WO2001033752A1 - Direct tracking of viewers of selected content in audio and video programming provided over a computer network - Google Patents

Direct tracking of viewers of selected content in audio and video programming provided over a computer network Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2001033752A1
WO2001033752A1 PCT/US2000/030119 US0030119W WO0133752A1 WO 2001033752 A1 WO2001033752 A1 WO 2001033752A1 US 0030119 W US0030119 W US 0030119W WO 0133752 A1 WO0133752 A1 WO 0133752A1
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WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
user
content
program
monitored
providing
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/US2000/030119
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Clarke Randolph Hill
Original Assignee
Measurecast, 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.)
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Publication date
Priority to US43369199A priority Critical
Priority to US09/433,691 priority
Application filed by Measurecast, Inc. filed Critical Measurecast, Inc.
Publication of WO2001033752A1 publication Critical patent/WO2001033752A1/en

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Classifications

    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N7/00Television systems
    • H04N7/16Analogue secrecy systems; Analogue subscription systems
    • H04N7/173Analogue secrecy systems; Analogue subscription systems with two-way working, e.g. subscriber sending a programme selection signal
    • H04N7/17345Control of the passage of the selected programme
    • H04N7/17354Control of the passage of the selected programme in an intermediate station common to a plurality of user terminals
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N21/00Selective content distribution, e.g. interactive television or video on demand [VOD]
    • H04N21/20Servers specifically adapted for the distribution of content, e.g. VOD servers; Operations thereof
    • H04N21/25Management operations performed by the server for facilitating the content distribution or administrating data related to end-users or client devices, e.g. end-user or client device authentication, learning user preferences for recommending movies
    • H04N21/254Management at additional data server, e.g. shopping server, rights management server
    • H04N21/2543Billing, e.g. for subscription services
    • H04N21/2547Third Party Billing, e.g. billing of advertiser
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N21/00Selective content distribution, e.g. interactive television or video on demand [VOD]
    • H04N21/20Servers specifically adapted for the distribution of content, e.g. VOD servers; Operations thereof
    • H04N21/25Management operations performed by the server for facilitating the content distribution or administrating data related to end-users or client devices, e.g. end-user or client device authentication, learning user preferences for recommending movies
    • H04N21/258Client or end-user data management, e.g. managing client capabilities, user preferences or demographics, processing of multiple end-users preferences to derive collaborative data
    • H04N21/25866Management of end-user data
    • H04N21/25883Management of end-user data being end-user demographical data, e.g. age, family status or address
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N21/00Selective content distribution, e.g. interactive television or video on demand [VOD]
    • H04N21/20Servers specifically adapted for the distribution of content, e.g. VOD servers; Operations thereof
    • H04N21/25Management operations performed by the server for facilitating the content distribution or administrating data related to end-users or client devices, e.g. end-user or client device authentication, learning user preferences for recommending movies
    • H04N21/258Client or end-user data management, e.g. managing client capabilities, user preferences or demographics, processing of multiple end-users preferences to derive collaborative data
    • H04N21/25866Management of end-user data
    • H04N21/25891Management of end-user data being end-user preferences
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N21/00Selective content distribution, e.g. interactive television or video on demand [VOD]
    • H04N21/40Client devices specifically adapted for the reception of or interaction with content, e.g. set-top-box [STB]; Operations thereof
    • H04N21/43Processing of content or additional data, e.g. demultiplexing additional data from a digital video stream; Elementary client operations, e.g. monitoring of home network, synchronizing decoder's clock; Client middleware
    • H04N21/442Monitoring of processes or resources, e.g. detecting the failure of a recording device, monitoring the downstream bandwidth, the number of times a movie has been viewed, the storage space available from the internal hard disk
    • H04N21/44213Monitoring of end-user related data
    • H04N21/44222Monitoring of user selections, e.g. selection of programs, purchase activity
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N21/00Selective content distribution, e.g. interactive television or video on demand [VOD]
    • H04N21/60Network structure or processes for video distribution between server and client or between remote clients; Control signalling between clients, server and network components; Transmission of management data between server and client, e.g. sending from server to client commands for recording incoming content stream; Communication details between server and client 
    • H04N21/61Network physical structure; Signal processing
    • H04N21/6106Network physical structure; Signal processing specially adapted to the downstream path of the transmission network
    • H04N21/6125Network physical structure; Signal processing specially adapted to the downstream path of the transmission network involving transmission via Internet
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N21/00Selective content distribution, e.g. interactive television or video on demand [VOD]
    • H04N21/60Network structure or processes for video distribution between server and client or between remote clients; Control signalling between clients, server and network components; Transmission of management data between server and client, e.g. sending from server to client commands for recording incoming content stream; Communication details between server and client 
    • H04N21/61Network physical structure; Signal processing
    • H04N21/6156Network physical structure; Signal processing specially adapted to the upstream path of the transmission network
    • H04N21/6175Network physical structure; Signal processing specially adapted to the upstream path of the transmission network involving transmission via Internet
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N21/00Selective content distribution, e.g. interactive television or video on demand [VOD]
    • H04N21/60Network structure or processes for video distribution between server and client or between remote clients; Control signalling between clients, server and network components; Transmission of management data between server and client, e.g. sending from server to client commands for recording incoming content stream; Communication details between server and client 
    • H04N21/63Control signaling related to video distribution between client, server and network components; Network processes for video distribution between server and clients or between remote clients, e.g. transmitting basic layer and enhancement layers over different transmission paths, setting up a peer-to-peer communication via Internet between remote STB's; Communication protocols; Addressing
    • H04N21/633Control signals issued by server directed to the network components or client
    • H04N21/6332Control signals issued by server directed to the network components or client directed to client
    • H04N21/6334Control signals issued by server directed to the network components or client directed to client for authorisation, e.g. by transmitting a key
    • H04N21/63345Control signals issued by server directed to the network components or client directed to client for authorisation, e.g. by transmitting a key by transmitting keys
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N21/00Selective content distribution, e.g. interactive television or video on demand [VOD]
    • H04N21/60Network structure or processes for video distribution between server and client or between remote clients; Control signalling between clients, server and network components; Transmission of management data between server and client, e.g. sending from server to client commands for recording incoming content stream; Communication details between server and client 
    • H04N21/65Transmission of management data between client and server
    • H04N21/658Transmission by the client directed to the server
    • H04N21/6582Data stored in the client, e.g. viewing habits, hardware capabilities, credit card number
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N21/00Selective content distribution, e.g. interactive television or video on demand [VOD]
    • H04N21/80Generation or processing of content or additional data by content creator independently of the distribution process; Content per se
    • H04N21/81Monomedia components thereof
    • H04N21/812Monomedia components thereof involving advertisement data
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N7/00Television systems
    • H04N7/16Analogue secrecy systems; Analogue subscription systems
    • H04N7/162Authorising the user terminal, e.g. by paying; Registering the use of a subscription channel, e.g. billing
    • H04N7/165Centralised control of user terminal ; Registering at central

