WO2001022730A1 - Internet hub providing for enablement of media content for commercial transactions - Google Patents

Internet hub providing for enablement of media content for commercial transactions

Info

Publication number
WO2001022730A1
WO2001022730A1 PCT/US2000/026077 US0026077W WO2001022730A1 WO 2001022730 A1 WO2001022730 A1 WO 2001022730A1 US 0026077 W US0026077 W US 0026077W WO 2001022730 A1 WO2001022730 A1 WO 2001022730A1
Authority
WO
Grant status
Application
Patent type
Prior art keywords
content
media
consumer
commerce
system
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/US2000/026077
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Nicholas Maier
David Horner
Original Assignee
Newzing.Com, Inc.
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date

Links

Classifications

    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N21/00Selective content distribution, e.g. interactive television, VOD [Video On Demand]
    • H04N21/80Generation or processing of content or additional data by content creator independently of the distribution process; Content per se
    • H04N21/85Assembly of content; Generation of multimedia applications
    • H04N21/858Linking data to content, e.g. by linking an URL to a video object, by creating a hotspot
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q30/00Commerce, e.g. shopping or e-commerce
    • G06Q30/06Buying, selling or leasing transactions
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N21/00Selective content distribution, e.g. interactive television, VOD [Video On Demand]
    • H04N21/40Client devices specifically adapted for the reception of or interaction with content, e.g. set-top-box [STB]; Operations thereof
    • H04N21/45Management operations performed by the client for facilitating the reception of or the interaction with the content or administrating data related to the end-user or to the client device itself, e.g. learning user preferences for recommending movies, resolving scheduling conflicts
    • H04N21/462Content or additional data management, e.g. creating a master electronic program guide from data received from the Internet and a Head-end, controlling the complexity of a video stream by scaling the resolution or bit-rate based on the client capabilities
    • H04N21/4622Retrieving content or additional data from different sources, e.g. from a broadcast channel and the Internet
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N21/00Selective content distribution, e.g. interactive television, VOD [Video On Demand]
    • H04N21/40Client devices specifically adapted for the reception of or interaction with content, e.g. set-top-box [STB]; Operations thereof
    • H04N21/47End-user applications
    • H04N21/478Supplemental services, e.g. displaying phone caller identification, shopping application
    • H04N21/4782Web browsing, e.g. WebTV
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N21/00Selective content distribution, e.g. interactive television, VOD [Video On Demand]
    • H04N21/80Generation or processing of content or additional data by content creator independently of the distribution process; Content per se
    • H04N21/85Assembly of content; Generation of multimedia applications
    • H04N21/858Linking data to content, e.g. by linking an URL to a video object, by creating a hotspot
    • H04N21/8586Linking data to content, e.g. by linking an URL to a video object, by creating a hotspot by using a URL

Abstract

A process is provided for facilitating the sale of goods or services to consumers by creating commerce opportunities associated with media content. In one embodiment, the process is executed by HUB (12) which includes at least one server computing system communicatively coupled with the Internet (16). The process includes the steps of: providing a content provider interface at a client computing system, the provider interface enabling a content provider to define at least one tag associated with the content available at the client computing system, each tag indicating an associated portion of the content for which a commerce opportunity may be created; receiving each tag defined by the content provider for the content; posting information indicative of the content and the defining tags; receiving retailer information from a particular retailer who is interested in purchasing rights to a selected one of the posted tags that is associated with the posted media content; and defining a commerce opportunity associated with the selected tag by enabling the selected tag based on the retailer transaction information. Further steps include: transmitting the media content along with the enabled tag to a potential consumer (20) via a transmission medium in order to present the commerce opportunity to the potential consumer; receiving consumer transaction information from a particular consumer who is interested in purchasing the goods or services; initiating a commercial transaction (24) for the sale of the goods or services; and charging a brokerage fee for each sale.

Description

INTERNET HUB PROVIDING FOR ENABLEMENT OF MEDIA CONTENT FOR

COMMERCIAL TRANSACTIONS

Specification

Cross Reference to Related Applications:

Reference is made and priority claimed to U.S. provisional patent application entitled "System and Method of Transactional Processing via Dynamic Content", serial No. 60/156,070, filed on September 24, 1999, and U.S. provisional application entitled "Method Apparatus and Systems that Describe an Internet Commerce Portal that Enables Video for Instantaneous Commerce Transactions", serial No. 60/206,193 filed on May 22, 2000.

Background of the Invention: Field of the Invention: This invention relates generally to business transactions and more particularly to a computer based method of selling or purchasing goods and services. Description of the Prior Art:

Under traditional methods of marketing and sale, a presentation is made to a consumer about a good or a service in a broadcast so as to stimulate consumer demand. The consumer is then directed to a physical location such as a store to buy the goods or service of interest to them. This method relies heavily on advertising to create a strong demand in the consumer such that the consumer remembers the offering and inextricably link the good or service to the physical store where the good or service is available.

However, with the Internet revolution, consumers are rapidly gaining access to bi- directional (often Internet connected) devices to assist them in receiving video and audio content to carry out business transactions. Such devices currently take the form of "intelligent set top boxes," "Internet browsers,", "Web devices", specialized cellular telephones, dedicated Internet appliances, etc. These bi-directional devices control and mediate an ever-growing variety of analog and digital media types that carry audio and media stream to the consuming public. These media types include traditional broadcast television and radio, cable, satellite, and a growing family of packetized data services (referred to colloquially as "Internet" or "streaming" video and audio). The current state-of-the-art for direct marketing using broadcast video primarily follows a call-to-action method in which the consumer is typically required to call a 1-800 telephone number to order a good following a video presentation of a good or service. Further, in most cases, the consumers are forced to transact for good or services only during advertising intervals in-between programming such as a 10-minute period during 30 minutes of programming. In such cases, the broadcast video's call to action must be extremely compelling in order to get consumers to get up and leave the programming in order to make a phone call and place an order.

It has become clear from the explosive popularity of the World Wide Web that the ability to bring interactivity to written and pictorial content (i.e. "Web pages," "banner ads," "hyper-linked news stories," etc.) has great business viability. In some methods of direct marketing using the Internet, consumers are presented either audibly or visually with a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) that the consumer uses to visit the Web site and search for and eventually buy the good or service of interest to them. However, every cumbersome and intermediary step in marketing and eventual sale takes the consumer further away from his or her initial desire to purchase the goods or services. Summary of the Invention:

Briefly, a presently preferred embodiment of the present invention provides a process for facilitating the sale of goods or services to consumers by creating commerce opportunities associated with media content. In one embodiment, the process is executed by HUB which includes a server computing system communicatively coupled with the Internet. The process includes the steps of: providing a content provider interface at a content provider computing system, the provider interface enabling a content provider to define at least one tag associated with media content that is accessible (e.g., stored at) the content provider computing system, each tag indicating an associated portion of the content for which a commerce opportunity may be created; receiving each tag defined by the content provider for the content; posting information indicative of the content and the defined tags; receiving retailer information from a particular retailer who is interested in purchasing rights to a selected one of the posted tags that is associated with the posted media content; and defining a commerce opportunity associated with the selected tag by enabling the selected tag based on the retailer transaction information.

In one embodiment of the present invention, the retailer information indicates particular goods or services that particular retailer desires to sell via a commerce opportunity associate with the selected tag. In this embodiment, the step of defining a commerce opportunity associated with the selected tag includes a step of associating the particular goods or services with the selected tag. In another embodiment, the retailer information indicates advertising information that particular retailer desires to provide to consumers via a commerce opportunity associate with the selected tag. In this embodiment, the step of defining a commerce opportunity associated with the selected tag includes a step of associating the advertising information with the selected tag.

The retailer information further includes meta-data associated with the selected tag, the meta-data describing the particular goods or services to be offered for sale during play of a portion of the selected content that is indicated by the selected tag.

In one embodiment, the step of defining a commerce opportunity associated with the selected tag further includes a step of generating a uniform resource locator (URL) associated with the selected tag, the URL indicating a particular Internet document for initiating a process by which a consumer may purchase the particular goods or services. The process further includes a step of transmitting the media content along with the enabled tag to a potential consumer via a transmission medium in order to present the commerce opportunity to the potential consumer. The transmission medium may be selected from a group consisting of the Internet, a cable television broadcast medium, and a satellite broadcast medium. The process further includes a step of receiving consumer transaction information from a particular consumer who is interested in purchasing the particular goods or services associated with the commerce enabled tag. In a first embodiment of the present invention, the process includes a further step of processing a commercial transaction for the sale of the particular goods or services associated with the selected tag to the particular consumer. In a second embodiment of the present invention, the process includes a further step of transmitting the consumer transaction information to the particular retailer for the purpose of initiating a commercial transaction for the sale of the particular goods or services associated with the selected tag. A brokerage fee is charged for each sale of the particular goods or services associated with the selected tag. In one embodiment, the selected tag is embedded in the posted media content along with a URL and meta-data, and the media content is transmitted along with the embedded tag to a potential consumer via a transmission medium in order to present the commerce opportunity to the potential consumer. An advantage of the present invention is that the activities of the streaming media commerce Hub are performed simultaneous with the watching of the video by the consumer.

Another advantage of the present invention is that it obviates the need to talk to a "live" agent and the need to enter credit cards or shipping information except at the time of the initial set-up of the system.

Yet another advantage of the present invention is that multiple commerce opportunities can be presented to the consumer simultaneous to the presentation of content. Another advantage of the present invention is that the "call-to-action" mechanism is inserted strategically in the broadcast at the exact point where consumer demand for the good or service is determined to be at its peak.

The foregoing and other objects, features, and advantages of the present invention will be apparent from the following detailed description of the preferred embodiment which makes reference to the several figures of the drawing. In The Drawing:

FIG.l is a block diagram illustrating a Hub providing a process for facilitating the sale of goods or services to consumers by creating commerce opportunities associated with media content in accordance with the present invention, the Hub also providing services to content providers, retailers, and consumers; FIG. 2 is a block diagram illustrating an exemplary content provider system enabling a content provider to interact with and access the Hub of FIG. 1 ;

FIG. 3 is a block diagram illustrating an exemplary retailer/advertiser system enabling a retailer to interact with and access the Hub of FIG. 1 ;

FIGS. 4 A, 4B, and 4C are block diagrams illustrating varying embodiments of end user consumer systems enabling a consumer to purchase goods and services via the Hub of FIG. 1 in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 5 is a detailed block diagram illustrating components of the HUB including processing engines, Internet interfaces, and data storage systems;

FIG. 6 is a block diagram illustrating various physical transport mediums for transmitting commerce enabled media content to an end user in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 7 is a generalized flow diagram illustrating a process in accordance with the present invention for facilitating the sale of goods or services to consumers by creating commerce opportunities associated with media content; FIG. 8 is a flow diagram illustrating a process of enabling a streaming media file to perform a business transaction in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 9 is a flow diagram illustrating a process of enabling retailers to search, select, and purchase the rights to commerce opportunities; FIG. 10 is a flow diagram illustrating a consumer transaction process in accordance with the present invention wherein a consumer purchases goods or services while watching a commerce enabled media stream; and

FIG. 11 is a flow diagram illustrating a business transaction process performed by the Hub in response to an order submitted to the Hub by an end user. Detailed Description of the Preferred Embodiments: Glossary of Terms:

The term "content" is being used in its most general sense, to refer to any visual, audio or data files flowing over a communications medium.

