WO2001038960A1 - Method and apparatus for selecting on-demand content in a media-on-demand system - Google Patents

Method and apparatus for selecting on-demand content in a media-on-demand system Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2001038960A1
WO2001038960A1 PCT/US2000/032470 US0032470W WO0138960A1 WO 2001038960 A1 WO2001038960 A1 WO 2001038960A1 US 0032470 W US0032470 W US 0032470W WO 0138960 A1 WO0138960 A1 WO 0138960A1
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WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
user
item
means
template
apparatus
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Application number
PCT/US2000/032470
Other languages
French (fr)
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WO2001038960A9 (en
Inventor
Ricky Rand
Paul Clark
Original Assignee
Future Tv Technologies, Ltd.
Rzucidlo, Eugene
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
Priority to US60/167,864 priority Critical
Priority to US16775199P priority
Priority to US16774599P priority
Priority to US16786499P priority
Priority to US60/167,745 priority
Priority to US60/167,751 priority
Application filed by Future Tv Technologies, Ltd., Rzucidlo, Eugene filed Critical Future Tv Technologies, Ltd.
Publication of WO2001038960A1 publication Critical patent/WO2001038960A1/en
Publication of WO2001038960A9 publication Critical patent/WO2001038960A9/en

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Classifications

    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N5/00Details of television systems
    • H04N5/44Receiver circuitry
    • H04N5/445Receiver circuitry for displaying additional information
    • H04N5/44543Menu-type displays
    • 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
    • H04N21/431Generation of visual interfaces for content selection or interaction; Content or additional data rendering
    • H04N21/4312Generation of visual interfaces for content selection or interaction; Content or additional data rendering involving specific graphical features, e.g. screen layout, special fonts or colors, blinking icons, highlights or animations
    • 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
    • H04N21/47End-user applications
    • H04N21/472End-user interface for requesting content, additional data or services; End-user interface for interacting with content, e.g. for content reservation or setting reminders, for requesting event notification, for manipulating displayed content
    • H04N21/47202End-user interface for requesting content, additional data or services; End-user interface for interacting with content, e.g. for content reservation or setting reminders, for requesting event notification, for manipulating displayed content for requesting content on demand, e.g. video on demand
    • 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
    • H04N21/654Transmission by server directed to the client
    • H04N21/6547Transmission by server directed to the client comprising parameters, e.g. for client setup
    • 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

Abstract

A system for customizing the user interface of a media-on-demand system and highlighting selected item in an aligned selection list displayed in a menu (141). A database (160) of user display templates (600) is maintained at the provider (150). The display templates (600) include user specifiable display and content preferences (610). When a user contacts the service provider (150), the provider (150) selects a template (600) to configure a menu (141) and to determine content selection (610) to present to the user. Text associated with the selected item is displayed next to the item. When the highlighted item is deselected, its associated text is displayed back in alignment with the list, and its associated icon disappears.

Description

METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR SELECTING ON-DEMAND CONTENT IN A

MEDIA-ON-DEMAND SYSTEM

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. § 119(e) from U.S. Provisional Applications Nos . 60/167,745 and 60/167,864 by Rand, et al., filed November 29, 1999, and 60/167,751, filed December 13, 1999 by Rand, et al . , incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to the user interface of a media service provider, such as a video-on-demand provider, and in particular to a means for the user to customize that interface .

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Recent advances in multi-media computer technology have made possible new services such as, for example, video-on- demand (VOD) , or more generally, media-on-demand (MOD) . In a VOD service, a subscriber contacts a service provider to request, for example, a movie, and the provider immediately begins transmitting the requested movie to the user. The subscriber is provided with a set-top-box (STB) adapted to communicate with the provider and to control the user' s video display monitor, as well as a remote controller for controlling the STB.

In traditional cable television systems, the content is selected by the television stations and transmitted over the cable provider's cable. In order to select content, the user must change channels. The user is limited, however, to the content offered by each station at the time the user is watching television. An ideal VOD or MOD system would permit the user to choose at the time of contact what program he or she wishes to see. Since the user may select content based on the VOD's (or MOD's) inventory, there is no need for select channels to obtain a new content selection, or to be restricted to viewing a program at a time selected by the broadcaster. A more appropriate interface for a MOD system would be analogous to the menus provided with a graphical user interface (GUI) for contemporary personal computers, because selecting a media item, such as a movie, for delivery is analogous to selecting a program to run, or opening a file from within a program that is running. Thus, an interface for a MOD system would present a user with, for example, a menu or a scrollable list of content selections from which the user can make a choice. Contemporary GUIs, such as Microsoft Windows, provide a user with many options for controlling the look of the interface, as well as what content to display. These options are not, however, currently available for VOD or MOD system interfaces.