Abstract

Direct tracking or monitoring of the viewing of online audio or video programming is provided. The direct monitoring allows correlation between specific content (e.g., advertisements) (112) and all the viewers who receive the content. With demographic information stored regarding the viewers (124), advertisers can receive detailed demographic information about all the viewers of that content. In contrast, conventional indirect measurement or tracking of viewers relies on surveys or samplings of proportionally small portions of the actual viewers.

Description

Direct Tracking of Viewers of Selected Content in Audio and Video Programming Provided over a Computer Network

Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to monitoring viewers of audio or video programming and, in particular, to correlating individual viewers with specific content within programming that is provided over a computer network.

Background and Summary of the Invention

In many countries, conventional broadcast radio and television programming are supported by advertising in the form of commercials that are interspersed throughout the programming. The costs for advertising during different radio and television shows depend upon sampled measurements of the numbers of people who listen to or watch those shows. (For purposes of simplicity, listeners and viewers are both referred to as viewers herein.) The most famous sampled measurements for programming are the Nielson ratings provided by Nielsen Media Research, Inc. and the Arbitron ratings provided by the Arbitron Company.

Transmission of audio and video programming over computer networks, such as the Internet, has become widely available and is becoming increasingly popular. Much of this online programming is being supported by advertising similar to the manner that advertising supports conventional broadcast programming. As with conventional broadcast programming, advertising costs are based upon measuring the numbers of users. As with conventional broadcast programming, measurement of numbers of viewers of online programming is typically conducted by sampled measurements and surveys. Such indirect measurement of the viewers of online programming suffers from several disadvantages, including the generally lower concentrations of viewers as compared to broadcast programming. Accordingly, the present invention provides direct tracking or monitoring of the viewing of online audio or video programming. The direct monitoring allows correlation between specific content (e.g., advertisements) and all the viewers who receive the content. With demographic information stored regarding the viewers, advertisers can receive detailed demographic information about all the viewers of that content. In contrast, conventional indirect measurement or tracking of viewers relies on surveys or samplings of proportionally small portions of the actual viewers In one implementation, online programming includes general content (e.g., entertainment content) and specifically monitored content (e.g., advertisements) Each viewer is assigned a unique user identifier, and demographic information about the user may optionally be stored in association with the user identifier. One or more content identifiers are associated the online programming to indicate the monitored content in program.

The online programming is provided to each viewer via a computer network, such as the Internet. The user identifier of each viewer is correlated with the content identifier of the monitored content provided to the viewer. As a result, the demographic information associated with user identifier is also associated with the content identifiers of monitored content provided to that user In preferred embodiments, personal identifying information about the users is maintained in confidence.

In one implementation, the general content of the programming and the monitored content are provided in coordination with each other from different network sites. A benefit of this implementation is that the specifically monitored content may be personalized according to the demographic information of different viewers without requiring that the distributors of general content provide the personalization. In another implementation, the specifically monitored content is integrated with the general content and distributed with it. In yet other implementations, the general content is encoded or encrypted for distribution.

SUBS l l l U l b SHEET (RULE 25) The direct monitoring of viewers of online programming according to the present invention utilizes the bidirectional communication capabilities of computer networks The result is that all viewers of online programming can be identified and demographic information about them can be correlated with the programming This direct measurement or tracking of viewers provides increased value for advertisers and hence increased availability of online programming

Additional objects and advantages of the present invention will be apparent from the detailed description of the preferred embodiment thereof, which proceeds with reference to the accompanying drawings

Brief Description of the Drawings

Fig 1 is a block diagram of a computer system that may be used to implement the present invention

Fig. 2 is a schematic diagram illustrating time sequential components of an audio or a video program

Fig. 3 is a flow diagram of a program viewing correlation method for providing audio or video programming with specifically monitored content and for correlating the specifically monitored content with individual viewers Fig 4 is a functional block diagram illustrating data flow in and components of a program viewing correlation system for the method of Fig 3

Fig. 5 is a flow diagram of a program viewing correlation method for monitoring individual segments of audio or video programming Fig. 6 is a functional block diagram illustrating data flow in and components of a program viewing correlation system for the method of Fig 5.

Fig. 7 is a flow diagram of a programming content encoding process Fig. 8 is a flow diagram of a segmented programming playing process for playing segmented programming. Detailed Description of Preferred Embodiments Fig. 1 illustrates an operating environment for an embodiment of the present invention as a computer system 20 with a computer 22 that comprises at least one high speed processing unit (CPU) 24 in conjunction with a memory system 26, an input device 28, and an output device 30. These elements are interconnected by at least one bus structure 32.

