisements may also be used to promote non-programming products and services.
Because interactive television program guide advertisements may be distributed nationally from a central facility, such advertisements are suitable for promoting products and services on a national basis. If interactive program guide advertisements are distributed only on a national basis, however, users will not be provided with as much useful local advertising information as might otherwise be possible.
It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide an interactive television program guide system in which users may be provided with local program guide advertising.
This and other objects of the invention are accomplished in accordance with the principles of the present invention by providing a system in which local (i.e., non-global) advertisements are provided to interactive television program guides that are implemented on the user television equipment associated with a television distribution facility.
The data for the local advertisements may be distributed to the interactive television program guides in a number of ways. For example, local advertising data may be included in a global data stream that is transmitted from a main facility to multiple television distribution facilities. The global data stream may also contain global advertising data and program guide data. The television distribution facilities distribute the global data stream to the user television equipment. The interactive program guides in the user television equipment may extract the local advertising data that is addressed to that user television equipment or to its associated television distribution facility.
Another approach involves inserting local advertising data into the global data stream. Local advertising data may be inserted into a portion of the bandwidth of the global data stream that is reserved for local advertisements. Local advertising data may also be inserted into the global data stream by overwriting certain global advertisements. If desired, local advertising data may be transmitted from the television distribution facility to the user television equipment using a separate data stream. These advertising distribution schemes are illustrative. Any suitable form of digital multiplexing may be used to distribute global and local advertisements on single or multiple data streams if desired.
Local advertisements may be displayed on the user television equipment by the interactive television program guide. Local advertisements may be displayed whenever a user selects a displayed global advertisement. A local advertisement that is displayed in this way may have content that is related to the content of the selected global advertisement. If desired, the program guide may cycle global and local advertisements on the user television equipment. Local advertisements may also be shown in place of certain global advertisements if desired.
Further features of the invention, its nature and various advantages will be more apparent from the accompanying drawings and the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments.
A conventional passive television program guide system 10 is shown in
The global video and data streams are transmitted to multiple cable system headends 20. The cable system headends are typically in different geographic regions. The cable system headend in each region contains a computer that extracts the advertising text appropriate for that region and the television program listings for the region. The region-appropriate advertising text is combined on a single screen with the promotional videos and the program listings for that region. The combined screen is provided to cable system subscribers at televisions 22 via cable links 24 on a dedicated television channel. The layout of a typical passive program guide screen is shown in
The passive program guide system of
A conventional interactive television program guide system is shown in
Set-top boxes 34 contain memory in which the program listings information is stored. Set-top boxes 34 also contain a processor for implementing the interactive television program guide. The program guide implemented on each set-top box 34 is capable of displaying various program listings on an associated television 36. For example, program listings for pay-per-view programs may be displayed, as shown in the upper screen of
Although the arrangement of
An illustrative program guide system 44 in accordance with the present invention is shown in
Television distribution facility 52 is a facility for distributing television signals to users, such as a cable system headend, a broadcast distribution facility, or a satellite television distribution facility.
The program guide information transmitted by main facility 46 to television distribution facility 52 includes television program listings data such as program times, channels, titles, descriptions, etc. Transmitted program information also includes pay program data such as pricing information for individual programs and subscription channels, time windows for ordering programs and channels, telephone numbers for placing orders that cannot be impulse ordered, etc.
The advertising information transmitted by main facility 46 to television distribution facility 52 may include text, graphics, and video advertisements for various products and services. Global advertisements (e.g., national advertisements or advertisements distributed uniformly over some other suitable wide-scale geographic area) may be distributed from main facility 46 to multiple television distribution facilities 52, as shown in
Each television distribution facility 52 distributes advertisements to users at associated user television equipment 54 via communications links 56. If desired, some advertising information may be provided using advertising database 57 in television distribution facility 52. For example, local advertising may be provided using advertising database 57. Advertising database 57 may also be used to temporarily cache national advertising data transmitted from main facility 46. Advertising database 57 may contain a server capable of handling text, graphics, and video.
User television equipment 54 may be any suitable equipment for providing television to the user that contains sufficient processing capabilities to implement an interactive television program guide. Paths 56 may be cable links, fiber-optic links, satellite links, broadcast links, or other suitable link or combination of such links. Any suitable communications scheme may be used to transmit data over paths 56, including in-band transmissions, vertical blanking interval transmissions, out-of-band transmissions, digital transmissions, analog transmissions, cable transmissions, satellite transmissions, over-the-air transmissions, multichannel multipoint distribution services (MMDS) transmissions, etc.
