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Interactive Search for
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Recelved-7 Provide Interactive
Video/Receive User ~ 54 Feedback 6 Provide Menu Add Receive Pay-Per-View Choice
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1 METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR PROVIDING INCENTIVES FOR VIEWERS TO WATCH COMMERCIAL ADVERTISEMENTS
The present invention relates to a set top box apparatus for tracking television viewing activities, and more particularly, to a method and apparatus for providing incentives for viewers to watch television advertisements.
DESCRIPTION OF THE RELATED ART
Since the origin of home television in the 1940’s, the primary source of revenue for television networks has been paid advertisements that are interspersed between television programming of entertaimnent or news information as “commercials” for products and services. Typically 15 to 60 seconds in length, television commercials are grouped together as predefined breaks in the broadcast of a television show, occurring after every few minutes of television programming. Every one hour of television programming typically has approximately sixteen (16) minutes of commercials. The number of commercials and the timing between placement of the commercials are often dependent upon the type of television show (i.e., sporting event, game show, movie, or sitcom) or the format of the program (i.e., live or pre-recorded). For many advertisers, television commercial advertising is a primary avenue for promoting products and services to potential customers.
Television advertising is generally more effective when aired during popular television programs that are watched by many viewers who are interested in buying the types of products or services that are advertised. In determining whether a television program may be appropriate for particular advertisements, advertisers typically consider whether the program attracts large numbers of viewers who are in the same age group, gender, and income level, and have similar interests with those who tend to purchase the products to be advertised. Selecting the placement of advertising in this manner increases the likelihood that viewers who watch the advertisement will be interested in or may otherwise influence household purchasing decisions concerning products advertised during the program.
Although advertisements are selected for television programs that are likely to be watched by consumers who might be interested in the advertised products or services, these advertisements are ineffective if they are not actually watched by consumers. For example, during commercial breaks, television viewers often change television stations to temporarily switch to another television program, chat with others during the commercial break, or otherwise divert their attention from the aired commercials until the television program resumes. Those who pre-record television programs using video cassette recorders (“VCRs”) or television “replay” systems (“TiVO”) can quickly fast-forvvard through commercial breaks to bypass the aired commercials altogether.
Using presently available market research tools, broadcast networks and advertisers can estimate how many households are watching particular television programs and advertisements. For example, the AC NielsenTM ratings system tracks television viewing activities in a sampling of households, and by extrapolation it can estimate the number of viewers for different television shows across the country. Advertisers use market research companies to conduct focus group interviews and study the effectiveness of different types of television advertisements. These techniques may assist advertisers
in creating more effective advertising campaigns and selecting appropriate television programs during which to advertise. However, market research can only provide survey estimates based upon a small sampling of the general public, and car1r1ot ascertain whether viewers are actually watching an advertiser’s television commercials during television programrning.
Television advertisements often include recognizable jingles or slogans or comical themes to entice consumers to watch the commercials. However, without an incentive to watch the commercials, consumers are likely to disregard the majority of television advertisements that occur during a television program. Even when consumers watch the television advertisements, they are more likely to remember the j ingle or comical aspects of a commercial than its corporate, promotional message.
Accordingly, there is a need for a method and system for tracking television commercial viewing habits in households, to provide incentives for consumers to watch television commercials, and to increase the effectiveness of television commercial advertising.
In view of the difliculties described above, there is a need for a method and system to provide an incentive for viewers to watch television commercial advertisements during television programming. In a first embodiment, a user is prompted during commercial breaks to depress one or more pushbuttons on the television remote control at certain times to confirm that the user is watching the advertisements. A set top box connected to the television receives and decodes the signal from the remote control. When the user responds properly to a prompt, the set top box increments a tally maintained in the set top box memory to accumulate points by which the user can earn rewards.