The illustrated CPU 24 is of familiar design and includes an ALU 34 for performing computations, a collection of registers 36 for temporary storage of data and instructions, and a control unit 38 for controlling operation of the system 20. The CPU 24 may be a processor having any of a variety of architectures including Alpha from Digital, MIPS from MIPS Technology, NEC, IDT, Siemens, and others, x86 from Intel and others, including Cyrix, AMD, and Nexgen, and the PowerPC from IBM and Motorola The memory system 26 generally includes high-speed main memory 40 in the form of a medium such as random access memory (RAM) and read only memory (ROM) semiconductor devices, and secondary storage 42 in the form of long term storage mediums such as floppy disks, hard disks, tape, CD-ROM, flash memory, etc. and other devices that store data using electrical, magnetic, optical or other recording media The main memory 40 also can include video display memory for displaying images through a display device. Those skilled in the art will recognize that the memory 26 can comprise a variety of alternative components having a variety of storage capacities. The input and output devices 28 and 30 also are familiar. The input device 28 can comprise a keyboard, a mouse, a physical transducer (e.g., a microphone), etc. The output device 30 can comprise a display, a printer, a transducer (e.g., a speaker), etc. Some devices, such as a network interface or a modem, can be used as input and/or output devices As is familiar to those skilled in the art, the computer system

20 further includes an operating system and at least one application program The operating system is the set of software which controls the computer system's operation and the allocation of resources. The application program is the set of software that performs a task desired by the user, using computer resources made available through the operating system. Both are resident in the illustrated memory system 26. In accordance with the practices of persons skilled in the art of computer programming, the present invention is described below with reference to acts and symbolic representations of operations that are performed by computer system 20, unless indicated otherwise. Such acts and operations are sometimes referred to as being computer-executed and may be associated with the operating system or the application program as appropriate. It will be appreciated that the acts and symbolically represented operations include the manipulation by the CPU 24 of electrical signals representing data bits which causes a resulting transformation or reduction of the electrical signal representation, and the maintenance of data bits at memory locations in memory system 26 to thereby reconfigure or otherwise alter the computer system's operation, as well as other processing of signals. The memory locations where data bits are maintained are physical locations that have particular electrical, magnetic, or optical properties corresponding to the data bits. Fig. 2 is a schematic diagram illustrating time sequential components of an audio or a video program or programming 50 that in one implementation includes general or entertainment content 52 and advertising content 54. Individual instances of advertising content 54 are sometimes referred to as advertisements 54 or commercials 54. For example, entertainment content 52 could be a radio or television show, or any other audio or video program created for any medium. Advertising content 54 could be the different advertisements or commercials that are commonly interspersed through entertainment content 52 as one or more groups 56, each with one or more advertisements 54. For purposes of illustration, successive alphabetic suffices on reference numerals 52 and 54 designate distinct successive portions of entertainment content 52 and distinct advertisements 54, respectively.

SUBS l l l U l h SHEET (RULE 26) Fig. 3 is a flow diagram of a program viewing correlation method 60 for providing audio or video programming with specifically monitored content (e.g., advertising content 54) and for correlating the specifically monitored content with individual viewers. The audio or video programming may include, for example, radio or television shows that are played for a user on a computer network-connected player (e.g., an Internet-connected computer) or on a player that is controllable by a networked computer. For purposes of simplicity, such programming is referred to as online programming and the users (e.g., listeners or viewers) for whom the programming is played or performed are referred to jointly as viewers.

Viewing correlation method 60 provides direct measurement of the specifically monitored content that is played for each of multiple, typically many, viewers. In one implementation, the specifically monitored content (e.g., advertising content 54) financially supports the distribution of the online programming. Correlating the viewing of the specifically monitored content to individual viewers can significantly increase the efficacy and value of advertising content 54. Correlating the performance of advertising content 54 to demographic information about the viewers can further increase the efficacy and value of advertising content 54 Process block 62 indicates that a user selects an online program to be played or performed for the user by a computer network- connected player (e.g., an Internet-connected computer). For example, the user may select the program from a computer network site (e.g., an Internet site on the World Wide Web).

Inquiry block 64 represents an inquiry as to whether the user is a registered viewer of programming. A registered viewer is a user who has provided personal information, including demographic information, and been assigned a unique registered viewer identifier. Whenever the user is not a registered viewer of programming, inquiry block 64 proceeds to process block 66. Whenever the user is a registered viewer of programming, inquiry block 64 proceeds to process block 68. Process block 66 indicates that a person or user registers to become a registered viewer. Registration includes obtaining personal information from the user, including demographic information in some implementations, and assigning a unique registered user identifier to the viewer. In one implementation, the registration includes transmitting registration information over a computer network from the computer network-connected player (e.g., computer) of the user to a viewing correlation system The information obtained from the user may include any degree of information desirable for advertisers, including gender, age, location, household and family status, income, hobbies, interests, activities, etc.

The viewing correlation system may be implemented as one or more Internet-connected computers or computer systems For purposes of illustration, the viewing correlation system is referred to herein in the singular, but may instead be implemented as multiple computer systems with distinct operations, as described below in greater detail.

Process block 68 indicates that the viewing correlation system obtains and stores the registered user identifier for the registered viewer.

Process block 70 indicates that the selected program, or a segment of it, is transmitted over the computer network to the computer network-connected player of the registered user. Each of the segments may or may not include monitored content in the form of one or more advertisements 54.

Process block 72 indicates that a monitored content trigger is identified in association with the selected program, or segment of it. The monitored content trigger indicates where specifically monitored content is to be incorporated into the program or segment.

Process block 74 indicates that specifically monitored content is transmitted over the computer network to the computer network- connected player of the registered user for incorporation into the program or segment. For example, the specifically monitored content may be transmitted to be played in coordination with the end or a break in the program or segment.