The data distribution technique that is used to distribute data on paths 56 depends on the type of information that is being distributed. For example, text and graphics may be distributed over an out-of-band channel using an out-of-band modulator. Video information may also be distributed in this way, although large quantities of video information may be more efficiently distributed using one or more digital channels on path 56. Such digital channels may also be used for distributing text and graphics.
Each user has a receiver, which is typically a set-top box such as set-top box 58, but which may be other suitable television equipment such as an advanced television receiver into which circuitry similar to set-top-box circuitry has been integrated or a personal computer television (PC/TV). Data such as program guide data may be distributed to set-top boxes periodically. Television distribution facility 52 may also poll set-top boxes 58 periodically for certain information (e.g., pay program account information or information regarding programs that have been purchased and viewed using locally-generated authorization techniques).
Main facility 46 preferably contains a processor to handle information distribution tasks. Each set-top box 58 preferably contains a processor to handle tasks associated with implementing the interactive television program guide. Television distribution facility 52 may contain a processor for handling tasks associated with data distribution.
Each set-top box 58 is typically connected to an optional videocassette recorder 60 so that selected television programs may be recorded. Each videocassette recorder 60 is connected to a television 62. To record a program, the interactive television program guide implemented on set-top box 58 tunes set-top box 58 to a particular channel and sends control signals to videocassette recorder 60 (e.g., using an infrared transmitter) that direct videocassette recorder 60 to start and stop recording at the appropriate times.
During use of the program guide, television program listings, advertisements, and other information may be displayed on television 62. Each set-top box 58, videocassette recorder 60, and television 62 may be controlled by one or more remote controls 64 or any other suitable user input interface such as a wireless keyboard, mouse, trackball, dedicated set of keys, etc. A typical remote control 64 has cursor keys for positioning a highlight region on the program guide screen and an “OK” or select button for selecting a highlighted item on the screen. Other typical remote control buttons include function buttons such as a record button, channel up and down buttons, volume control buttons, numeric keys, etc.
Communications paths 56 preferably have sufficient bandwidth to allow television distribution facility 52 to distribute television programming, program listings information, advertisements, and other information to user television equipment 54. Multiple television and audio channels (analog, digital, or both analog and digital) may be provided to user television equipment 54 via communications paths 56. If desired, certain data such as program listings data may be distributed by one or more distribution facilities that are separate from television distribution facility 52 using communications paths that are at least partly separate from communications paths 56.
Certain functions such as pay program purchasing or the purchasing of products or services may require that user television equipment 54 transmit data to television distribution facility 52 over communications paths 56. If desired, such data may be transmitted over telephone lines or other separate communications paths. If functions such as these are provided using facilities separate from television distribution facility 52, some of the communications involving user television equipment 54 may be made directly with the separate facilities.
Users of the interactive television program guide may interactively order additional information, products, or services. For example, a user may place an order by selecting an advertisement displayed in the program guide. Such orders may be satisfied by fulfillment facilities 66 and 68. If desired, orders may be transmitted directly to fulfillment facilities such as fulfillment facility 66 via links 70, which may be telephone links, the Internet, or other suitable communications links. Orders may also be transmitted to television distribution facility 52 via links 56 (e.g., two-way cable), where the billing system of the television distribution facility may be used. After the television distribution facility 52 has processed the user's order, television distribution facility 52 may transmit the order to fulfillment facility 68 via link 72.
A number of suitable techniques may be used to distribute videos related to advertising from television distribution facility 52 to user television equipment 54. For example, if each path 56 includes a number of traditional analog television channels, one or more of these channels may be used to support a number of digital channels. The bandwidth of each analog channel that is used to support digital channels may support ten or more of such digital channels. If desired, videos may be provided from television distribution facility 52 in a continuously looped arrangement on these digital channels. Information provided to set-top box 58 may then be used to determine which digital channels to tune to when it is time to display a desired video. For example, if it is desired to display a local advertisement in place of a national advertisement, set-top box 58 may tune to a digital channel containing the local advertisement at an appropriate time. Alternatively, videos may be provided by television distribution facility 52 on demand. With this approach, set-top box 58 and television distribution facility 52 may negotiate to determine a channel on which to provide the desired video. Videos that originate from main facility 46, a separate facility, or from television distribution facility 52 (e.g., from advertising database 57) may be distributed to user television equipment 54 using these or other suitable techniques. If desired, videos and other information may be distributed to user television equipment 54 using servers located at network nodes between television distribution facility 52 and user television equipment 54.