The terms "serve," "serving," and "server" are being used in their broadest senses to refer to the act of transmitting information of any type.

The term "broadcaster" is being used to refer to any entity that "serves" audio and/or video "content".

The term "broadcast" is being used in its broadest sense to refer to the act of transmitting information of any type. The term "Hub" is being used to refer to a server or a collection of servers with

Internet addresses on which are hosted Web based applications. The servers in the Hub may communicate with other servers and databases, both internal and external to the Hub using network communication mechanisms that may proscribe to any and all data transmission protocols. The term "streamed" or "streaming" is being used to refer to the delivery of any file over the Internet or any other broadcast medium including broadcast cable, satellite, cellular in a file format that is compatible with the transmission infrastructure.

The term "streaming media" is being used as short hand to describe any file including, not being limited to, video, audio, animation and data files that are transmitted over any transmission infrastructure from one destination to another.

The term "Internet streaming video" is being used to refer to the delivery of any video file over the Internet that is compatible with available streaming media players who display the file to an end user. The term "streaming media business" is being used to refer to any form of interactive informational, business, or conversational exchange over any network simultaneous to the engagement with said streaming media.

The term "streaming media commerce enable" is being used to refer to the act of readying a streaming media file to perform a business transaction or a series of business transactions simultaneous to the streaming of the file.

The term "tag" is being used as short hand to refer to a pointer to a portion of media stream that has the potential for being associated with a "commerce opportunity."

The term "tagging" is being used as short hand to refer to the process by which a content provider identifies segments within a content that have the potential for a streaming media commerce opportunity and describes, identifies and registers said opportunity with the Hub's systems and databases.

The term "content provider" is being used to refer to any owner, producer, syndicator or developer of streaming media content. The term "retailer" is being used to refer to any wholesale or retail provider of goods and services.

The term "consumer" or "user" is being used to refer to any individual or entity that is passively or actively viewing or interacting with content.

The term "clicking-on" is being used to refer to the act of using a computer mouse or any other pointing device that allows a user to identify, differentiate and select and or activate an item, button, opportunity or shape on the computer, or PDA display.

FIG.l is a block diagram illustrating a system at 10 in accordance with the present invention for facilitating the sale of goods or services to consumers by creating commerce opportunities associated with media content. The system 10 includes: a Hub 12 providing a server computing system that is operative to execute a process for facilitating the sale of goods or services to consumers by creating commerce opportunities associated with media content; at least one content provider system 14 communicatively coupled with the Hub 12 via a network 16; at least one E-tailer/advertiser system 18 communicatively coupled with the Hub via the network 16; a plurality of viewer/consumer systems, or end user systems, 20 communicatively coupled with the Hub via the network 16, each end user system 20 also being coupled to receive media content streamed (e.g., transmitted or broadcast) from the content provider system (or from another media streaming system that is not shown) to the viewer/consumer systems 20 via a communication medium 22 that enables streaming of commerce enable media streams as further explained below; and a credit card processing system 24 communicatively coupled with the Hub via a network 26.

In one embodiment, the network 16 is an Internet Protocol (IP) network such as the Internet. The communication medium 22 may be the Internet, a cable television broadcast medium, a satellite broadcast medium, or any other type of communication medium. The network 26 may be the Internet, a local area network (LAN), or any other type of communication medium.

In accordance with the process of facilitating the sale of goods or services to consumers by creating commerce opportunities, the Hub 12 provides a content provider interface at the content provider system 14, the provider interface enabling a content provider to define at least one tag associated with content accessible (e.g., stored at, loaded onto, or created at) the content provider system 14, each tag indicating an associated portion of the content for which a commerce opportunity may be created. In one embodiment, the media content is a video stream, and the tags indicate a portion of the video for which a commerce opportunity (e.g., a segment of the video of interest to retailers in advertising goods or services or offering goods or services via an electronic process) may be created. The Hub receives each tag defined by the content provider for the content, enables the tags as further described below to define commerce opportunities, and stores the enables tags. The Hub also receives information (e.g., title, episode) indicative of the content from the content provider. Subsequently, the Hub 12 provides for posting information indicative of the content and the defined tags.

E-tailers and advertisers may use the system 18 to access the Hub 12 via the network to view a posted list of media contents and tags. If the E-tailer or advertiser is interested in purchasing rights to one of the posted tags, the E-tailer or advertiser provides retailer information indicating that he is interested in purchasing rights to a selected one of the posted tags that is associated with a selected media content. The Hub 12 then creates a commerce opportunity associated with the selected tag by enabling the selected tag based on the retailer transaction information.

In one embodiment, the retailer information that is provided to the Hub via the system 18 indicates particular goods or services that particular retailer desires to sell via a commerce opportunity associate with the selected tag. In this embodiment, the Hub creates a commerce opportunity associated with the selected tag by associating the particular goods or services with the selected tag. In another embodiment, the retailer information provided to the Hub via the system

18 indicates advertising information that the particular retailer desires to provide to consumers via a commerce opportunity associate with the selected tag. In this embodiment, the Hub creates a commerce opportunity associated with the selected tag by associating the advertising information with the selected tag.

Ultimately, the selected media content is provided to the viewer/consumer systems 20 along with the enabled tag via the medium 22. The viewer/consumer systems 20 provides for playing (e.g., displaying) the selected media content to a consumer, and also provides for presenting the commerce opportunity to the consumer. The viewer/consumer systems 20 further provides for receiving consumer information (e.g., name, credit card information, etc.) from the consumer and transmitting the consumer information to the Hub 12 which may process a transaction for the sale of goods or services from the E-tailer to the consumer. In another embodiment, the Hub 12 which may pass the consumer information to another system (not shown) for initiating a transaction for the sale of goods or services from the E-tailer to the consumer. The Hub provides for charging a brokerage fee for each sale of the particular goods or services associated with the selected tag.

The retailer information further includes meta-data associated with the selected tag, the meta-data describing the particular goods or services to be offered for sale during play of a portion of the selected content that is indicated by the selected tag. In one embodiment, the step of defining a commerce opportunity associated with the selected tag further includes a step of generating a uniform resource locator (URL) associated with the selected tag, the URL indicating a particular Internet document for initiating a process by which a consumer may purchase the particular goods or services. Also in an one embodiment, the selected tag is embedded in the posted media content along with the URL and the meta-data, and the media content along with the embedded tag is transmitted to consumers via the medium 22 in order to present the commerce opportunity to the potential consumer.

Further steps of the process of facilitating the sale of goods or services to consumers include: transmitting the media content along with the enabled tag to a potential consumer via the transmission medium 22 in order to present the commerce opportunity to the potential consumer; receiving consumer transaction information at the Hub 12 from a particular consumer via one of the systems 20, the consumer being interested in purchasing the goods or services; initiating a commercial transaction for the sale of the goods or services from the E tailer to the consumer; and charging a brokerage fee for each sale. As further described below, the Hub 12 provides the content providers, retailers, and consumers with services enabling a most efficient, and profitable system and method for facilitating the sale of goods or services to consumers by creating commerce opportunities associated with media content. The Hub 12 provides a business process which is a combination and integration of a number of technologies, systems, business processes, software applications and proprietary methods that together provide a unique business process which, as a whole, has been defined as a "streaming media commerce Hub"; a site on the World Wide Web.

As mentioned above, after the content is enabled for a business transaction, a commerce opportunity is posted and the rights to this opportunity sold to retailers either via auction or fixed price (B-to-B transaction). By methods of tagging, commerce opportunities are presented to the consumer by means of a visual or an audio cue. If the consumer chooses to carry out a purchase transaction, the Hub 12 delivers all necessary services to facilitate a transaction with the consumer (B-to-C transaction). FIG. 2 shows a detailed block diagram illustrating an embodiment at 30 of the content provider system 14 which may be used by a content provider to interact with and access the Hub 12 in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. As shown in FIG. 2, the content provider system 14 includes a computing system 32 having a browser 34 communicatively coupled with the Hub 12 via the network 16, plugin unit (or active X control unit) 36 communicatively coupled with the browser 34, a streaming format SDK unit 38 communicatively coupled with unit 36, and a media storage unit 40 for storing media files. In one embodiment, the content provider system 14 further includes a streaming media server 42 operative to access the media storage unit 40,and further operative to stream media files to the end user systems 20 (FIG. 1). As mentioned above, a content provider Interface is provided by the HUB 12 at the content provider system 14 in order to enable a content provider to define tags associated with media content accessible at (e.g., stored at, created at, or transmitted to) the content provider system 14. The content provider Interface is implemented by instructions executed on the browser 34. Tags are defined using the Interface executed on the browser, and passed to the plug-in 36 which passes the defined tags to the streaming format SDK unit 38. In one embodiment, the streaming format SDK unit 38 inserts the defined tags into the media content stored in the media storage unit 40. The content provider Interface is implemented by instructions executed on the browser 34 is further operative to provide the defined tags, and other information associated with the media content (e.g., title) back to the HUB 12 which stores the tags and information.

FIG. 3 shows a block diagram illustrating an embodiment at 50 of the E- tailer/ Advertiser system 18 which may be used by retailers or advertisers to interact with and access the Hub 12 via the network 16. As shown in FIG. 3, the E-tailer/ Advertiser system 18 includes: a computer system 52 that is communicatively coupled with the Hub 12 via the network 16, and operative to execute a browser 54 for accessing and providing an Interface with E-tailer/ Advertising services provided by the Hub 12; an interface 56 for E-commerce (providing B-to-B transactions) communicatively coupled with the Hub 12 via the network 16; a customer order database 58 communicatively coupled with the interface 56; and a product inventory database 60 communicatively coupled with the interface 56.

In accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, a computer monitor or television set displaying a streaming media commerce opportunity banner across the bottom portion of the monitor screen and the video of the book author is displayed above the banner. The banner displays textual and graphical information that is related to the content being presented in the streaming video file (in this example, a book). In this example, the banner, which is the visual presentation of the tag, is visible to the consumer because two things have happened. One, the tag was inserted or otherwise associated with the streaming media file by the content provider at a precise point in the file during the tagging process described above, and the rights to this tag were purchased by an retailer according to the process described above. As a result, the banner displays the appropriate textual and graphical information (the message) as defined by the data underlying the tag.

FIG. 4A shows a block diagram of a first embodiment at 70 of an end user computer system 20 which may be used by a consumer user to play commerce enabled media streams (e.g., view commerce enabled video streams) and execute electronic transactions for the purchase of goods or services offered by E-tailers via commerce opportunities presented to the consumer in conjunction with commerce enabled tags provided to the system 20 along with the media streams. In the depicted embodiment, the system 20 includes: a computer system (e.g., a personal computer system) 72 operative execute a browser 74 for accessing the Hub 12 via the network 16, and also being operative to execute a plug-in (or active X controls) 76 for receiving commerce enabled media streams via the communications medium 22, the plug-in 76 also being operative to communicate with the browser 74; and a display device 78 communicatively coupled with the computer system 72 for displaying commerce enabled video streams, meta-data, and graphical user interface elements enabling the consumer to initiate electronic commercial transactions for the purchase of goods or services offered by E-tailers via commerce opportunities presented to the consumer in conjunction with commerce enabled tags provided to the system 20 along with the media streams. In the depicted embodiment, E- commerce enabled media streams are transmitted to the end user computer system 20 via the network 16 in accordance with streaming techniques.

In accordance with the present invention, a user accesses a media streaming system which may be the content provider system 14 ( FIG. 1), or another media streaming system coupled via the Internet, the media streaming system being operative to stream media content to the end user computer system via the Internet. Upon access of the media streaming system by the end user, the media streaming system provides to the end user system 20: a program including executable instructions for executing a commerce opportunity presentation process at the end user system; a media player for execution by the plug-in 76 for playing the streamed media content; and media content ID information identifying the media content to be streamed and all enabled tags indicating portions of the media content for which a commerce opportunity has been defined.

The program is executable by the browser 74 and operative to provide a commerce opportunity presentation process in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention as further described below. In one embodiment, the program is a Java script library. The Java script library is executed by the browser to initiate the commerce opportunity process which includes a step of accessing the enabled tags (associated with the media content to be streamed) from the Hub 12 (FIG. 1) which stores all enabled tags in a commerce opportunity database as further explained below. The instructions of the program, to be executed by the browser 74, include instructions for causing the browser to communicate with the HUB 12 (FIG. 1) and to use the media content ID information to access all enabled tags associated with the media content to be streamed, and also to access at least one form (e.g., a HTML or XML document). The forms enable the user to enter consumer transaction information to be used in processing a commercial transaction for the sale of goods or services associated with the commerce opportunity from a particular retailer to the user.

Media content is then streamed from the stream provider system to the end user system and played on the media player which is executed by the plug-in or active X controls 76, the media player being operative to provide time codes to the opportunity presentation process executed by the browser 74 while the media stream is played. The time codes essentially provide a clock for indicating the portions of the media content that are being played. The commerce opportunity presentation process executed by the browser 74 is responsive to the time codes and operative to present the commerce opportunity on the display device 78 of the end user system upon play of the portion of said media content associated with the downloaded commerce opportunity via the enabled tag. Upon activation of a commerce opportunity by the user, the presentation process is further operative to provide and display associated forms to the user on the display device. The user then uses an input/output device (e.g., a keyboard and mouse) to fill in consumer transaction information (e.g., name, address, credit card information, etc.) onto the form. The form is then sent to the HIB 12 which processes at least a portion of the commercial transaction, and charges a brokerage fee for the transaction.

In accordance with the present invention, video programming content and context sensitive streaming media commerce opportunities are presented to the consumer. The streaming media programming presents content and a content sensitive streaming media commerce opportunity to the consumer. The present invention provides for simultaneous display of a video broadcast in the upper-right-hand portion of the display 78, and a business transaction screen that allows a user to purchase goods or services. Note that the Hub 12 is capable of resizing the video in order to display the transaction screen for goods or services purchased. The present invention also provides for simultaneous display of a streaming video broadcast on one portion of the display monitor and a business transaction screen displayed on another portion of the display monitor.

The consumer can receive streaming media files containing embedded streaming media commerce opportunities (tags) in a variety of ways. The preferred embodiment is the streaming of the file over the Internet and the display of the file on a consumer's personal computer or any other Internet enabled device by means of a streaming media player (i.e. Microsoft's Windows Media Player or Real Network's Real Player). In other embodiments, the consumer receives the streaming media file through a receiving device that is specific to a transmission format other than streaming formats associated with the Internet. These other embodiments include but are not limited to, video, audio, and data files streamed or transmitted over cable systems to cable set-top boxes which are capable of communications with the Internet, video transmitted by satellite communications to satellite receivers which are capable of communications with the Internet, video that is prerecorded on magnetic tape and played back through a VCR (video cassette recorder) which is capable of communications with the Internet, video that is pre-recorded on optical disks and played back through an optical disk player ( DVD player, CD player, Game Stations as manufactured by Nintendo and Sony) which are capable of communications with the Internet The consumer system enables the user to interact while viewing the media stream by clicking on or otherwise initiating action on a streaming media commerce opportunity (tag), and ultimately consummating a purchase or request for additional information by use of a pointing device, a keyboard or any other type data input device including using human speech in combination with a voice recognition application. For illustrative purposes, the consumer interface will be described in connection with an Internet streaming media file which is a video stream including an embedded streaming media commerce opportunity (tag). In this example, the consumer will view a video of an interview with an author that is talking about their new book and the tag will present an opportunity to the consumer to buy the book while they are viewing the video. This video file is streamed over the Internet emanating from the content provider's streaming video server, referred to here as a Streaming Media Server. The content provider had previously commerce enabled the media file as described above. The tag will visually or audibly prompt the consumer to initiate an action in this case, buy a book, by "clicking on" a button or banner or otherwise initiating the "buy" activity. Once the consumer decides to buy and "clicks-on" or otherwise initiates the buying process, the meta-data associated with the streaming media commerce enabled banner or streaming media commerce enabled graphic begins processing and in the preferred embodiment, pulls data from the Hub's consumer Interface, as further described below, or from pre-loaded data that has been sent down either ahead of or concurrent to the video data, in other embodiments such as a set-top box, VCR, DVD player, TV or other Internet connected device. In one embodiment, the Hub's Central Data Store sends data over the Internet to the consumer's Internet device and the data manifests itself as graphic elements to the consumer. These graphic elements can be, but are not limited to, order forms, graphics of a good, logos, banners, and any other graphic elements that can be displayed to the consumer. The data that is sent by the Hub's consumer Interface is data that has been defined by the content provider when they originally inserted the tag into the media stream or by the retailer that purchased the rights to the tag.

FIG. 4B shows a block diagram of a second embodiment at 80 of the end user computer system 20 In the depicted embodiment, the system 20 includes: a set top box 82 that is operative to access the Hub 12 via the network 16, and also operative to receive streaming media via the medium 22; and a television 84 communicatively coupled with the set top box 82 for displaying commerce enabled video streams, meta-data, and graphical user interface elements enabling the consumer to initiate electronic commercial transactions for the purchase of goods or services offered by E-tailers via commerce opportunities presented to the consumer in conjunction with commerce enabled tags provided to the system 20 along with the media streams. In the depicted embodiment, E- commerce enabled media streams are transmitted to the end user computer system 20 via a cable television communication medium or a satellite communication medium. The set top box 82 includes: a standard browser interface 86 for accessing the Hub 12 (and/or other server computing systems operative to execute a commercial transaction in response to selection of a streaming media commerce opportunity); and a signal converter 88 for receiving streaming media signal via a cable television communication medium or a satellite communication medium. FIG. 4C shows a block diagram of a third embodiment at 80 of the end user computer system 20. In the depicted embodiment, the system 20 includes: a Wireless Internet Interface unit 92 that is operative to access the Hub 12 via the network 16, and also operative to communicate via wireless links with a personal digital assistant (PDA) 94 and/or a Web phone 96; and a television 102 coupled to receive commerce enabled media streams via the medium 22 for displaying video data. In accordance with the present invention, the PDA 94 (and/or the Web phone 96) provides a user interface enabling the consumer to initiate electronic commercial transactions for the purchase of goods or services offered by E-tailers via commerce opportunities presented to the consumer via the Hub 12 and Wireless Internet Interface unit 92. Note that the commerce opportunities presented to the consumer via the PDA 94 (and/or the Web phone 96), Hub 12 and Wireless Internet Interface unit 92 are presented synchronously with the video stream presented on the television so that commerce opportunities will be presented to the user on the television upon play of the associated portion of the associated content (as indicated by the tags associated with the commerce opportunities). FIG. 5 shows a block diagram illustrating components of the Hub 12 in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. The Hub 12 includes databases, Web servers, transaction processing systems. In one embodiment, the Hub 12 is implemented as a system that is distributed across many computer systems that each provide either a unique specific service or are part of a highly redundant server farm. This distributed architecture may include geographic distribution of the servers throughout the world to provide better performance and redundancy for consumers worldwide.

The main functions of the Hub are performed by Web servers. In one embodiment, the Web servers are standard HTTP servers. SSL is used when necessary for security of Web data both delivered and received between the client's Web browser and the HTTP servers. The Web servers run on multiple physical hardware boxes and there may be servers dedicated specifically to one or more of the interfaces described below. The interfaces are built on industry standards for Web application development.

In the depicted embodiment, the Hub 12 includes: a transaction processing engine 112; a central data storage unit 114 communicatively coupled with the processing engine 112; and a plurality of Web servers 116 communicatively coupled with the central data storage unit 114. The central data storage unit 114 includes: a transaction queue database 130 for temporarily storing consumer orders that are to be processed by the processing engine 112; a transaction history database 132 for storing information associated with transactions completed after a retailer ships the goods or provides services to the end user; a consumer database 134 for storing billing, shipping and payment information associated with consumers; an opportunity database 136 for storing information associated with all streaming media commerce opportunities; an E-tailer database 138 for storing all retailer registration and profile information associated with retailers using the services of the Hub (including detailed data for each good or service that the retailer wishes to sell using commerce opportunities); and a content provider database 140 for storing all registration and profile information associated with the content provider. This registration and profile information associated with the content providers includes the profile data for each streaming media file that a content provider has enabled for business transactions. The transaction processing engine 112 is communicatively coupled with the credit card processing system 24 (FIG. 1) which is external to the Hub 12.