In a second embodiment, the user depresses a pushbutton on the television remote control during commercial breaks when the user is interested in the subject matter discussed in a commercial. When either the television program ends or the user desires to stop watching television, the system retrieves a questionnaire or interactive video for each selected advertisement, which corresponds to the selected advertisements. By completing a questionnaire or interactive video, the user can then either accumulate points for rewards or receive coupons for the selected advertisements.
A third embodiment provides a method for subsidizing the cost of a pay-per-view video movie or another television program by providing one or more questionnaires or interactive videos before the desired program is to be transmitted. The set top box maintains a directory of commercial advertisers and a history of the questionnaires that were previously provided, and prompts the user through an interactive dialog to select one or more interactive commercial advertisements that would be of interest to the user. After the user completes selected questionnaires or interactive videos, the desired program is then provided by the broadcast network. As an alternative, the set top box may also print coupons that correspond the selected advertisements.
An object of the present invention is to provide a method for providing an incentive for a viewer to watch commercial advertisements displayed during network pro gramrning. Prompts are provided during commercial breaks for a viewer to provide an indicated response within an indicated time period. Viewer responses to the prompts are detected, and a point tally is increased when the viewer provides the indi
cated response within the indicated time period, such that the viewer can receive a reward when the tally reaches a certain number of points.
It is also an object of the present invention to provide a method for providing advertisement information selected by a viewer. Prompts are received from the viewer during commercial breaks in television programming to select comrnercial advertisements of interest to the viewer. When a prompt is received from the viewer to receive additional information relating to the selected commercial advertisements, additional advertisement information relating to at least one of the selected commercial advertisements is provided. A reward is provided to the viewer for reviewing additional advertisement information.
It is a further object of the present invention to provide a method for providing advertisement information selected by a viewer. The viewer is prompted to select from a plurality of categories of products or services. Selections are received from the viewer in response to prompts to identify a particular category of products or services of interest. Advertisement information relating to at least one of the products or services in the selected category is provided, and a discount for television programming is provided as a reward to the viewer for reviewing the selected advertisement information.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram of a set top box according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 2 is a flow diagram for prompting a user during commercial advertisements and monitoring user responses using the set top box of FIG. 1 according to the preferred embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 3 is a flow diagram for providing incentives to a user to watch television commercials using the set top box of FIG. 1, through a tally system according to the present invention.
FIG. 4 is a flow diagram for providing questiormaires or interactive videos to a viewer using the system of FIG. 1 after selecting commercials of interest provided during television broadcasting.
FIG. 5 is a flow diagram for providing questiormaires or interactive videos concerning advertisements of interest to a viewer using the system of FIG. 1 and providing a reduced price pay-per-view television program as a reward.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
The present invention provides a set top box for a cable television or satellite television system that stores files in a local memory containing questiormaires, interactive videos, or other information relating to commercial advertisements that are broadcast over a television network. By responding to prompts during commercial breaks or by completing questionnaires or participating in interactive videos before or after a television program, users eam points that can be redeemed for prizes and rewards to provide an incentive for the users to watch television commercials.
The present invention will now be described in more detail with reference to the figures. FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram of a set top box 10 according to the preferred embodiment of the present invention. The set top box receives encoded television signals either from satellite receiver 11a or cable feed line 11b, which is fed to a tuner/demodulator 12 for receiving digital signals. The tuner/demodulator 12 tunes to the frequency of a broadcast stream that is selected by a user. The tuner/demodulator 12 feeds into an MPEG-2 decoder 13a in
a central processing unit 13 in set top box 10. The tuner 12 tunes to the frequency of a selected MPEG-2 transport stream, which is then decoded in the MPEG-2 decoder 13a and fed to the television.
Programming subscription memory 13b in CPU 13 maintains a list of television stations that are available to the viewer in accordance with the subscription plan arranged by the user of the set top box. In order to select a channel, CPU 13 receives signals from a remote control 15a via remote control sensor 15. The selected signal is decoded and divided into stereo audio and video signals, which are fed to the television via audio and video line out jacks 16.