Graphics information for advertisements may be downloaded from television distribution facility 52 to user television equipment 54 periodically (e.g., once every 10 minutes or once per day). The graphics information may be accessed locally when needed by the program guide. Alternatively, graphics information may be provided in a continuously-looped arrangement on one or more digital channels on paths 56. With such a continuously-looped arrangement, a map indicating the location of the latest graphics information is preferably downloaded periodically to set-top boxes 58 (e.g., once per day). This allows the content on the digital channels to be updated. The program guides on set-top boxes 58 may use the map to locate desired graphics information on the digital channels. Another approach involves using advertising database 57 to provide the graphics information after a set-top box 58 and television distribution facility 52 have negotiated to set up a download operation. A bitmap or other suitable set of graphics information may then be downloaded from the advertising database to the set-top box. If desired, television distribution facility 52 may download instructions informing the set-top box where the desired graphics information can be located on a particular digital channel. The graphics information can be updated periodically if user television equipment 54 is informed of the current location of the graphics information.
Text information for advertisements may be distributed from television distribution facility 52 to user television equipment 54 using the same paths that are used for distributing program guide data. For example, advertising data may be distributed over an out-of-band channel on paths 56. The text information may be stored locally in set-top boxes 58 and updated periodically (e.g., once per day).
Videos, graphics, and text for advertisements may also be distributed from television distribution facility 52 to user television equipment 54 using a combination of these techniques or any other suitable technique.
Television distribution facility 52 distributes both global and local advertisements to user television equipment 54. Global advertisements are national advertisements or advertisements that are distributed uniformly over some other such large geographic area. A typical global advertisement might be for a certain brand of automobile, because the same automobiles are typically available nationwide. Local advertisements are advertisements whose content is generally tailored to a particular region or to a particular group of users. Examples of typical regions for which local advertisements may be provided include cities, metropolitan areas, states, multi-state regions (e.g., New England), etc. A typical local advertisement for one such region might be for an automobile dealership, because automobile dealerships usually serve only certain geographic regions. An example of a special group of users for which local advertisements may be provided is the group of users that are associated with all of the cable systems of a given cable system operator. A typical local advertisement for this type of group might be an advertisement for a new cable system channel or a promotional offer.
Global advertisements are preferably distributed to all television distribution facilities 52 in a global area in parallel. For example, if television distribution facilities 52 are cable system headends or groups of headends at various locations around the country and link 53 is a satellite link, a national advertisement for an automobile may be transmitted to, e.g., thousands of such cable system headends via satellite at substantially the same time. Such wide-scale distribution makes efficient use of the parallel data distribution capabilities of system 44. Parallel distribution of global data by satellite is, however, only one illustrative way in which global advertising data may be distributed. Any other suitable data distribution technique, including serial data distribution schemes and data distribution schemes using other types of communications links 53, may be used if desired.
Local advertisements may be provided to television distribution facilities 52 for redistribution to user equipment 54 using a number of different techniques. As shown in
Other data 80 such as program listings data may also be transmitted in the global data stream. This type of distribution scheme may be most appropriate for local advertisements containing text and graphics, although local advertisements containing video may also be distributed in this way if desired.
As shown in
As shown in
If desired, filters may be used at both television distribution facilities 52 and user television equipment 54. With such an arrangement, the filter at each television distribution facility 52 may provide a first layer of filtering and the filters at the user television equipment 54 associated with each television distribution facility 52 may provide a second layer of filtering.
Another way in which local advertisements may be provided to users is shown in
After the local advertisement has been inserted into the global data stream, television distribution facility 52 may transmit the lower data stream of
The program guide implemented on user television equipment 54 may present local advertisements to the user in a number of different ways. For example, the program guide may initially display a program guide screen such as program guide screen 95, which is shown as the upper screen in
Steps involved in presenting local advertisement 104 of
Another arrangement for displaying local advertisements is shown in
Steps involved in displaying local advertisements using the arrangement of
The arrangements of
If such advertisements are selectable, the user may be provided with an opportunity to purchase an advertised product or service. The user may place an order for a product by selecting an advertisement, may request a catalog by selecting an advertisement, may generate a coupon by selecting an advertisement, may request a telephone call from a salesperson by selecting an advertisement, may request information on how to contact a salesperson at a local store by selecting an advertisement, etc. These examples are illustrative only. Any suitable type of product or service may be promoted or ordered using a selectable advertisement if desired.