Interactive menus have been a standard component of GUIs as displayed on video display monitors for many years. Typically, a menu has a highlight that the user can move among selections by either pressing an appropriate key on a keyboard or keypad, or by using a pointer device such as a mouse or an infra-red (IR) pointer. Since most menus present selections that are aligned in a vertical list, the highlight typically moves up and down on the video screen. The highlight is visible because it changes the background and foreground colors of the highlighted text. When the user makes a selection from the choices on the menu's list, the highlighted item will be chosen, and the menu disappears from view. One problem with this type of highlighting is that the highlighted item is often difficult to see or read, particularly for people with vision problems, such as colorblindness .

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a means for a provider to send a user a configurable display template for a user interface. The user can specify his or her display preferences for the interface along with preferences for content to be displayed in the interface. Once the user has completed specifying his or her template preferences, they are transmitted back to the provider, which has means for saving these template preferences. When a user subsequently contacts the provider, the provider selects the display template according to the preferences specified by the user, uses the template to generate a display menu, and populates the menu with content for selection, again according to the user's preferences. The provider also has means for overriding these display and content preferences .

The present invention improves upon the traditional display of menu selection items by offsetting the selected text from the column of unselected items. For example, in a vertical menu, the selected text would be displaced either to the left or to the right of the unselected items. In an alternative embodiment, however, wherein the menu is comprised of a horizontal list of items, the selected item can be shifted either up or down, i.e., above or below, respectively, the level of the horizontal list. In another embodiment of the present invention, an icon is associated with each menu item. When a menu item is selected/deselected, the icon can respectively fade in fade out. In a further embodiment, the text associated with a selected item is displaced and an associated icon appears.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows a block diagram of the components utilized by the system of the present invention.

FIG. 6 shows a schematic diagram of how content is combined with the display preferences specified in a template and sent to the user.

FIG. 5(a) depicts a menu item offset to the left of a list in a preferred embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 5(b) depicts the menu highlight of FIG. 1(a) after it has been moved down in the list.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Figure 1 illustrates the system components used to implement an exemplary embodiment of the invention. A set- top-box 100 contains an internal memory buffer 110 large enough the contain at least one frame's worth of data, referred to herein as a frame buffer, and a micro-controller 120. The box 100 is connected to an image provider 150 by means of a connection 125. This connection 125 can be a cable connection, a wireless connection, or any combination thereof. The image provider can be, for example, a video- on-demand or media-on-demand service provider. The system of the image provider 130 includes a program 151 to maintain a database 160 of user display templates, as described below. The database 160 is permanently stored in a mass storage device such as a hard disk drive. The box 100 is connected to a display monitor 140 on which the contents of the frame buffer 110 are displayed. The micro-controller 120 maintains the frame buffer 110 and controls the display of data on the display monitor 140 via connection 145.

A user controls STB 100 by pointing a control device 130 at STB 100 and pressing an appropriate button. The button press causes control device 130 to transmit an electromagnetic signal to STB 100. In the remote control device, the signal can be, for example, an infra-red signal, or a radio frequency signal. In the exemplary embodiment depicted in FIG. 1, STB 100 is provided with a sensor 101 adapted to detect the signal transmitted from control device 130, and micro-controller 120 is further adapted to decode the signal and generate images to be displayed on monitor 110. Remote control devices and the techniques for detecting and decoding the signals transmitted from them are well known in the art and need not be described herein.

The invention includes a system for combining a set of templates with a database of content to produce a menu page to be delivered to a user's STB. In a preferred embodiment, a template is a screen script that utilizes a set of content to generate and populate a GUI widget, such as a menu. A user can contact a provider by placing a request through STB controller 120. Once contact has been established, provider's program 151 uses the template to generate a menu and transmits the menu to the user's STB 100 to be displayed on monitor 140. The menu can be populated with content prior to transmission to the user. This process is depicted in Fig. 2. Various template options are available from the provider from which the user can make selections. These template options can create different screen layouts for the presentation of content. For a first contact between a user and the provider, the provider can automatically present the user with a data entry screen that displays a selection of templates, and prompt the user select a particular template. Alternatively, the provider can select a default template, which the user can optionally override. Even after the first contact, the user can change the template preference.

Each template is characterized by display properties such as, for example, display background color, display background design, font type and size for labels and text, text color, screen saver design and timeouts, and the number of items to be displayed in any selection list. In one preferred embodiment of the invention, the user selects a template but cannot otherwise alter the display properties that characterize that template. In an alternate embodiment, the use can selectively altar the display properties of the template. Content options can include the types of program preferred, e.g., movies, sports events, cable or broadcast television programs, or preferred genres, such as action, mystery, comedy, and so forth. These options can be customized by the time of day, or the user's location. For example, the user can specify one template to be displayed when the user contacts the provider from home, and one or more other templates to be displayed when the user contacts the provider from other geographic locales. The user can also specify that different templates be displayed at different times of the day or different times of the year. The examples presented here are illustrative, and the invention is by no means limited to these examples. The user can use the remote controller 130 to navigate template options.