Set top box 10 also includes a network connection/modem 14, by which the box 1 0 can transmit and receive data from the cable or satellite television system provider. The preferred network connection is an ADSL modem. Other upstream transmission devices are also possible, such as a DOCSIS cable modem or a 56 k baud modem over a telephone line. In known satellite television systems, the set top box initiates a call to the satellite system service provider to provide billing information and to credit the user’s account for pay-per-view or movie-on-demand requests and transactions. As will be described below, a telephone modem also can be used in the present invention to receive questiormaires and interactive videos, or to send incentive tally information to an extemal “awards” network to provide awards to a user for watching television commercials and/ or providing feedback regarding the commercials. An ADSL line is preferred to a presently available 56 k baud modem because of the reduced upload and download time.
Set top box 10 of the present invention additionally includes television commercial review detector 13c. Detector 13c receives responses from a television viewer who is utilizing the incentives system of the present invention as described below, via remote control 15a and receiver/ sensor 15. RAM 17 stores files accessed by CPU 13 during operation of the incentives system, such as questionnaire database 17a, responses/ activity monitor 17b, and incentives program 17c. Memory intensive files are stored in hard disk 18, such as interactive advertiser videos 18a.
Operation of the incentives system according to the first embodiment of the present invention is now described with reference to FIG. 2. In this embodiment, a user is periodically prompted during television commercials to enter specified codes on the user’s remote control unit. When the system detects that the user has entered the proper code in response to a prompt, a tally is incremented in the television set top box memory. In this manner, the system is checking whether the user is actually watching the television commercials. As the tally accumulates points, the user becomes eligible for discounts or prizes from the network, thereby providing an incentive for the user to watch the broadcast television commercials.
A user indicates that he/ she wishes to initiate a session with the incentive system in step 20 of FIG. 2. The user’s remote control may include a dedicated “incentives program” pushbutton, or the user may depress one or a series of pushbuttons in response to a prompt that is either displayed on the television or set top box system, or heard as an audio clip on the television speakers. The user may also be required to identify himself/ herself to distinguish between different members of a household. Alternatively, the television system may be configured to automatically begin a new session or continue an existing session each time that a television is turned on.
As a new session begins, television broadcasting is provided to a household television through a set top box, in step 21. As described in FIG. 1, the user can access television
stations included in the user’s programming subscription via a remote controller unit. Television commercials are intermittently displayed on the television during television commercial breaks from television programming. During the broadcasting of television commercials, instruction signals or prompts are provided to the user on either the set top box or the television display, in step 22. The set top box may provide a display that prompts the user to press one or more pushbuttons at certain times during television commercials. However, in the preferred embodiment, the set top box may locally insert this instruction, either through audio, video, or a combination of both, onto the television display itself, during or after the commercial. As another possibility, the television broadcasting network may incorporate such instruction signals directly into the television broadcast of commercials.
The set top box 10 of FIG. 1 detects if a response to a prompt is received through IR receiver/ sensor 15 via Commercial Review Detector 13c, in step 23. If the user presses a pushbutton during the commercial break, the set top box analyzes the user’s response in step 24. The user may use a remote controller unit for any of several ptuposes, such as to change television chamiels, adjust the television volume, create a picture-in-picture display, etc. Although there may be one or more dedicated pushbuttons on the remote control for responding to television commercial prompts, it is also possible that the incentives system utilizes some remote control pushbuttons for multiple ptuposes. For example, a television prompt during a commercial break may read, “Please press ‘*’ followed by ‘756’ during this commercial.”
The system checks in step 24 whether the user presses the appropriate keys on the remote control in response to a television commercial prompt. The particular configuration of the checker system depends upon whether the prompt is generated locally in the set top box or regionally by the broadcast network. For example, if the prompt is generated by the set top box for local insertion into the television display, then responses/activity monitor 17b detects whether the user responds within a certain number of seconds after the set top box 10 generated the prompt. However, if the prompt is broadcast by the television network, then responses/activity monitor 17b may periodically download codes and acceptable response timing information via the network connection 14 from the television network. In such case, the set top box maintains a database of remote controller codes and corresponding time periods when the codes are to be transmitted by a user.
If a response is not received in the set top box, the system in step 25 continues the broadcasting of television programming in step 21 in the normal fashion. However, if the user provides the appropriate response within the proper timing, then the system increases a tally in a database in the set top box, in step 26. Set top box 10 can be configured to maintain either a separate tally count for each individual user or a combined tally count for all users in the household.
FIG. 3 is a flow diagram that illustrates the steps for logging out of a session and redeeming earned points for a prize or discount. Upon receiving a signal that the user desires to log off, in step 30, the system retrieves and displays the tally for the incentive system, stored in RAM 17 of set top box 10, in step 31. The system then retrieves the user’s account information from incentives program 17c in RAM 17 and displays a description of the rewards that are available to the user based upon the number of accumulated points, in step 32. The system then waits to receive a selection based upon the displayed choices, in step 33.
If the system detects in step 34 an indication that the user desires to redeem the accumulated points for a reward, then
the set top box connects to an external network in step 35, via network connection 14 in set top box 10. The operation of the extemal network may be sponsored by the digital satellite network or the cable television provider. Alternatively, the extemal network may be operated by a separate market research company aifiliated with the digital satellite or cable television provider. The set top box 10 then transmits the user’ s identification and bonus data to the external network in step 36. The tally information in the set top box 10 is then reduced by the number of points that were redeemed, in step 37, and the remainder is stored in semi -permanent memory in step 38.
To entice viewers to watch television commercials, the incentive system can provide a variety of different types of awards, such as credits or discounts for pay-per-view movies or programs, advertised products, satellite television or cable television monthly service fees or frequent flyer miles.
If in step 34 the user has decided not to redeem the accumulated points at this time, the user’s tally is stored onto semi-permanent memory, such as the hard disk 18 on set top box 10, in step 38. The user can then continue to accumulate points for rewards upon subsequent uses of the incentives system.
In a second embodiment of the present invention, users press a code or indicator on a remote control unit during commercial breaks in television programming to select to receive fuither information conceming commercial advertisements of interest. When the user desires to stop Watching television programs, the system presents questiormaires or interactive videos pertaining to those television commercials selected by the user. The questiormaires or interactive videos are locally inserted as a multi-media presentation on the user’s television. The user is then rewarded for completing a questionnaire or interactive video by receiving discount coupons for the advertised products or credits for pay-per-view service.
As in the first embodiment as described in reference to FIG. 2, the incentives system prompts the user during commercial breaks. In this case, the user presses the “incentive system” pushbutton on the user’ s remote control unit in response to the prompt or the code in order to select and mark the commercial as being of interest to the user. Upon selecting a commercial, the set top box displays a short confirmation message either on the set top box itself or on the television display. The user may have a limited opportunity to then cancel a selection made in error.
FIG. 4 is a flow diagram that illustrates the steps for logging out of a session, providing questionnaire or interactive videos, and redeeming earned points for a prize or discount. In step 40, the set top box receives a log-off signal from the user. The user may log-off at the end of a program, or at any time during television programming, but the user should anticipate that the questionnaire or interactive video will last a few minutes after the user logged off.
After the user logs off, the A/V switch in the MPEG-2 Decoder 13a of CPU 13 disconnects the television from television broadcast programming. A screen from the incentives program database 17c in RAM 17 then displays a list of the advertisement sponsors that were selected by the user during the session, in step 41. This list may include the name of each selected sponsor or the sponsor’s corresponding advertised product. The user can then select one or more of the advertisements about which the user wishes to receive fuither information, in step 42. Alternatively, the user additionally may be able to navigate through selections of products or services offered by the selected advertisement sponsors to choose a product that is of primary interest to the user.