Process block 76 indicates that the specifically monitored content transmitted over the computer network to the computer network- connected player of the registered user is correlated specifically with the registered user, thereby correlating the specifically monitored content that is viewed with the viewers who see it. For example, a monitored content identifier corresponding to the transmitted monitored content is correlated with the user identifiers of viewers who receive the content. Inquiry block 78 represents an inquiry as to whether the selected programming includes another programming segment Inquiry block 78 returns to process block 70 whenever the selected programming includes another programming segment Inquiry block 78 proceeds to termination block 80 whenever the selected programming does not include another programming segment.

The correlation between the specifically monitored content and the registered users who view it can directly measure the programming that is played and who sees it for arbitrarily large numbers of viewers These direct measurements provide viewing data of an accuracy and on a scale that have been previously unavailable. When correlated with demographic data of the registered viewers who watch the monitored content, viewing correlation method 60 is capable of providing valuable improvements in the accuracy of measuring viewing data. It will be appreciated that in preferred implementations, demographic data of registered users is provided (e.g., to advertisers) only on a summary basis and the identity and privacy of the registered users are maintained in confidence.

With reference to the specifically monitored content being advertisements, for example, the specifically monitored content that is transmitted according to process block 74 typically is one or more of multiple available advertisements in an advertisement library. In one implementation, the one or more advertisements that are transmitted are selected from the advertisement library independently of the registered

SUBSTTTUTE SHEET (RULE 26) user receiving the one or more advertisements. In this implementation, the advertisements that are transmitted may be selected according to the selected program or program segment with which the monitored content trigger is associated. In another implementation, the one or more advertisements that are transmitted are selected from the advertisement library according to personal or demographic information about the registered user receiving the one or more advertisements. This personalization of the specifically monitored content that is transmitted to a registered user may be implemented in many different ways. For example, one or more of multiple available advertisements could each have associated with them one or more demographic categories. These demographic categories could be stored as monitored content demographic information. The particular one or more advertisements that are transmitted in response to a monitored content trigger are selected according to a correlation between the monitored content demographic information and the personal or demographic information about the registered user receiving the one or more advertisements.

It will be appreciated this personalization of monitored content could also be subject to the selected program or program segment with which the monitored content trigger is associated. For example, the selected program or program segment could have associated with it a subset of the advertisements within the advertisement library. The particular one or ones of the advertisements that are transmitted to a registered user may be selected according to the relative degree of correlation between the personal or demographic information about the registered user and the monitored content demographic information of the advertisements in the subset.

Fig. 4 is a functional block diagram illustrating data flow in and components of a program viewing correlation system 100. The components of viewing correlation system are implemented with computer software on computers. For purposes of illustration, viewing correlation

SUBSTTTUTE SHEET (RULE 26) system 100 is described in relation to a single registered viewer 102. It will be appreciated, however, that program viewing correlation system 100 would typically be in communication with and used by multiple, even arbitrarily many, viewers. Viewer 102 operates a programming player 104 such as, for example, a personal computer 106 having stored thereon and executing media playing computer software 108 for playing audio or video programming. Alternatively, the programming player could be implemented as an audio or video player that can receive programming from a computer or a computer network. In one exemplary implementation, media playing computer software 108 could be the RealPlayer™ streaming media player available from Real Networks, Inc. of Seattle, Washington. In other implementation, media playing computer software 108 could operate on conventional static media files. Programming player 104 communicates over a computer network 1 14 (e.g., the Internet) with a viewing correlation system 1 16 having a programming file server 1 18, a monitored content server 120, and a viewer record database 124. Any or all of programming file server 1 18, monitored content server 120, and viewer record database 124 may be operated on the same or different computers, which may be local to each other or remotely interconnected by computer network 1 14

Viewer 102 selects online programming 1 12 for viewing. Online programming 1 12 may be stored on programming file server 1 18 as one or segments. Programming 1 12 has associated with it a monitored content trigger fir indicating where monitored content is to be incorporated into the programming.

Player 108 provides a registered user identifier for the registered viewer to programming file server 1 18. Programming 1 12 is delivered to computer 106 and player 108 via network 1 14, and the monitored content viewer and registered viewer identifier are delivered to monitored content server 120, typically via a separate path over network 1 14. Monitored content server 120 is shown as being separate from programming file server 1 18, but could alternatively be local to or integrated with it.

Monitored content server 120 provides specifically monitored content (e.g., advertising content 54) to computer 106 and player 108 to be played in coordination with the end of or a break in programming 1 12.

Monitored content server 120 also provides the registered viewer identifier to viewer record database 124, which stores the registered viewer identifier in correlation with an identifier for the specifically monitored content. Viewer record database 124 also includes the viewer registration information, including any demographic information. As a result, correlation between the specifically monitored content and any of the registered viewer demographic information can also be provided

Fig. 5 is a flow diagram of a program viewing correlation method 160 for monitoring individual segments of audio or video programming that are successively played or performed and for correlating those programming segments with individual viewers. The audio or video programming may be in the form of, for example, radio or television shows that are played for a user on a computer network-connected player (e.g., an Internet-connected computer) or on a player that is controllable by a networked computer. For purposes of simplicity, the users (e.g., listeners or viewers) for whom the programming is played or performed are referred to jointly as viewers.

Viewing correlation method 160 provides direct measurement of the programming segments that are played for each of multiple, typically many, viewers. In one implementation, the programming segments include specifically monitored content (e.g., advertising content 54) that financially supports the distribution of all the programming. Correlating the viewing of programming segments to individual viewers can significantly increase the efficacy and value of advertising content 54. Correlating the performance of advertising content 54 to demographic information about the viewers can further increase the efficacy and value of advertising content 54.

SUBSTITUTE SHEET (RULE 25) Process block 162 indicates that multiple distinct programming segments are defined within an audio or video program (e.g., a syndicated radio or television show). Each programming segment includes specifically monitored content (e.g., one or more advertisements 54). Each of the segments may or may not include monitored content in the form of one or more advertisements 54.

Process block 164 indicates that each programming segment is encoded or encrypted and has associated with it a content decoding key for authorizing performance or playing of the segment. Programming segments are encoded to prevent them from being performed or played without authorization and, hence, without correlation between the viewer and the viewed programming.

Process block 166 indicates that a person or viewer registers to become a registered viewer. Registration includes assigning a unique registered user identifier to the viewer and loading of a segmented programming player and decoder into the computer network-connected player of the viewer.

In one implementation, the registration request is transmitted over a computer network from the computer network-connected player of the user to a segmented programming server that is connected to and communicates over the computer network. Typically, registration of the viewer includes the viewer providing personal demographic information to the segmented programming server. The segmented programming server may be implemented as one or more Internet-connected computers or computer systems. For purposes of illustration, segmented programming server is referred to herein in the singular, but may instead be implemented as multiple computer systems with distinct operations, as described below in greater detail.

Process block 168 indicates that a registered user selects a segmented online program to be played or performed for the registered viewer by a computer network-connected player (e.g., an Internet- connected computer) For example, the registered user may select the segmented program from a computer network site (e.g., an Internet site on the World Wide Web) or may have one or more segments of the segmented program stored on a computer or computer network that is local to the user's computer network-connected player. Process block 170 indicates that at least one encoded programming segment is transmitted over the computer network to the computer network-connected player of the registered user, if needed. For example, an encoded programming segment might not be transmitted to the computer network-connected player if all or part of the segmented program is stored on a computer or computer network that is local to the user's computer network-connected player.

Process block 172 indicates that a content key request is transmitted over the computer network from the computer network- connected player of the registered user to the segmented programming server The content key request includes the viewer's unique registered user identifier and a program segment identifier that uniquely identifies the programming segment to be played.

Process block 174 indicates that a content decoder key for the program segment is transmitted over the network to the user's computer network-connected player to authorize performance of the segment.

Process block 176 indicates that the registered user identifier is correlated with a programming segment identifier for the segment to be played. The correlated registered user identifier and programming segment identifier may be stored at the segmented programming server. These data correlate the viewed programming with the viewers who see it. Inquiry block 178 represents an inquiry as to whether the selected programming includes another programming segment. For example, this inquiry may be made automatically by the computer network- connected player when performance of a predetermined threshold portion of the programming segment is completed. The computer network- connected player may obtain a response to the inquiry from data associated with the programming segment being played or by transmitting

Figure imgf000014_0001

SUBSTITUTE SHEET (RULE 25) an inquiry to the segmented programming server. Inquiry block 178 returns to process block 170 whenever the selected programming includes another programming segment. Inquiry block 178 proceeds to termination block 180 whenever the selected programming does not include another programming segment.

The correlation between programming segment identifiers and the registered user identifiers can directly measure the programming that is played and who sees it for arbitrarily large numbers of viewers. These direct measurements provide viewing data of an accuracy and on a scale that have been previously unavailable. When correlated with demographic data of the registered viewers who watch the monitored content, viewing correlation method 160 is capable of providing valuable improvements in the accuracy of measuring viewing data. It will be appreciated that in preferred implementations, demographic data of registered users is provided (e.g., to advertisers) only on a summary basis and the identity and privacy of the registered users are maintained.

Fig. 6 is a functional block diagram illustrating data flow in and components of a program viewing correlation system 200. The components of viewing correlation system are implemented with computer software on computers. For purposes of illustration, viewing correlation system 200 is described in relation to a single viewer 202. It will be appreciated, however, that program viewing correlation system 200 would typically be in communication with and used by multiple, even arbitrarily many, viewers. Viewer 202 operates a programming player 204 such as, for example, a personal computer 206 having stored thereon and executing media playing computer software 208 for playing audio or video programming. Alternatively, the programming player could be implemented as an audio or video player that can receive programming from a computer or a computer network. In one exemplary implementation, media playing computer software 208 could be the RealPlayer™ streaming media player available from Real Networks, Inc. of Seattle, Washington. In other implementation, media playing computer software 208 could operate on conventional static media files. Computer 206 further includes decoder software 210 that is associated with media playing computer software 208 as, for example, a plug-in to the RealPlayer™ streaming media player. Decoder software 210 decodes programming 212 that is segmented and encoded for use with system 200. Decoder software 210 includes a user identifier that uniquely identifies viewer 202.

In one implementation, programming 212 is encoded by a public-private key encryption technology, as is known in the art. Encryption of programming 212 functions primarily to require successive requests for content decoding keys as successive segments of the programming are viewed, thereby allowing tracking of the programming segments and monitored content (e.g., advertising) that are viewed. Accordingly, program viewing correlation system 200 typically would not require maximum security in the encoding or encryption of programming 212. In some implementations, program viewing correlation system 200 could employ relatively weak encryption (e.g., keys with 40 bits or fewer) for the benefit faster decoding and fewer disruptions in the performance of the programming due to decoding-induced delays.

Programming player 204 communicates over a computer network 214 (e.g., the Internet) with a segmented programming server 216 having an encoded programming file server 218, a network request server 220, a content key database 222, and a viewer record database 224. Any or all of encoded programming file server 218, network request server 220, content key database 222, and viewer record database 224 may be operated on the same or different computers, which may be local to each other or remotely interconnected by computer network 214.

Viewer 202 selects segmented and encoded programming 212 for viewing. Segmented and encoded programming 212 may be stored in whole or in part on computer 206 or an associated local area network or may be provided to computer over network 214. The selected programming 212 includes a program segment identifier that uniquely identifies a first segment of programming 212. Decoder software 210 obtains the program identifier and transmits it with the user identifier to network request server 220. The program segment identifier and user identifier together form a content key request that functions as a request for a content key for decoding a segment of programming 212. Network request server 220 functions as a gateway for receiving a content key request and securely transmitting the content decoding key back to viewer computer 206 In response to a content key request, network request server 220 passes a content key look-up to key database 222 according to the program segment identifier Network request server 220 also transmits the program segment identifier with the user identifier to viewer record database 224 Key database 222 returns the content decoding key for the selected programming segment to network request server 220 for transmission to viewer computer 206. Decoder software 210 decodes the programming segment 212 with the content decoder key, and media playing computer software 208 plays the decoded segment.

In some implementations, network request server 220 may have a user private key that may be used to encode or encrypt the content key for the selected programming segment, thereby increasing the security of program viewing correlation system 200 and enhancing the accuracy of monitoring the programming segments being viewed. In such an implementation, decoder software 210 would decode the content decoder key with a public user key stored on the user computer.

Program viewing correlation methods 60 and 160 and program viewing correlation systems 100 and 200 may be implemented in software in a variety of ways. One implementation employs the Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL). As is known in the art, SMIL is a language for describing distribution of interactive synchronized multimedia and is promulgated by the World Wide Web Consortium. SMIL is characterized as providing easily-defined basic timing relationships, fine-

SUBS 111 U I b SHEET (RULE 26) tuned synchronization, spatial layout, direct inclusion of non-text and non- image media, hyperlink support for time-based media, and adaptiveness to varying user and system characteristics.

Fig. 7 is a flow diagram of a programming content encoding process 250 for separately encoding or encrypting each of multiple segments of an audio or video program. Programming content encoding process 250 may be performed by a programming content encoding software program.

Process block 252 indicates that a program is selected for segmentation and encoding.

Process block 254 indicates that program identifying information is specified for the selected program The program identifying information may include one or more of a program title and a program owner who may be, for example, a broadcaster of an audio or video work Process block 256 indicates that monitored content identifying information is specified for monitored content (e.g., advertisements or commercials) included in the program. The monitored content identifying information may include one or more of a monitored content title and a content owner (e.g., advertiser) for each specifically monitored content included in the program. The monitored content identifying information may also include monitored content distinguishing information for distinguishing the monitored content within the program For example, the monitored content distinguishing information may be timing information (e.g., time offset information) that distinguishes the monitored content based upon the time between the start of the program and the start of the monitored content. Alternatively, the monitored content distinguishing information may be based upon distinguishing signals that are integrated within the program.

Process block 258 indicates that separate and distinct program segments are defined or designated within the program. Each program segment may include one or more separate monitored contents, or may contain none. Process block 260 indicates that a database record is created to record descriptions of the program, the segments, and the advertisement or advertisements (if any) in each segment.

Process block 262 indicates that a globally unique identifier is established for the program.

Process block 264 indicates that encryption keys are generated for each of the segments. The encryption keys are recorded in a database record and are used to encrypt and decrypt the segments. Process block 266 indicates that the separate program segments are separately encrypted with their separate encryption keys. Process block 270 indicates that a segmented program metafile is formed, the metafile including an identifying header for uniquely identifying the program, segment identifiers for uniquely identifying the program segments, and file offsets for each of the segments. The file offsets function to locate program segments in the metafile.

Fig. 8 is a flow diagram of a segmented programming playing process 300 for playing segmented programming on, for example, a viewer computer. For purposes of illustration, playing process is described as beginning with a user registration process 302. It will be appreciated that user registration process 302 would typically be executed if the viewer or user was not already a registered viewer. Moreover, user registration process 302 could alternatively be executed independently of playing process 300.

Process block 304 indicates that a new user installs (e.g., downloads) a client media player software application on a computer or computer-controlled television or radio.

Process block 306 indicates that the new user provides demographic information to a segmented programming server. The demographic information may include any degree or amount of personal information about the new user that is potentially of value to advertisers. Process block 308 indicates that a user identifier and a public user encryption key are provided to and stored on the computer of the new

Figure imgf000019_0001
user. The user identifier and user encryption key are provided by a segmented programming server. For example, the user identifier may be provided when the new user selects an encoded and segmented program for viewing or when the viewer is independently registering to become a registered viewer. In one implementation, the client media player software application is a widely available or standardized application. In this implementation, segmented programming decoder software, such as a plug-in to the media player software, is provided to the user computer with the user identifier. Process block 310 indicates that the new user demographic information, user identifier, and private user encryption key are stored in one or more databases of the segmented programming system Process blocks 304-310 represent user registration process 302.

Process block 320 indicates that the registered user initiates play of an encoded and segmented program. As described above, the program may be an audio or a video work and may be available for playback as one or more static files 322 or as streamed program data 324.

Process block 326 indicates that the client media player software application, referred to as the player, obtains show and segment identifiers from the programming file or data.

Process block 328 indicates that the player requests the content key for the segment by transmitting the show and segment identifiers with the user identifier over the computer network to a segmented programming server. Process block 330 indicates that permissions associated with the show and user identifiers are retrieved from a segmented programming system database and verified. Both users and programming can have various permissions assigned to them to limit various aspects of the viewing of the programming. As examples, programming permissions can control the following aspects

• Geographic location - This can restrict the geographic locations in which the online programming will be accessible or playable. For example,

SUBSTTTUTE SHEET (RULE 26) the online programming could be made unavailable to users in areas where the programming is available as broadcast programming, thereby to prevent online programming from detracting from the broadcast programming audience. Alternatively, the online programming could be made unavailable only during the times of the broadcast programming or after selected delays following the broadcast programming.

• Expiration & Activation Dates/Times - This can restrict the dates and times when the programming will be accessible or playable The dates are confirmed and enforced by the segmented programming server.

This would prevent users from circumventing these restrictions by setting their personal computer's clocks to the necessary date.

• viewing Requirements - This can allow or prevent users from fast forwarding through or skipping advertisements. This can ensure that each advertisement is viewed before the subsequent programming.

• Advertisement Matching - Advertisements can be selected to match the user's demographic characteristics. This can be done by including extra advertisements in the stream, or feeding advertisements dynamically into the programming from the segmented programming server.

• Link Requirements - Links to web pages or resources can be included in the format, so that advertisements can be linked to popup advertisement pages. Content providers can also enforce a two way communication that requires users to interact with their web site, for example to fill out demographic or password information, before they are allowed to continue.

Similarly, users can have permissions that restrict the types of programs they can view, the times when programs can be viewed, etc. Inquiry block 332 represents an inquiry as to whether all permissions are satisfied. Inquiry block 332 proceeds to process block 334 whenever all permissions are not satisfied. Inquiry block 332 proceeds to process block 336 whenever all permissions are satisfied.

Process block 334 indicates that the programming viewing request is denied. The system provides the user with an explanation for the denial of access.

Process block 336 indicates the programming viewing request is granted.

SUBS T ITU I E SHEET (RULE 26) Process block 338 indicates that the program identifier, segment identifier, user identifier and viewing time are recorded in a viewing database.

Process block 340 indicates that the segment content decoder key and private user encryption key are retrieved from a database.

Process block 342 indicates that the segment content decoder key is encrypted with the private user encryption key and transmitted to the user. Encryption of the content decoder key provides increased integrity in the demographic monitoring provided by the system. Process block 344 indicates that the content decoder key is decoded at the user computer and used to decode the programming segment

Process block 346 indicates that the programming segment is played by the media player. Process block 346 returns to process block 326 before the end of the current segment is played Typically, process block 346 returns to process block 326 sufficiently before the end of the current segment so that the next segment can be played without interruption.

Having described and illustrated the principles of our invention with reference to an illustrated embodiment, it will be recognized that the illustrated embodiment can be modified in arrangement and detail without departing from such principles It should be understood that the programs, processes, or methods described herein are not related or limited to any particular type of computer apparatus, unless indicated otherwise Various types of general purpose or specialized computer apparatus may be used with or perform operations in accordance with the teachings described herein. Elements of the illustrated embodiment shown in software may be implemented in hardware and vice versa.

In view of the many possible embodiments to which the principles of our invention may be applied, it should be recognized that the detailed embodiments are illustrative only and should not be taken as limiting the scope of our invention Rather, we claim as our invention all

SUBS 111 U 1 E SHEET (RULE 26) such embodiments as may come within the scope and spirit of the following claims and equivalents thereto.

Claims

Claims
1 . A computer-implemented method of providing an audio or a video program over a computer network to a user, the program including general content and specifically monitored content, the method comprising: assigning the user a unique user identifier; associating with the program a content trigger that correspond to monitored content in the program; providing the general content over the computer network to the user, providing the monitored content over the computer network to the user in accordance with the content trigger and in coordination with the general content; and correlating the user identifier with the monitored content provided to the user and storing a correlation between the user identifier and the monitored content
2. The method of claim 1 further comprising: providing the general content over the computer network to the user from a first server; providing the content trigger to a second server; and providing the monitored content over the computer network to the user from the second server in accordance with the content identifier and in coordination with the general content.
3. The method of claim 1 in which the monitored content includes advertising content.
4. The method of claim 1 further comprising associating user demographic information regarding the user with the user identifier, the correlation between the user identifier and the monitored content providing a correlation between the user demographic information and the monitored content.
5. The method of claim 4 in which the monitored content is provided to the user independently of user demographic information that is associated with the user.
6. The method of claim 4 in which the monitored content that is transmitted is selected from a plurality of monitored contents that each has associated with it monitored content demographic information, the monitored content that is transmitted being selected according to a correlation between the monitored content demographic information of that monitored content and the user demographic information that is associated with the user.
7. The method of claim 1 further comprising assigning the user identifier to the user in response to the user requesting the program.
8. The method of claim 7 further comprising assigning the user identifier to the user in conjunction with the user providing personal demographic information.
9. The method of claim 1 in which the program has associated with it one or more permissions and providing the general content to the user is subject to the one or more permissions.
10. The method of claim 9 in which one permission relates to the geographic location of the user.
1 1. A computer system for providing plural audio or video programs over a computer network to plural users, each program including general content and specifically monitored content, the system comprising" a program file server that provides the general content of the program over the computer network to the users; a monitored content server that provides the monitored content over the computer network to the users in coordination with the general content; and a viewer record database that stores correlations between the monitored content and the users to whom the monitored content is provided over the computer network.
12. The system of claim 1 1 further comprising a unique user identifier that is assigned to each of the users and in which the program file server provides the general content of the program over the computer
SUBSTTTUTE SHEET (RULE 26) network to a user in conjunction with receiving the user identifier for that user.
13. The system of claim 12 in which the monitored content server provides the monitored content over the computer network to a user in conjunction with receiving the user identifier for that user from the program file server.
14. The system of claim 1 1 further comprising a unique user identifier that is assigned to each of the users and in which the viewer record database includes demographic information about each user stored in association with the user identifier of each user.
15. The system of claim 14 in which the viewer record database stores correlations between the monitored content and the demographic information of users to whom the monitored content is provided over the computer network.
16. The system of claim 14 in which the monitored content is provided to the user independently of the user demographic information that is associated with the user.
17. The system of claim 14 in which the monitored content that is provided is selected from a plurality of monitored contents that each has associated with it monitored content demographic information, the monitored content that is provided being selected according to a correlation between the monitored content demographic information of that monitored content and the user demographic information that is associated with the user.
18. In a computer-readable medium, software for providing an audio or a video program over a computer network to a user, the program including general content and specifically monitored content, the medium comprising: software for assigning the user a unique user identifier; software for associating with the program a content trigger that corresponds to monitored content in the program;
SUBSTTTUTE SHEET (RULE 26) software for providing the general content over the computer network to the user; software for providing the monitored content over the computer network to the user in accordance with the content trigger and in coordination with the general content; and software for correlating the user identifier with the monitored content provided to the user and storing a correlation between the user identifier and the monitored content.
19. The medium of claim 18 further comprising: software for providing the general content over the computer network to the user from a first server; software for providing the content trigger to a second server; and software for providing the monitored content over the computer network to the user from the second server in accordance with the content identifier and in coordination with the general content.
20. The medium of claim 18 in which the monitored content includes advertising content.
21. The medium of claim 18 further comprising software for associating user demographic information regarding the user with the user identifier, the correlation between the user identifier and the monitored content providing a correlation between the user demographic information and the monitored content.
22. The medium of claim 18 further comprising software for assigning the user identifier to the user in response to the user requesting the program.
23. The medium of claim 22 further comprising software for assigning the user identifier to the user in response to the user providing personal demographic information.
24. The medium of claim 18 in which the program has associated with it one or more permissions and the general content is provided to the user subject to the one or more permissions.
25. The medium of claim 24 in which one permission relates to the geographic location of the user.
26. A computer-implemented method of providing an audio or a video program over a computer network to a user, the program including general content and specifically monitored content, the method comprising: assigning the user a unique user identifier; defining plural distinct segments of the program, one or more of the segments including at least a portion of the general content; encoding each segment of the program; providing the segments of the program to the user; providing content keys to the user for decoding and playing the segments of the program in conjunction with receiving the user identifier; providing the monitored content for the user in coordination with decoding and playing the segments of the program, and correlating the user identifier with the monitored content provided to the user and storing a correlation between the user identifier and the monitored content.
27. The method of claim 26 in which the monitored content is included in the program segments and encoding the program segments includes encoding the monitored content.
28. The method of claim 26 in which the monitored content is not included in the program segments and providing the monitored content for the user includes providing the monitored content over the computer network to the user in coordination with decoding and playing the segments of the program.
29. The method of claim 28 further comprising: providing the program segments over the computer network to the user from a first server; and providing the monitored content over the computer network to the user from a second server in accordance with the content identifier and in coordination with the general content.
SUBSTTTUTE SHEET (RULE 26)
30. The method of claim 26 further comprising associating user demographic information regarding the user with the user identifier, the correlation between the user identifier and the monitored content providing a correlation between the user demographic information and the monitored content.
31. The method of claim 26 in which providing the segments of the program to the user includes providing only one segment at a time while another segment is played for the user.
32. The method of claim 26 in which providing the segments of the program to the user includes storing with the user all of the program segments.
33. The method of claim 26 in which each segment of the program is encoded with respect to a different content key and providing the content keys to the user includes providing the different content keys to the user.
34. The method of claim 33 in which the different content keys are provided to the user successively in coordination with the playing of the program segments.
35. The method of claim 26 in which the monitored content includes advertising content.
36. In a computer readable medium, software for providing an audio or a video program over a computer network to a user, the program including general content and specifically monitored content, the medium comprising: software for assigning the user a unique user identifier; software for defining plural distinct segments of the program, one or more of the segments including at least a portion of the general content; software for encoding each segment of the program; software for providing the segments of the program to the user;
SUBS I ITU I B SHEET (RULE 26) software for providing content keys to the user for decoding and playing the segments of the program conjunction with to receiving the user identifier; software for providing the monitored content for the user in coordination with decoding and playing the segments of the program; and software for correlating the user identifier with the monitored content provided to the user and storing a correlation between the user identifier and the monitored content.
37. The medium of claim 36 in which the monitored content is included in the program segments and the software for encoding the program segments also encodes the monitored content
38. The medium of claim 36 in which the monitored content is not included in the program segments and the software for providing the monitored content for the user includes software for providing the monitored content over the computer network to the user in coordination with decoding and playing the segments of the program.
39. The medium of claim 38 further comprising: software for providing the program segments over the computer network to the user from a first server; and software for providing the monitored content over the computer network to the user from a second server in accordance with the content identifier and in coordination with the general content
40. The medium of claim 36 further comprising software for associating user demographic information regarding the user with the user identifier, the correlation between the user identifier and the monitored content providing a correlation between the user demographic information and the monitored content.
41. The medium of claim 36 in which the software for providing the segments of the program to the user includes providing only one segment at a time while another segment is played for the user
42. The medium of claim 36 in which the software for providing the segments of the program to the user includes software for storing with the user all of the program segments.
43. In a computer-readable medium, a data structure corresponding to an audio or a video program available over a computer network to a user, the medium comprising: plural encoded program segments, each of which includes a distinct segment of the program that is encoded according to a distinct content key; and plural content keys for decoding the plural encoded program segments, each of the plural content keys being different from each of the others.
44. The medium of claim 43 in which the program includes specifically monitored content within one or more of the plural encoded program segments and the medium further comprises a monitored content identifier in association with each encoded program segment that includes specifically monitored content.
45. The medium of claim 43 in which each program segment has associated with it one or more permissions subject to which the program segment is provided to the user.
46. The medium of claim 45 in which one permission relates to the geographic location of the user.
PCT/US2000/030119 1999-11-03 2000-11-01 Direct tracking of viewers of selected content in audio and video programming provided over a computer network WO2001033752A1 (en)

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