As mentioned, the opportunity database 136 provides for storing information associated with all streaming media commerce opportunities. The content providers create the opportunities and the retailers search and buy them associating a good or service. The transaction processing engine 112 monitors the transaction queue database 130 and sends new transactions to the credit card transaction processing server 24 (FIG. 1) which is an external partner or vendor connected though a network. This external server will return the status of the transaction ("Cleared", "Rejected", etc.) to the transaction processing engine 112 and the status and other appropriate information will be updated in transaction queue database and/or other databases in the central data storage unit 114.

In one embodiment, the central data storage unit 114 is an industry standard SQL database that functions as the Hub's main data repository and is made available to all Web interfaces and transaction engines through standard SQL interfaces. The central data storage unit 114 is not limited to residing on a single server. In fact it is distributed across multiple servers both physically and logically. This distribution increases scalability, reliability and performance.

Note that once a consumer has purchased goods or services through the Hub 12, the consumer data stored in the consumer database 134 is used as the defaults for a next purchase through the Hub.

The Web servers 116 include retailer Web interfaces 118, consumer Web interfaces 120, and content provider Web interfaces 122. retailers interact with the retailer Web interfaces 122. The consumers interact with the consumer Web interfaces 120. The content providers interact with the content provider interfaces 122 The present invention is implemented by means of networked servers or data processors that share and manipulate data over a data network, in the case of a preferred embodiment, the Internet.

The content provider interface 122 is provided by the Hub 12 at the content provider systems 14 (FIG. 1) for content providers who wish to commerce enable their streaming media content. The content providers use their systems to connect and interact with the Hub's content provider Web Interface 118. The content provider interface is a Web based application that allows content providers to register with the Hub, profile their content, and create and insert commerce opportunities into their streaming media file. This interface includes Web forms that will run in the content providers browser 34 (FIG. 2). It also includes a browser Plugin or Active-X control that will download from the Interface to allow manipulation of client side streaming media flies that may or may not utilize a Streaming Format SDK such as Microsoft's Windows Media SbK) depending on the streaming media file type and/or content requirement. Within the content provider Interface of the Hub, there exists an interface, database servers and systems that can deliver data to content providers regarding the performance of their streaming media business tags.

These database servers and systems track the performance over time of the tags. This database allows content providers to view and search data as is common in any SQL database interface, sorting data in a variety of ways, searching and looking up data based upon field criteria, etc. This database view allows content providers to review performance metrics such as, the amount of revenue generated by a specific tag over a time period, the performance of the tag compared to the tags of other content providers with similar content, consumer transaction abandonment data, comparative message strength and customer response data between two identical tags for identical goods within the same content stream, and aggregate, overview and price comparison of tags for similar and dissimilar content and goods and services, revenue grossing and least revenue grossing tags sorted by content category, by content, commodity, by time period. Any registered content provider can enter this environment using their password and review data on tags posted by the content providers for sale or auction or review metrics on active tags, referring to, tags that have had their rights purchased by a retailer.

The retailer interface 118 is the interface of the Hub for retailers. It is a destination site for any retailers worldwide who wish to purchase the rights to transact for commerce opportunities or tags that are embedded or associated with streaming media commerce enabled media files. The retailer interfaces are Web applications that primarily search and retrieve data from the opportunity database 136 and content provider database 140. The retailer interfaces also provide forms to register as a retailer with the Hub. All interactions between a retailer and the Hub are done through these interfaces. Additionally, there will be business-to-business interfaces for the retailer primarily communicating through interface using industry standards and/or proprietary protocols and languages that will allow the Hub to automatically check inventory and submit orders.

In accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, the retailers provide detailed information about themselves and the goods and services that they sell or provide. This can include but is not limited to single or multiple categories of goods (toys, books), subcategories (toy trains, as a subcategory of toys), micro-niche categories (books/Dogs/Border-Collies), the annual revenues of the retailer, Corporate information such as legal name address, phone e-mail, Shipping policy. Privacy policy, bank information, credit cards accepted, years in business, credit references, Countries of operation, etc. This information is stored in the Hub's retailer Database. The retailer is provided with a registration number and selects an account login and password to secure their future entry into the retailer Interface. Once registered, the retailer logs in and enters the applications environment which comprise of a variety of applications, custom retailer self-constructed templates, database tools, wizards and metrics that the retailer in the process of identifying, evaluating, selecting, purchasing, bidding on, and monitoring the performance of streaming media commerce opportunities (tags). These tools and applications are made available to the retailer using, menus, layered Web pages, wizards and automation tools that lead a retailer through the process of selecting and purchasing streaming media commerce opportunities (tags) which content providers have identified and inserted into their media stream. In accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, via the Internet, the consumer interface 120 includes Web graphics and HTML forms. These graphics and forms will be requested from the consumer's Web browser as tags are encountered in the media stream. Through these interfaces, consumers may be presented with banners and forms that allow them to purchase goods and services. The consumer interface interacts with JavaScript components in the consumer's browser interface that is playing the media stream. The main function of these interfaces is to present commerce opportunities to the consumer and submit the resulting purchase transactions into the central data storage unit 114.

The data from the Hub's consumer interfaces 120 can be updated constantly, this gives the retailer who owns the tag the flexibility to modify transaction specific information, including prices, item availability, etc., at any time, whether or not this data was correct or ready at the time the content was created. The consumer has access to the "freshest" data available concerning the price and availability of the book in the example above. The retailer can provide transaction specific data on a dynamic basis to the servers of the Hub 12 and this information is ultimately made available to consumers based only upon the system processing time to deliver said new data. Thus, consumers can always have current, recently updated information available to them from the retailer.

Furthermore, because consumers will have access to current, updated transaction specific information, the user will be spared unnecessary "surfing" delays, and problems due to lack of data "freshness." This is particularly applicable to situations involving rapidly changing information, time sensitive commodities, and limited availability goods.

The consumer are required to register and input their preferred shipping and billing information the first time that they "click-on" a streaming media commerce opportunity. Typically, the consumer will view a banner (call-to-action) to buy a good and they will click on the banner to begin the purchase process. At this point, since the consumer is not a registered user, registration forms from the consumer Interface are delivered to the consumer via the Internet. The consumer fills out information that is typical to registering with any retailer including information on their preferred credit card number, expiration date, secondary credit cards, shipping address or addresses, etc. Further, the Hub's forms may ask for more detailed information about the consumer including but not limited to demographic information including age, race, number of family members, interests, annual income. The Hub may or may not deliver its privacy policy to consumer's prior, during or after the registration process. Once the consumer has registered with the Hub 12, the consumer can transact on the opportunity which the consumer originally "clicked-on" which prompted the registration process. The consumer may or may not be presented with a Web page address to which they can return at any time that allows the consumer to disable streaming media commerce opportunities, tags and banners from being presented to the consumer. This gives the consumer active control over the decision to view streaming media commerce opportunities or not.

In one embodiment, a user interaction system shows a fictional user viewing an interview with a book author who is talking about their new book. At the correct time (based upon the tag that was embedded by the content provider when the video was streaming media commerce enabled) the consumer's "screen" may be manipulated to present the commerce opportunity. This manipulation could include, but not be limited to, partial overlay or resizing the media to accommodate clickable banners, buttons or video hotspots that if clicked on by the consumer will trigger the business transaction process.

After the consumer triggers a business transaction, the video on the screen may be rearranged to allow the transaction to continue without interrupting the video stream or transmission. The media stream will be "shrunk" to fit into a smaller percentage of the screen. The rest of the screen will then be occupied with an input "form" as an example shows. The user can then complete the transaction using any appropriate input device (i.e. a keyboard, a mouse, a remote control, a touch pad, etc.) to enter data as requested. In one embodiment, the user will have the option of using a keyboard to complete an online form. Upon completion of the transaction (or upon aborting the transaction), the screen and video are returned to their original state.

If the user elects to make a new transaction while in-progress with another transaction or desire to make a transaction at a later time, the system will possess the ability to store the transaction (bookmark, wish list or shopping cart functionality), allowing the user to complete it later at their convenience.

ATVEF supports the placement of tags in either of two places in the video stream;

(a) in the Vertical Blanking Interval (VBI) which is the space in between the frames of analogue video which is transparent to the naked eye or (b) the placement of tags in a multicast environment in which a Trigger stream is simultaneously broadcast to multiple consumers at one time synchronously with the video stream (analog or digital).

Another embodiment would be the case in which a consumer was watching video on an Internet connected DVD, VCR or game station that is capable of the playback of pre- recorded video. In this embodiment, the streaming media business tags would have been placed in the video at the appropriate points by the content provider. Upon playback of the video and the streaming media business tags, playback device would connect to the Hub's server at the direction of the embedded streaming media business tags and display the data screens as they are delivered from the consumer Interface. In one embodiment, the system will allow users to create, store, and retrieve personal, secure information for use in future transactions. Such information will be stored either locally on the user's device (if the device supports such functionality) or in the Hub's consumer Database and might include banking and payment information including credit card, banking and securities account numbers, checking accounts, etc. The invention includes a means by which the user can control, or in the case of the preferred embodiment, simply "turn on" or "turn off," the display of tag initiated banner messages generated by the system.

In accordance with one embodiment, a means to enable a user to prevent unauthorized users from engaging in transactions without their permission or approval is provided. The invention includes a means by which a user can prevent unauthorized access to private information without their permission or approval.

The Hub has the option of delivering all of its applications, tools, services, metrics and technology free under license or for a fee to content providers 15, retailers 20, and end users 25. The licensing agreement between the Hub 12 and content providers 15 and retailers 20 could stipulate that applications, tools and services provided by the Hub 12 may be available to content providers 15 and retailers 20 in return for a percentage or fee on every streaming media business transaction that is enabled or processed by the Hub 12. In each instance, the streaming media business transactions are completed when consumers 25 purchase goods or services by "clicking on" a streaming media commerce opportunity during streaming media commerce enabled broadcasts.

FIG. 6 is a schematic diagram of the media stream showing physical transport mechanisms that form the conduit between the content provider and the consumer or viewer. As shown in FIG. 6, the content providers 15 are communicatively coupled to the viewers or consumers via broadcast 200 or cable 205 or via the Internet 210 through an Internet service provider (ISP) 215, or even via a satellite 220.