The user may also be provided with an opportunity to purchase programming by selecting an advertisement. For example, the user may be provided with an opportunity to impulse purchase a pay-per-view program. The user may also be provided with an opportunity to purchase a video-on-demand program or a near-video-on-demand program. These examples are illustrative. The user may purchase any suitable type of programming by selecting a selectable advertisement if desired.
In addition, the user may be provided with an opportunity for setting a reminder for a particular program when the user selects a selectable advertisement for a program. The program guide may also be directed to take other actions in the program guide when the user selects a selectable advertisement. For example, the program guide may be directed to record a given program when the use selects an advertisement for a that program. These examples are illustrative, the program guide may be directed to take any suitable action in the program guide when the user selects a selectable advertisement if desired.
As illustrated in
Another aspect of the invention relates to providing advertisements with content tags so that users or the operators of television distribution facilities may block certain advertisements based on their content. This may be useful when certain advertisements (e.g., advertisements for adult programming) offend the sensibilities of a particular user or community. As shown in
At step 134, the advertisements with content tags are distributed by system 53. Advertisements with undesired content are blocked at step 136. If desired, a suitable global advertisement, local advertisement, or back-up message (e.g., a blank screen or an advertisement for a service provider) may be displayed by the program guide in place of the blocked advertisement at step 138. The advertisement displayed in place of an advertisement that was blocked because it was deemed to be offensive preferably contains inoffensive material.
The distribution and blocking of steps 134 and 136 may be performed using any suitable arrangement. For example, advertisements with content tags may be distributed in one or more data streams to user television equipment 54 by main facility 46 and television distribution facilities 52 and undesired advertisements may be filtered from such a data stream or streams at user television equipment 54. Another approach is for television distribution facilities 52 to perform filtering of the undesired advertisements. These approaches are illustrative only. Any suitable approach may be used for blocking advertisements based on content if desired. For example, user television equipment may block advertisements based on a keyword search (e.g., for words of graphic language in the text of the advertisement or for words based on an item of interest), rather than relying on content tags supplied at main facility 46.
At step 140, the user, system operator, or other entity may select the blocking (filtering) criteria to be used at step 136. For example, the system operator might block all advertisements for adult programming. The user might block all advertisements with graphic language. The user might also selectively allow advertisements for electronic equipment to be displayed by selecting the electronic equipment category. If the user selects a category such as the electronic equipment category, at step 136 all advertisements are blocked except those with a content (as indicated by content tags, keyword search, or other suitable technique) that is related to equipment.
Another aspect of the invention relates to time shifting certain advertisements. In some circumstances it may be desirable for an advertisement to be time shifted, so that it may better reach its intended audience. For example, a network television program may be broadcast at 8:00 PM eastern time and 7:00 PM mountain time (even though eastern time and mountain time are two time zones apart). If an advertisement is distributed nationally and aired just before 8:00 PM eastern time (e.g., at 7:55 PM eastern time), that advertisement (if not time shifted) will be aired at 5:55 PM mountain time. This may be undesirable, because a 5:55 PM advertisement for a 7:00 PM television program may not be as effective as a 6:55 PM advertisement for a 7:00 PM television program. Accordingly, in this situation it may be desirable to delay (time shift) the display of the 5:55 PM mountain time advertisement until 6:55 PM mountain time.
Steps involved in advertisement time shifting are shown in
Another aspect of the invention relates to implementing policies related to advertisement usage by television distribution facilities 52. For example, it may be desired to prohibit television distribution facilities 52 from time-shifting certain advertisements. It may also be desired to prohibit television distribution facilities 52 from modifying a given advertisement (e.g., by overwriting that advertisement or by providing a corresponding local advertisement).
As shown in
One illustrative approach for implementing the steps of
Another approach for implementing the steps of
The foregoing is merely illustrative of the principles of this invention and various modifications can be made by those skilled in the art without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention.