US 20070083886 A1
An arrangement for inserting advertisement media into a streaming multimedia file destined for an end-user uses a caching inserter including a first cache for storing a loaded advertisement file and a second cache for holding the streaming multimedia file that needs to be buffered as the advertisement file is sent to the end-user. The advertisement file may be inserted at the beginning of the multimedia file, the end, or at any point during the stream. Once the advertisement begins to be sent to the end-user, the incoming multimedia stream is cached and then is played out of the cache once the advertisement has ended. As a result of the time delay associated with the advertisement, the remainder of the multimedia file must be cached then played out until the stream is complete.
2. An arrangement for inserting an alteration media into a streaming multimedia file destined for at least one predetermined end-user, the arrangement comprising
a first cache for storing a received alternative media file;
a second cache for storing a streaming multimedia file;
a control unit for receiving as a first input a control signal from said first cache and generating as an output a switching control signal indicative of the presence or absence of a complete alternative media file being stored in said first cache; and
a switching mechanism, coupled to each one of said control unit, said first cache, said second cache and said streaming multimedia file for providing as an output, directed to the at least one end-user, a stream selected from one of said first cache, said streaming multimedia file and said second cache, as controlled by said switching output signal from said control unit so as to insert the alternative media file at a predetermined location in the stream, including either one of the beginning and the end of the streaming multimedia file,
wherein the control signal output from the first cache indicates that a complete alternative file is stored and is ready for transmission to the predetermined at least one end-user, or will be ready in time to transmit.
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The present invention relates to a methodology for inserting data such as advertising in streaming media and, more particularly, to a method for inserting such data at arbitrary locations along the stream.
Traditional methods of delivery of multimedia data to end users fail into two categories: 1) broadcast industry methods and 2) computer industry methods. Broadcast methods (including motion picture, cable, television network, and record industries) generally provide storage in the form of analog or digitally recorded tape. The playing of tapes causes isochronous data streams to be generated which are then moved through broadcast industry equipment to the end user. Computer methods generally provide storage in the form of disks, or disks augmented with tape, and record data in compressed digital formats such as DVI, JPEG and MPEG. On request, computers deliver non-isochronous data streams to the end user, where hardware buffers and special application code smooths the data streams to enable continuous viewing or listening,
“Streaming media” is now considered to be a term of art and defines the capability to download multimedia files in real time (or “near real” time) and play the file on an end-user device, such as through a set-top box on a television or on a computer display device.
In the current state of the technology, it is possible to also download advertisements (or other media) to end users once the video or other presented material in the stream is completed. The need to “wait” until the end of the program thus limits the number, as well as the duration of advertisements that can be presented to end users.
Thus, a need remains in the art for an arrangement capable of inserting other video sources into a streaming media download.
The need remaining in the art is addressed by the present invention, which relates to a methodology for inserting data such as advertising in streaming media and, more particularly, to a method for inserting such data at arbitrary locations along the stream.
In accordance with the present invention, a “caching inserter” system is disposed at a local point of presence (POP) which intercepts a video stream destined for an end user. When insertion of advertising (or other information—such as a “news” bulletin weather information, for example) is desired, the video stream is stored/buffered at the local POP and the advertisement is played. When the ad is completed, the first stream is then played out of the buffer. Once the video has begun to enter and fill the buffer (that is once an ad is inserted in the stream), the buffer must remain in the signal path for the duration of the video stream.
In an alternative embodiment of the present invention, the ad may first be loaded into a buffer at the POP and once the ad has begun, the concatenation point of the video stream can be appended to the end of the advertisement file. In this case, the length of the advertisement need not be monitored and no further action is required, since the video stream will simply re-commence when the ad is finished.
The POP where the advertisement cache is located could be at any convenient place along the signal path between the information source(s) and the end-user. For example, the advertisement cache could be at the headend, or at a FTTH node in a neighborhood. At the extreme, the advertisement cache could be part of a set-top box at the end-user location. Obviously, the location of the advertisement cache then affects the number of separate end users that can receive the same advertisement. Particularly, the further upstream the advertisement cache is located, the greater the broadcast potential of a particular ad. Advantageously, however, judicious location and control of various advertisement contents can be incorporated into the present invention such that content can be targeted to particular end users.
It is an advantage of a particular arrangement of the present invention that the requirement of passing an advertisement stream through a cache allows for various statistics to be collected at the POP, such as the number of times a particular ad is played, the number of end users that viewed the ad, the time of day and day of week the ad was played, etc. Such information can then be collected by a billing system and used to derive price information for use with the advertisement suppliers.
Various other features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent during the course of the following discussion and by reference to the accompanying drawings.
Referring now to the drawings,
An exemplary architecture for supporting the insertion of an alternative message into streaming multimedia in accordance with the present invention is illustrated in
In accordance with the present invention, additional components have been implemented in the communication path to allow for advertisements (or other messages, as mentioned above) to be inserted in streaming multimedia in a seamless fashion, that is, without the need to “wait” for predetermined time slots or breaks in the multimedia stream. Referring to
In operation, a specific end-user first requests a particular multimedia file to be accessed and streamed into one of his devices. Referring to
In accordance with the present invention, once caching inserter 30 has an advertisement file available (either stored, or available as a stream from the advertisement server), the incoming (requested) multimedia file destined for end-user 10 can be cached, and the advertisement multimedia file streamed in its place to end-user 10 in a seamless manner. The multimedia file itself is not stopped at any point, but is continuously cached by caching inserter 30 as it is received from streaming media server 26. At the end of the advertisement file, the stored multimedia stream is played out and, for the duration of the stream, will continue to pass through a cache, since there will continue to be a time delay between the incoming stream to caching inserter 30 and the outgoing stream to end-user 10 (the “delay” being the length of the inserted advertisement). Since the end time of the advertisement is known by caching inserter 30. the streaming multimedia file can merely be appended to the end of the advertisement, allowing the playing of the requested file to recommence in a seamless manner without further action required by caching inserter 30.
As shown in
Although only one such end-user is shown in
In one embodiment of the present invention, the multimedia stream will begin to reach the end-user before an advertisement is inserted, as represented by diagram A in
While the arrangement as described above illustrates the various servers as being in geographically disparate locations, it is to be understood that one or more may be co-located. Additionally, as noted above, the caching inserter of the present invention may be disposed at any location between the various content servers and the end-user. Indeed, various other modifications to the arrangement as described above will occur to those skilled in the art and are considered to fall within the spirit and scope of the present invention as defined by the claims appended hereto.