In accordance with the present invention, the nature of streaming media business transactions and their method of delivery and are not Internet specific. Any media source can be streaming media commerce enabled. In accordance with one embodiment, a video source is enabled to perform a business transaction. This includes video streaming over the Internet Video over Cable Television systems, Video over Satellite Television systems, Video that is pre-recorded such as DVDs and VCR tapes. The consumer merely needs a delivery system that provides a "back channel" or some kind of connection to the Internet for them to be able to perform a commercial transaction. These kinds of connections could be provided by devices such as: a personal computer with an Internet connection, a cable TV set-top box that has the capability for communication over the Internet, a satellite TV set-top box that has the capability for communication over the Internet, a DVD playback system or a VCR that has the capability for communication over the Internet. The present invention can be embodied in any system employing virtually any reliable bi-directional real-time or store-and-forward data communications infrastructure. In one embodiment, streaming media files are delivered to the consumer from streaming media servers over the Internet to the consumers using Internet capable devices. These streaming media servers typically host said files and deliver the files either when the consumer requests the file ("on-demand") or when the file is scheduled to be broadcast (in the case of live events or a pre-scheduled multicast event). Files can be streamed from these servers to a single consumer or to multiple consumers simultaneously. And, in the case of multiple consumers requesting the same file, the server could deliver the file such that all consumers may or may not be watching the exact time sequence of the file at the same time. For example, if 100 consumers were watching an episode of a sit-com that was available as a streaming media file but all 100 consumers had initiated viewing at slightly different times, while all 100 consumers may at some point all be viewing the sit-com, they would be a different points in the sit-come in relation to the data stream since they initiated the streaming of the file at different times. Contrast the above with a scenario in which a "live" event will be streamed to 100 consumers. This is typically defined as a multi-cast event in which each consumer receives the same stream simultaneous to other consumers. If a consumer were to log onto the stream while it was in progress, the consumer would be placed at the same position within the stream like all other consumers. As is known to those of ordinary skill in the art, the act of "streaming content to the consumer" can exist outside of the activity, systems and control of the Hub described herein. As will be known to those of ordinary skill in the art, this activity outside of the Hub however in no way affects the business process, the systems, the applications or the transaction processing that occurs on a streaming media commerce enabled content file when a consumer initiates such activity. As long as the content has been streaming media commerce enabled using the systems and applications of the Hub, the means of delivery such content to the consumer is irrelevant as long as the consumer's interface device (PC, Set-top box, DVD, player, game station, PDA, or wireless telephone, etc) is capable of communication over the Internet.

There are many Internet streaming standards in existence today. Most notably are Microsoft Windows Media technologies, Real Networks Real System G2 and Apple QuickTime. All of these streaming technologies include a client and server component The Client, commonly referred to as Player, is either a standalone application or a browser plug-in and is the receiver of the Media Stream. The streaming media Server resides at the content provider or content hosting site somewhere in the Internet cloud.

The client is loaded by the browser, triggered by code in the HTML content from the content providers Web site, and will request the stream from the Server. The Server will then stream the media over the Internet at the predetermined data rate (rate is determined at the time of content encoding). The Client will present the media to the consumer (display video or play audio) as the media arrives. Typically, the Client will buffer 10 to 20 seconds worth of data before presenting it to allow for intermittent delays in delivery over the Internet. This prevents a jerky start and stop of the media due to Internet latency.

In our preferred embodiment, the media stream will contain tags that will trigger events in the Browser enabling a JavaScript code to intercept the event and obtain and present eBusiness content from the Hub's consumer Interface. The media stream will continue as the business transaction takes place and in the case of Video, the video size may be reduced in order to make room for the business transaction on the computer screen.

In embodiments other than the preferred embodiment (Internet), the source of the video and the communications platforms are very different from the Internet model. The Hub interactions with the consumer systems however are fundamentally the same.

Using the ATVEF standard, a methodology of using JavaScript to intercept tag events is almost the same as in other embodiments, with the exceptions being minor syntactical changes for object manipulation and event handling. The tag that is embedded in the media stream contains a pointer (serial number or database ID number) that references a specific row in the Opportunity Database (which in turn has pointers to the other databases in the Central Data Store as appropriate). In the preferred embodiment, the tag acts as an event inside the Internet browser, which is intercepted by a JavaScript event handler that is loaded in the browser when the media stream is initiated. This event handler will, upon a tag initiated event, open a connection to the consumer Interface and retrieve the necessary banners, graphics and business form elements that are associated to the tag's serial number.

The JavaScript event handler will then present the media acquired from the Hub to the consumer and change the size of the video, screen layout, and/or any other interface changes as defined by the JavaScript. The JavaScript code is embedded in the templates that the content providers acquired from the Hub.

The methods of tagging analog NTSC video for Television over Broadcast or Cable or Satellite are standardized in the ATVEF specification submitted to the W3C. The tagging methodology described will be the same, except for the method of storing the tag in the file. The technical details of inserting tags into NTSC video are described in the

ATVEF standard (http://atvef.com/library/syecl la.html).

FIG. 7 is a flow diagram illustrating a process at 200 in accordance with the present invention for facilitating the sale of goods or services to consumers by creating commerce opportunities associated with media content. The process 200 begins with a step 202 in which a content provider accesses the Hub 12 (FIG. 1) using the content provider system 14 (FIG. 1) to view video content, and identify segments within the content that have the potential for streaming media commerce opportunities. Also in step 202, the content describes, identifies and registers the identified opportunity with the systems and databases of the Hub 12. The identified commerce opportunities are then stored in the opportunity database 136 (FIG. 5).

In step 204, a retailer accesses the Hub using the E-tailer/ Advertiser system 18 (FIG. 1) to search through the commerce opportunities that were created by content providers and stored in the opportunity database 136 (FIG. 5) for an opportunity that matches a good or service that they wish to sell. The retailer describes the good or service with meta data that is then stored in the retailer database 138 (FIG. 5). The retailers at this stage either agree to or set the terms of the commerce opportunity of interest to them.

In step 206, streaming media in the form of video is streamed to the consumers or viewers who watch the video using one of the viewer consumer systems 20 (FIG. 1) and click on an opportunity of interest associated with a good or service that they wish to purchase. The viewers are required to fill out a business form presented to them and submit the form back to the Hub for processing while they continue to watch the video.

In step 208, the business Hub transaction processing engine 112 monitors the incoming order cue for new orders and processes them and submits the order to the specified retailer. After executing step 208, the depicted process ends.

FIG. 8 shows a flow diagram illustrating a content provider sub-process at 220 in accordance with one embodiment of the process of the present invention for facilitating the sale of goods or services to consumers by creating commerce opportunities associated with media content. The content provider sub-process 220 begins with a step 222 in which the content provider uses the browser 34 (FIG. 2) of the content provider system to access the Hub 12. The content provider registers at the Hub 12, if he or she is a new user and then logs in with the user name and password issued to the content provider. In one embodiment, all new content providers must register at the Hub. Content providers are led through a series of profiling questions that document inter alia, the business of the content provider, the type of content being streamed by them and any other registration or profiling information required by the Hub. The content provider is presented with the license agreement of the Hub that the content provider must read and agree to conform to. The license agreement stipulates the current terms and conditions that apply to a content provider' use of the applications and tools in the content provider Interface. The answers to the profiling questions and the acceptance of the license agreements are stored in the Hub database. The content provider is then provided with a registration number and selects an account login and password to secure future entry into the content provider Interface. Once registered, the content provider logs in using their user name and password and enters the Hubs content providers Interface 122 (FIG. 5).

In step 224, the content provider activates the content providers interface 122 (FIG. 5) and describes a video file that is being enabled by the content provider for the purposes of performing a commercial transaction. In step 226, the content provider enters the video tagging interface and locates and opens a video file, which the content provider wishes to enable for the purposes of performing a business transaction.

In step 228, a video stream is streamed to the content provider who watches the video on a display unit at the content provider system 14 (FIG. 2) for the purposes of identifying portions of the video for which commerce opportunities may be created. In step

230, the content provider pauses the video and identifies segments within the content that have the potential for streaming media commerce opportunities and performs tagging of the video file. The term "tagging" describes the process by which a content provider identifies segments within a content which have the potential for a streaming media commerce opportunity. Also in step 230, the content provider describes, identifies, and registers the opportunity within the systems and databases of the Hub 12. A tag may be identified by a content provider as a pointer to a portion of video content that has the potential for being associated with a commerce opportunity. Note that a tag may exist either external to the media file as meta data, including time codes that represent the opportunity segment of the video or it may exist in line embedded in line within a video file. In step 232, the content provider is presented with a commerce opportunity identification form and the content provider is required to describe the opportunity in detail, including the duration of the opportunity that they plan to enable for the purposes of performing a commercial transaction and the content provider submits the completed form to the Hub 12. In step 234, the Hub 12 inserts the details of the opportunity entered into by the content provider into the opportunity database 136 (FIG. 5) and returns a unique serial number to the video tagging interface.

From step 234, the process proceeds to 236 at which it is determined whether there are any more opportunities that the content provider intends to commerce enable. If the content provider determines that there are further commerce opportunities that he or she wishes to enable, the process proceeds back to step 228. If the content provider determines that there are no further commerce opportunities that he or she wishes to enable for the purpose of performing a commercial transaction, the process proceeds to step 238 in which the video file is closed and saved with the commerce opportunity tags embedded in line (or saved in Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL format)). Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language is a markup language being developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that would enable Web developers to divide multimedia content into separate files and streams (audio, video, text, and images), send them to a user's computer individually, and then have them displayed together as if they were a single multimedia stream. The ability to separate out the static text and images should make the multimedia content much smaller so that it doesn't take as long to travel over the Internet. After executing step 238, the depicted sub-process ends.

The content provider streams the media file either within the Hub or remotely and identifies the specific points in the file to which the content provider desires to add tags. Tags can be a piece of software code or an event trigger that is embedded in the media file itself or it may even be saved external to the media file. The purpose of the tag is to initiate (trigger) some action when a tagged segment of the media file is actually visually or audibly presented to the consumer. The process of tagging involves the content provider describing the content file as a whole with detailed information that may include but is not limited to the name of the file, the producer, the date, the personalities within the content segment, a description of the content, the demographics of the expected audience, the average number of viewers expected per showing and/or over a segment of time. Once the entire file is described, the content provider begins the process of identifying the places within the media file that he/she believes represent appropriate commerce opportunities, describing in detail these commerce opportunities and registering the rights to these commerce opportunities in the opportunity database 136 (FIG. 5) and inserting the resulting opportunity ID number into the stream.

The content provider selects the method of presentation (color, style, logos, duration, position on screen, animation, sponsors or affiliate logos, etc.) aided by an application program supported by drop down lists, wizards and stored templates. The Content provider selects the placement of the tag using their individual expertise in placing the tag precisely at the most appropriate moment in which they believe consumer demand for the good or service will be at its peak.

Each tag contains a unique identifier (Opportunity ID) representing distinct spatial and content characteristics. The point at which the commerce opportunity is embedded in the stream is contextually relevant with the creation of demand in a consumer for a good or service. The Applications Environment at the Hub will provide tools, metrics and production aids to provide guidelines for content providers in determining the best timing and duration of their tags. For example, if a talk show host is talking with a book author about his or her new book, this content could create the demand to buy the book in some segment of the population of viewers that are watching this video segment. Given the proper call-to-action to buy the book, it is likely that some percentage of the viewers will buy the book immediately as they watch the video segment

As all of the required information for each tag is input by the content provider, a serial number is created for that tag from the Opportunities Database. This serial number identifies this unique streaming media commerce opportunity and is linked to this tag in perpetuity unless cancelled by the content provider.

After registering the tag in the Hub database, the content provider can decide to place the rights to the tag up for sale or auction. In this embodiment, a content provider can negotiate independent of the Hub to sell the streaming media business tags that they have associated with a particular media file to any retailer of their choice. The negotiation and pricing of this contract between the content provider and the retailer is kept solely between the parties. However, both the content provider and the retailer must be registered users of the Hub and they must register the ownership of tags and complete the required registration and descriptive information on tags so that the tags can be enabled and the whole commercial transaction can be performed.

As an example, using a pre-recorded video of a cooking show that is being streaming media commerce enabled by the producer of said video, using the tools, applications, software and aids within the Hub, the content provider self-defines and self describes the commerce opportunity that resides contextually within the video. For example, if a cooking video features a famous chef that is touting a new cookbook, the content provider defines the commerce opportunity as a book sale opportunity, with the title and author of the book, the duration of the video segment, and the program in which the segment exists and any other definition data the Hub wishes to have the content provider enter. Upon the completion of definition of the commerce opportunity, the content provider receives an identification tag (a numerical definition serial number) for the particular opportunity. This tag is used to identify this particular opportunity throughout its lifetime and through the business transaction process. In absence of any more commerce opportunities, the video file is closed and saved with the commerce opportunity tags either embedded inline or external to the video file.

The content provider may elect to post for sale the rights to this business transaction. The rights to this commercial opportunity could be purchased by an retailer who would then own the right to transact and supply the book to the consumer should the consumer initiate action on the streaming media commerce opportunity. The rights to a streaming media commerce opportunity can be sold under a variety of sale terms and conditions that include but are not limited to fixed price and auction formats on the Hub's internal systems. The Hub facilitates the presentation of said rights to streaming media commerce opportunities to retailers as business-to-business transaction process between content providers and retailers.

The content provider has complete control over distribution. Typically the content provider is responsible for the streaming or broadcasting of the audio, video or other file that includes the streaming media commerce opportunities to the consumer. However, as a service, the Hub could host and stream content for content providers. The content provider can automatically post tags to the opportunity database 136 (FIG. 5) during the process of enabling streaming media. When a tag and it's serial number are generated during the streaming media business enabling process, this serial number can be immediately posted to the Opportunities Database and the content provider can use the pop-up wizard to log all the necessary data that is required by the database to offer the rights to the tag for sale. Once tags are posted to the opportunity database, they remain there, identified by their serial number, until removed

FIG. 9 shows a flow diagram illustrating an E-tailer opportunity acquisition sub- process at 260 in accordance with one embodiment of the process of the present invention for facilitating the sale of goods or services to consumers by creating commerce opportunities associated with media content. The opportunity acquisition sub-process 260 begins with a step 262 in which a retailer uses the browser 54 (FIG. 3) of the E- tailer/ Advertiser system to access the Hub and register at the Hub if the retailer is a new user. The retailer is then issued a user name and a password for the purposes of accessing the Hub in the case of the present transaction as well as for the future.

In step 264, the retailer enters an opportunity search interface to locate opportunities from the opportunity database, which match the products or services being sold by the retailers. In step 266, the retailer selects an opportunity from the selected list of opportunities. In step 268, the retailer is presented with a product specification form and describes the product or service in detail and submits the completed form to the Hub. In step five 270, the Hub inserts the opportunity acquisition detail into the retailer database 138 (FIG. 5). In step 272, a confirmation form is presented to the retailer allowing the retailer to either bid on or buy the selected opportunity and submit the form to the Hub. Depending on whether a bid or buy opportunity is offered to the retailer two things can happen. If the bid is accepted, the sub-process 260 proceeds to step 278 in which the Hub updates the opportunity database 136 (FIG. 5), and presents a confirmation screen to the retailer at the retailer system.

The retailers review and purchase the rights to streaming media commerce opportunities that content providers have posted for sale. In accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the content provider registers and posts the streaming media commerce opportunities on the opportunity database 136 (FIG. 5) that hosts a listing of all streaming media business tags, the rights to which are on sale. In describing the tag and the associated rights for sale, the content provider may elucidate the terms of the contract, the price of the tag, and also whether it is a fixed price or a percentage of the gross revenue generated by the tag, as well as any other designation or qualifier for the tag that can be supported by the Hub database. Such details could also include the names of specific retailers that are allowed to bid for the tag.

Retailers can also review metrics regarding the history of previous or current streaming media commerce opportunities that they own, review the metrics of a particular category of opportunities, bid in an auction format for new opportunities, offer for sale streaming media commerce opportunities that they own, and communicate to content providers any promotional or time sensitive offers they may have. This list can be sorted by the retailers and the retailers can review all of the information that the content providers used to describe the opportunity, retailers can choose to purchase the rights to said opportunities at the content provider defined prices or, if the rights have been posted by the content provider on the Hub's auction system, the retailer may place a bid for the opportunity and compete against other retailers for the opportunity. The terms of the purchase are defined by the content provider and may include but are not limited to fixed purchase prices, percentages of the gross or net revenues received by the retailer, a limited auction model in which a content provider selects only the retailers that they deem acceptable as purchasers of the opportunity and auction the opportunity amongst only these retailers. When retailers purchase the rights to a streaming media commerce opportunity, their purchase is automatically registered by the Hub's systems and this information includes but is not limited to the name of the retailer, the terms of the purchase agreement, the price paid for the opportunity, the retail price that the goods or services are to be offered to the consumer and the shipping and handling charges.

The retailer can do a data search of the database using typical SQL database queries using tools and user interfaces provided by the Hub. These searches can be based on, but not limited to, content of a particular type or category (e.g. surfing videos), content that includes tags for a particular commodity (e.g. videos that interview book authors or books review), content that has specific demographic or viewership characteristics. Once the query brings forward the streaming media commerce opportunities that meet the search criteria, the retailer can further investigate the details and specifics of the content that was loaded into the database by the content provider.

This research may include actually reviewing the video segment to determine if they wish to purchase the streaming media business tag of this video. To purchase the opportunity, the retailer reviews the price, terms and conditions that the content provider has associated with the tag as well as the price, terms and conditions that the Hub has placed associated with the tag.

For example, the content provider may be willing to sell the tag for $1000.00 for a six-month period of time. And, for example the Hub may establish terms on the same opportunity that requires the retailer to pay a fixed percentage of the gross revenues on all sales generated by the tag for the same six-month period. If the retailer agrees to the terms, they indicate their agreement to purchase and fill out the requested information that the Hub's systems deliver. This information could be but is not limited to the retailer inputting data about the price of the item for sale, the shipping cost of the item, credit cards accepted, etc. Once all the information requested is input by the retailer into the Hub's systems, the Hub issues a confirmation to the retailer that they have indeed purchased the streaming media business tag and presents a summary of the transaction to the retailer.

Once the transaction is consummated, the data is stored in the central data storage unit 114, and the Hub updates all relevant servers, databases and files, and optionally may send an e-mail notification to the content provider with details of the transaction. The pricing details of this purchase may or may not be made available to other retailers or content providers in metrics that the Hub produces.

In yet another embodiment of the present invention, a retailer can access the Hub's Opportunity Database and look at all the tags that have been placed up for auction by content providers. The retailer can do a data search of the database using typical SQL database queries using tools and user interfaces provided by the Hub. These searches can be based on, but not limited to, content of a particular type or category (e.g. surfing videos), content that includes tags for a particular commodity (e.g. videos that interview book authors or review books), content that has specific demographic or viewership characteristics, etc. Once the query brings forward the streaming media commerce opportunities that meet the search criteria, the retailer can further investigates the details and specifics of the content that was loaded into the database by the content provider. This research may include actually reviewing the video segment to determine if they wish to bid for the rights to the tag of this streaming media file. In order to purchase a tag at auction, the retailer reviews the price, terms and conditions that the content provider has associated with the tag as well as the price, terms and conditions that the Hub has associated with the tag. In describing the tag for auction, the content provider will have designated the term of the contract, the minimum bid for the tag, whether the bidding is for cash or for a percentage of the gross revenue generated by the tag, specific retailers that will be allowed to bid for the tag as well as any other designation or qualifier supported by the database.

For example, the content provider may be willing to sell the tag at auction for 10% of the gross revenues that the tag delivers over a six-month period of time. Also, the Hub may establish terms on the same opportunity that requires the retailer to pay an additional percentage of the gross revenues all sales generated by the tag for the same six-month period.

In accordance with another embodiment of the present invention, the Hub and the content provider may, in a separate contract between the Hub and the content provider, agree to divide up between the parties the percentage of the revenues that the retailer is willing to pay for the tag. For example, if two retailers, retailer A and retailer B, are bidding against each other for a particular tag and that ultimately retailer A wins the bid by agreeing to pay 20% of the gross revenues delivered by the tag. And, in a separate contract between the content provider and Hub, it was agreed to by the parties that they would split the total percentage agreed to by the retailer 50/50. Therefore, when a consumer purchases a good as a result of bidding on this tag, the revenue split would be 10% to Hub, 10% to content provider, 80% to retailer.

If the retailer agrees to the terms of the auction, they bid according to the format established by the Hub and/or by the content provider. The retailer is also required at this point to input information that could be, but is not limited to, data about the price of the item for sale, the shipping cost of the item, credit cards accepted, etc. The auction continues for a period of time as designated by the Hub and/or the content provider. If and when a retailer is the winning bidder for a tag, the Hub notifies them electronically.

Under this embodiment, a retailer can negotiate independent of the Hub to purchase tags directly from content providers. The negotiation and pricing of this contract between the content provider and the retailer is kept solely between the parties. However, both the content provider and the retailer must be registered users of the Hub, and must have agreed to a "terms of use" contract with the Hub, must register the ownership of the tags, complete the required registration and descriptive information on the tags. Within the retailer Interface 118 (FIG. 5)of the Hub, there exists an interface, database servers and systems that can deliver data to retailers regarding the performance of their streaming media business tags whose rights they have purchased. These database systems track the performance over time of the tags. This database allows retailers to manipulate data as is common in any SQL database, sorting data in a variety of ways, searching and looking up data based upon field criteria, etc.

This database allows retailers to review performance metrics such as, but not limited to, the amount of revenue generated by a specific tag over a particular time period, the performance of the tag compared to the tags of other retailers with similar content, consumer transaction abandonment data, comparative message strength and customer response data between two identical tags for identical goods within the same content stream, aggregate, overview and comparison price comparison of tags for similar and dissimilar content and goods and services, highest revenue grossing and least revenue grossing tags sorted by content category, by content, commodity, by time period. All of the above applications, services, postings and metrics may be provided to any registered retailer free of charge in return for a terms of use contract between the retailer and the Hub. Terms of use could be, but not limited to, a percentage of the revenue generated by the tag, a fixed fee either per tag or as a fee for use of a service or services. As part of the registration process, retailers agree to a contractual relationship with the Hub to abide by the fee structure current in place for the use of the Hubs applications, service and metrics.

FIG. 10 shows a flow diagram illustrating a consumer transaction sub-process at 300 in accordance with one embodiment of the process of the present invention for facilitating the sale of goods or services to consumers by creating commerce opportunities associated with media content. The consumer transaction sub-process 300 begins with a step 302 in which the consumer uses the browser 74 (FIG. 4 A) of the consumer system to access a video stream (which has been commerce enabled by a content provider) and begins watching a video on the display device or TV. In step 304, when a commerce opportunity tag is encountered in the video screen, the browser 74 (FIG. 4A) requests content from the Hub as identified by the tag's serial number.

In step 306, the browser receives a banner representing the retailer's product or service opportunity from the Hub and displays it proximate the video allowing the consumer to buy. If it is determined at 308 that the consumer clicks to buy, the process proceeds to step 314 in which the consumer browser requests the business form from the Hub as identified by the tag's serial number. From step 314, the process proceeds to step 316 in which, as the video plays, the browser may manipulate the video size and present the business form from the Hub enabling the consumer to provide information and buy the good or service. From step 316, the process proceeds to step 318 in which the consumer submits a completed form to the Hub and is presented with a confirmation number indicating that a status e-mail is forthcoming and the Hub inserts the consumer's order into the transaction queue database 130 (FIG. 5)

However, if it is determined at 308 that the consumer does not click to buy, the process proceeds to step 310 in which the banner disappears after a specified time-out. From step 310, the process proceeds to step 312 in which the video returns to its original state where the consumer continues to watch video.

When the consumer "clicks on" or initiates the commerce opportunity in step 314, the Hub serves appropriate transaction screens from a server or activates the screens that have been streamed down in advance and pre-loaded into the memory of a set-top box, an Internet device or other Internet enabled device in step 316. Commerce opportunities in the form of Visual or audio information presented to the consumer is based upon the information supplied by the retailers and content providers and the information is stored on servers under control of the Hub. Simultaneous to displaying the transaction screens, the video size is reduced to a percentage of the screen to make room for the transactions screens in step 316. In step 318, the consumer submits completed form to the Hub and is presented with a confirmation number indicating that an e-mail informing about the status is forthcoming and the Hub inserts consumer orders into the transaction queue database 130 (FIG. 5). The stream continues uninterrupted and the consumer may continue to view (or listen to) the media content while simultaneously interacting with the system. A consumer transaction can culminate in a variety of closed states. The consumer can either agree to purchase the goods or services offered and progress through a series of transaction screens to successful conclusion of the transactions at which time the Hub delivers a confirmation number and proceeds with the back end processing of the consumer order or the consumer could choose not to purchase the goods or services offered, abandon the transaction and return to the streaming media programming. The consumer could even elect to store the opportunity in a "wish list or shopping cart" in the Hub's consumer Database and be reminded of the opportunity at a future time. If the customer wishes to purchase the product or service immediately, the Hub sends a confirmation number to the user confirming the purchase in advance of the consumers credit card being verified so as to process the transaction as quickly as possible and return the consumer to watching the streaming media programming.

After the confirmation number has been issued to the consumer, the Hub verifies the credit card information provided by the consumer (or passes the credit card information to the retailer of record for processing), books a transaction processing fee according to the terms and conditions subscribed to by the retailer and the content provider of record for the opportunity and delivers order and shipping information along with the consumers credit card information to the retailer who owns the rights to said streaming media business transaction. The retailer fulfills the order by shipping the good to the consumer. FIG. 11 shows a flow diagram illustrating a commerce transaction sub-process at

330 in accordance with one embodiment of the process of the present invention for facilitating the sale of goods or services to consumers by creating commerce opportunities associated with media content. The commerce transaction sub-process 330 begins with a step 332 in which the transaction processing engine 112 (FIG. 5) scans for unprocessed orders in the transaction queue database 130 (FIG. 5). In step 334, the transaction processing engine sends credit availability check to the credit card server. From step 334, the transaction sub-process 330 proceeds to 336 at which it is determined whether credit is available. If it is determined at 336 that credit is not available, the process proceeds from 336 to step 337 in which the Hub sends an E-mail notification to the consumer for informing the consumer that there are problems with their order and showing them how to proceed.

If it is determined at 336 that credit is available, the process proceeds to step 338 in which the transaction processing engine sends the order to the E-tailer B-to-B interface 56 (FIG. 3). From step 338, the sub-process 330 proceeds to 340 at which it is determined whether the order has been accepted by the retailer B-to-B interface, and if so, the sub- process 330 proceeds to step 342 in which the transaction processing engine records booking information in the central data storage unit. In step 344, the Hub sends an order submission confirmation via an E-mail to the consumer, the e-mail containing information on how to contact the retailer regarding their order. If the transaction processing engine determines at 340 that the order has not been accepted by the retailer B-to-B interface, the process proceeds from 340 to step 337 in which the Hub sends an E-mail notification to the consumer for informing the consumer that there are problems with their order and showing them how to proceed.

Although the present invention has been particularly shown and described above with reference to a specific embodiment, it is anticipated that alterations and modifications thereof will no doubt become apparent to those skilled in the art. It is therefore intended that the following claims be interpreted as covering all such alterations and modifications as fall within the true spirit and scope of the invention. What is claimed is:

Claims

CLAIMS 1. A process for facilitating the sale of goods or services to consumers by creating commerce opportunities associated with selected portions of media content, the process for execution by a server computing system communicatively coupled with the Internet, comprising the steps of: providing a content provider interface at a content provider computing system, said interface enabling a content provider to define at least one tag associated with media content accessible at the client computing system, each said tag indicating an associated portion of said content for which a commerce opportunity may be created; receiving said defined tags and information indicative of said content from the content provider computing system; posting said information indicative of said content and information indicative of said defined tags; receiving retailer information from a particular retailer who is interested in purchasing rights to a selected one of said defined tags; and defining a commerce opportunity associated with said selected tag by associating said selected tag with said retailer transaction information.
2. A process as recited in claim 1 wherein said retailer information indicates particular goods or services that the particular retailer desires to sell via said commerce opportunity, and wherein said step of defining a commerce opportunity includes a step of associating said particular goods or services with said selected tag.
3. A process as recited in claim 1 wherein said retailer information indicates advertising information that the particular retailer desires to provide to consumers via said commerce opportunity, and wherein said step of defining a commerce opportunity includes a step of associating said advertising information with said selected tag.
4. A process as recited in claim 2 wherein said retailer information further comprises meta-data associated with said selected tag, said meta-data describing said particular goods or services to be offered for sale during play of a portion of said selected content that is indicated by said selected tag, and wherein said step of defining a commerce opportunity associated with said selected tag includes a step of associating said meta-data with said selected tag.
5. A process as recited in claim 4 further comprising the step of generating a uniform resource locator (URL) associated with said selected tag, said URL indicating a particular Internet document for initiating a process by which a consumer may purchase said particular goods or services.
6. A process as recited in claim 1 wherein said retailer information indicates particular goods or services that the particular retailer desires to sell via said commerce opportunity, and wherein said step of defining a commerce opportunity includes a step of enabling said selected tag by associating said selected tag with said particular goods or services
7. A process as recited in claim 6 further comprising the step of storing said enabled tag in a database at the server computing system.
8. A process as recited in claim 6 wherein said enabled tag is inserted into said media content at the content provider computing system to create tagged media content.
9. A process as recited in claim 8 wherein said tagged media content is transmitted to an end user system via a transmission medium, the end user system being operative to play the media content, and also being operative to present said commerce opportunity to a potential consumer.
10. A process as recited in claim 9 wherein said transmission medium is selected from a group consisting of the Internet, a cable television broadcast medium, and a satellite broadcast medium.
11. A process as recited in claim 9 wherein the end user system is further operative to enable the consumer to initiate a consumer transaction process associated with said commerce opportunity, the process further comprising the step of: receiving consumer transaction information provided by the consumer via the end user system, the consumer transaction information to be used in a sale of said particular goods or services associated with said enabled tag from the particular retailer to the consumer.
12. A process as recited in claim 11 further comprising a step of processing a commercial transaction for the sale of said particular goods or services associated with said selected tag to the consumer.
13. A process as recited in claim 12 further comprising a step of charging a brokerage fee for each sale of said particular goods or services associated with said selected tag.
14. A process as recited in claim 9 wherein said tagged media content is transmitted from the content provider system to an end user system via a transmission medium.
15. A process as recited in claim 7 wherein said media content is transmitted to an end user system via a transmission medium, the end user system being operative to play the media content, to present said commerce opportunity to a potential consumer, to enable the consumer to initiate a consumer transaction process associated with said commerce opportunity, and to access the server computing system in response to initiation of the consumer transaction process, the process further comprising the step of: receiving consumer transaction information provided by the consumer via the end user system, the consumer transaction information to be used in a sale of said particular goods or services associated with said enabled tag from the particular retailer to the consumer.
16. A process as recited in claim 15 wherein said transmission medium is selected from a group consisting of the Internet, a cable television broadcast medium, and a satellite broadcast medium.
17. A process as recited in claim 15 further comprising a step of processing a commercial transaction for the sale of said particular goods or services associated with said selected tag to the particular consumer.
18. A process as recited in claim 17 further comprising a step of charging a brokerage fee for each sale of said particular goods or services associated with said selected tag.
19. A process as recited in claim 15 wherein said tagged media content is transmitted from the content provider system to an end user system via a transmission medium.
20. A process as recited in claim 1 wherein said content provider interface also enables content providers to specify terms for the sale of rights to said selected tag to the particular retailer.
21. A process as recited in claim 1 further comprising the steps of: processing a commerce opportunity transaction for the sale of rights to said selected tag to the particular retailer; and charging a brokerage fee for processing said commerce opportunity transaction for the sale of rights to said selected tag to the particular retailer.
22. A process as recited in claim 20 wherein said content provider interface further enables the content provider to specify that rights to a tag can be sold to retailers under a fixed price format, and wherein said step of processing a commerce opportunity transaction comprises selling rights to a tag to a retailer for fixed price.
23. A process as recited in claim 20 wherein said media content provider interface further enables the content provider to specify that rights to a tag can be sold to retailers under an auction format, and wherein said step of processing a commerce opportunity transaction comprises auctioning rights to a tag wherein a plurality of retailers bid against each other for rights to the tag.
24. A process for facilitating the sale of rights to commerce opportunities associated with selected portions of media content to retailers that desire to sell goods or services to consumers using the media content to attract consumers, the process for execution by a server computing system coupled with the Internet, comprising the steps of: providing a content provider interface at a content provider computing system, said interface enabling a content provider to define at least one tag associated with media content accessible at the client computing system, each said tag indicating an associated portion of said content for which a commerce opportunity may be created; receiving information indicative of said content and said defined tags from the content provider computing system; posting said information indicative of said content and said defined tags; receiving retailer information from a particular retailer who is interested in purchasing rights to a selected one of said defined tags; processing a commerce opportunity transaction for the sale of rights to said selected tag to the particular retailer; and defining a commerce opportunity associated with said selected tag by associating said selected tag with said retailer transaction information.
25. A process as recited in claim 24 further comprising a step of charging a brokerage fee for processing said commerce opportunity transaction for the sale of rights to said selected tag to the particular retailer.
26. A process as recited in claim 24 wherein said media content provider interface further enables content providers to specify terms for the sale of rights to tags to retailers.
27. A process as recited in claim 24 wherein said media content provider interface further enables the content provider to specify that rights to a tag can be sold to retailers under an auction format, and wherein said step of processing a commerce opportunity transaction comprises auctioning rights to a tag wherein a plurality of retailers bid against each other for rights to the tag.
28. In a network system including a server computing system communicatively coupled with a content provider computing system and with a retailer/advertiser computing system via a network, a process for facilitating the sale of goods or services to consumers by creating commerce opportunities associated with selected portions of media content, the process for execution by the server computing system, comprising the steps of: providing an interface at the content provider computing system, said interface enabling a content provider to define at least one tag associated with media content accessible at the provider computing system, each said tag indicating an associated portion of said content for which a commerce opportunity may be created; transmitting each said defined tag from the provider computing system to the server computing system; posting information indicative of said content and said defined tags at the server computing system; receiving retailer information at the server computing system from a particular retailer who is interested in purchasing rights to a selected one of said defined tags; and defining a commerce opportunity associated with said selected tag by associating said selected tag with said retailer transaction information.
29. In a network system as recited in claim 28 wherein said retailer information indicates particular goods or services that the particular retailer desires to sell via said commerce opportunity, and wherein said step of defining a commerce opportunity includes a step of associating said particular goods or services with said selected tag.
30. In a network system as recited in claim 28 wherein said retailer information indicates advertising information that the particular retailer desires to provide to consumers via said commerce opportunity, and wherein said step of defining a commerce opportunity includes a step of associating said advertising information with said selected tag.
31. In a network system as recited in claim 28 wherein said retailer information indicates particular goods or services that the particular retailer desires to sell via said commerce opportunity, and wherein said step of defining a commerce opportunity includes a step enabling said selected tag by associating said selected tag with said particular goods or services
32. In a network system as recited in claim 31 further comprising the step of storing said enabled tag in a database at the server computing system.
33. In a network system as recited in claim 31 further comprising the step of inserting said enabled tag into said media content to create tagged media content for storage at the content provider computing system.
34. In a network system as recited in claim 32 wherein the network is the Internet and the media content includes video content, the system further including at least one end user system communicatively coupled with the server computing system via the Internet, the end user system being operative to execute a browser application for accessing the Internet, further comprising the step of: transmitting said media content to the end user system via the Internet; displaying said media content and presenting said commerce opportunity to a potential consumer at the end user system; receiving user input at the end user system from the consumer, the user input for activating said commerce opportunity; and providing a form at the end user system in response to activation of said commerce opportunity, said form enabling the consumer to enter consumer transaction information to be used in a commercial transaction for the sale of said particular goods or services from the particular retailer to the consumer.
35. In a network system as recited in claim 34 wherein the end user computer system is operative to provide a browser and a media player, and wherein said steps of displaying said media content and presenting said commerce opportunity, and providing a form at the end user system further include: transmitting a program and media content ID information from the content provider system to the end user system, said program including instructions executable by the browser for implementing a commerce opportunity process; executing said program by the browser to initiate said commerce opportunity process which includes a step of accessing said enabled tag from the server computing system; and playing said media content on the media player, the media player being operative to provide time codes to the browser, said time codes indicating portions of the media content being played, the commerce opportunity process being responsive to said time codes and operative to present said commerce opportunity associated with said enabled tag at the end user system upon play of the portion of said media content associated with said enabled tag.
36. In a network system as recited in claim 35 wherein said program includes a Java script library.
37. In a network system as recited in claim 35 wherein said program is operative to provide said form at the end user system.
38. In a network system as recited in claim 34 further comprising the step of transmitting said consumer transaction information from the end user system to the server computing system via said form.
39. In a network system as recited in claim 38 further comprising the step of processing a commercial transaction at the server computing system for the sale of said particular goods or services associated with said selected tag to the particular consumer.
40. In a network system as recited in claim 39 further comprising a step of charging a brokerage fee for each sale of said particular goods or services associated with said selected tag.
41. In a network system as recited in claim 34 wherein said media content is transmitted from the content provider system to the end user system via the Internet.
42. In a network system as recited in claim 34 wherein the system further includes a media streaming system for streaming said media content to end user systems, and wherein said step of transmitting said media content includes transmitting said media content from the media streaming system to the end user system via the Internet.
43. In a network system as recited in claim 32 wherein the network is the Internet and the media content includes video content, the system further including at least one end user system communicatively coupled with the content provider system via a transmission medium, the end user system being operative to display media content and having a browser for accessing the Internet, further comprising the step of: transmitting said media content from the content provider system to the end user system via the transmission medium; displaying said media content at the end user system to a potential consumer and presenting said commerce opportunity to the potential consumer; receiving input at the end user system from the consumer, the input for activating said commerce opportunity; and providing a form at the end user system in response to activation of said commerce opportunity, said form enabling the consumer to enter consumer transaction information to be used in a commercial transaction for the sale of said particular goods or services from the particular retailer to the consumer.
44. In a network system as recited in claim 43 wherein said transmission medium is selected from a group consisting of the Internet, a cable television broadcast medium, and a satellite broadcast medium.
45. In a network system as recited in claim 43 further comprising the step of transmitting said consumer transaction information from the end user system to the server computing system via said form.
46. In a network system as recited in claim 45 further comprising the step of processing a commercial transaction at the server computing system for the sale of said particular goods or services associated with said selected tag to the particular consumer.
47. In a network system as recited in claim 45 further comprising a step of transmitting said consumer transaction information from the server computing system to another system associated with the particular retailer via the Internet for the purpose of further processing said commercial transaction for the sale of said particular goods or services associated with said selected tag.
48. In a network system as recited in claim 46 further comprising a step of charging a brokerage fee for each sale of said particular goods or services associated with said selected tag.
49. In a network system as recited in claim 47 further comprising a step of charging a brokerage fee for each sale of said particular goods or services associated with said selected tag.
50. In a network system including a server computing system, at least one end user system communicatively coupled with the server computing system via the Internet, and a media streaming system communicatively coupled with the end user system via the Internet, the end user system being operative to provide a browser and a media player, a process for facilitating the sale of goods or services to consumers via commerce opportunities associated with selected portions of media content, the process for execution by the server computing system, comprising the steps of: defining at least one tag indicating an associated portion of media content for which a commerce opportunity may be created; defining retailer information indicating particular goods or services that a particular retailer desires to sell using said media content to attract consumers; defining a commerce opportunity by associating said selected tag with said goods or services thereby enabling said selected tag; storing said enabled tag in a database at the server computing system; transmitting a program and content ID information from the streaming system to the end user system, said program including instructions executable by the browser for implementing a commerce opportunity presentation process at the end user system, said media content ID information indicating said media content and said enabled tag; streaming said media content from the media streaming to the end user system; executing said program by the browser to initiate said commerce opportunity process which includes a step of accessing said enabled tag from the server computing system using said ID information; and playing said media content on the media player, the media player being operative to provide time codes to the browser, said time codes indicating portions of the media content being played, the commerce opportunity process being responsive to said time codes and operative to present said commerce opportunity associated with said enabled tag at the end user system upon play of the portion of said media content indicated by said enabled tag.
51. In a network system as recited in claim 50 wherein the end user system enables the consumer to enter user input for activating said presented commerce opportunity in order to initiate an associated commercial transaction for the sale of said particular goods or services from the particular retailer to the consumer; and wherein said commerce opportunity process further implements the step of providing a form at the end user system in response to activation of said commerce opportunity, said form enabling the consumer to enter consumer transaction information to be used in said commercial transaction.
52. In a network system as recited in claim 50 wherein said program includes a Java script library.
53. In a network system as recited in claim 51 further comprising the step of transmitting said consumer transaction information from the end user system to the server computing system via said form.
54. In a network system as recited in claim 53 further comprising the step of processing at least a portion of said commercial transaction at the server computing system for the sale of said particular goods or services associated with said selected tag to the particular consumer.
55. In a network system as recited in claim 53 further comprising a step of charging a brokerage fee for each sale of said particular goods or services associated with said selected tag.
PCT/US2000/026077 1999-09-24 2000-09-22 Internet hub providing for enablement of media content for commercial transactions WO2001022730A1 (en)

Priority Applications (4)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
US15607099 true 1999-09-24 1999-09-24
US60/156,070 1999-09-24
US20619300 true 2000-05-22 2000-05-22
US60/206,193 2000-05-22

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