When the user has completed specifying his or her template and content preferences, controller 120 sends this information to provider program 151 via connection 125. Provider program 151 then enters this data into database 160. Thus, a user's preferences are available to a particular user regardless of that user's geographic location when contacting the service provider. When the user subsequently requests display selections from the provider, program 151 obtains the user's template from database 160, generates and configures a display menu and populates it with selections of the user's preferred content, and sends it to STB 100, whose controller 120 displays the selection menu on monitor 140. If a user has specified different preferences for different locales, or for different times, the appropriate display template is presented to the user. Figure 6 shows a set of user templates 600 and a set of content selections 610. When a user makes a request to the provider's server 150, program 151 obtains the user's template from the set of templates 600, and generates a menu of display choices 620 from template and the set of content selections 610. Once the menu has been populated with choices, the assembled menu is transmitted to the user's STB 100 for display on monitor 140. The user is presented with a series of menus or selection lists from which the user may select content for viewing. The appearance of this interface and the content presented will normally be determined by provider's program 151 at the time the user makes contact. For example, if the user's template specifies that only five films should be displayed, the menu will be populated with five film titles from the set of selections 210.

In a preferred embodiment, the resulting menu consists of a vertical list of selections, each with an icon indicating the type of content, e.g. film, music, etc. Icons are selected by moving a highlight up and down the list, the highlight including displacing the name of the item to the right while fading in the icon behind it.

A feature of this invention is that the service provider can override a user's preferences. The basis for overriding preferences can be time of day, time of year, the user's geographic location, or the user's demographic profile. For example, the provider can choose a template with a green background color on St. Patrick's Day, or the provider can present a male user a with a list of action films for viewing simply because the user is male. The aforementioned list of bases for overriding preferences is illustrative, and is not intended to limit the possible reasons for overriding a user preference. The user then selects from the list presented, or requests a new selection list.

Note that it is within the scope of this invention to permit the user to maintain multiple templates. For example, the user may have one template for use at home, and a different template for use when the user is away. Alternatively, the user may have one template for the living room set, and another for the bedroom. Moreover, the user could have a template for daytime viewing, another for evening viewing, and a third for weekend use. It will be apparent that any number of templates can exist for any number of conditions, such as location and time. The preference examples given here are for illustrative purposes only, and are not intended to limit the possible categories for which a user can indicate preferences. The physical location of the template data base within the provider's system is not important to the invention, and can be located on any of the provider's servers, for example. The use of preference templates is not limited to VOD service providers, but can be used by any media service provider. Although this embodiment is presented in terms of the single service provider and single user, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art how to implement the present invention in a network of providers serving multiple users. The method of the present invention can be used to improve the display of menu selection items in a graphical user interface. Referring back to Fig. 1, upon detecting a signal transmitted from control device 130, sensor 101 signals micro-controller 120, which in turn activates an appropriate function to generate a menu 141 to be displayed on the screen of monitor 140. As the user presses buttons on remote device 130 to move the menu highlight within the menu, sensor 101 detects each signal received from remote device 130, signals controller 120 which in turn causes the highlight to move within menu 141 displayed on the screen of monitor 140. Methods for programming a controller to display a menu on the screen of a video display device in response to a user command are well known in the art, as are methods of programming the controller to move a highlight within a list of items displayed in a menu.

FIG. 5 illustrates two possible states of the vertical embodiment of the menu selection application of the present invention. A menu displayed on the screen of a video display monitor connected to a VCR is shown. The menu appears on the monitor's screen when the user points a control device (see FIG. 1) , such as are well known in the art, at the screen and presses an appropriate button thereon. As described above, the control device transmits a signal to the VCR, which is equipped with circuitry adapted to detect and decode the signal received, and to cause a menu to be displayed on the screen of the monitor.

FIG. 5(a) shows the menu upon the display screen as it initially appears to the viewer. The uppermost item on the list, i.e. play, is highlighted by default, and its text is displaced to the right of the other items in the list. An icon ([ ) is displayed to the left of the item text. The user may choose the play selection at this point by releasing the remote device button. Alternatively, the user can press an appropriate button on the remote device to transmit a signal to the VCR, which when detected and decoded causes the controller to move the highlight within the list of options to highlight the next item in the list. When this occurs, the icon for the currently highlighted item disappears and the text of the current item is displaced to the left so as to be aligned with the rest of the list. Next, the text of the next item in the list is displaced to the right, and that item's icon appears to the left of the text . The magnitude of the displacement can be pre-determined, or alternatively, in a preferred embodiment, the user can specify a displacement magnitude to override the pre-determined value.

FIG. 5(b) illustrates how the menu appears after the next item on the list, i.e., pause, has been highlighted.

The play item is now displayed in the list, and its icon has disappeared, while the word pause appears to the right of the list and its associated icon ( ) appears to the left of the item text. The choice of icons associated with menu items is arbitrary, and, in a preferred embodiment of the invention, the user would be able to design his/her own icon. In a further preferred embodiment, the icons can be caused to fade-in and fade-out as they appear and disappear, respectively. Techniques for causing an icon to fade in and fade out on a display screen are well known in the art.

Although the foregoing example was described in terms of displacing an item to the right of a vertical list, displacing an item to the left of a vertical list, as well as displacing items either above or below a horizontal list of items are all within the scope of the present invention. Furthermore, although the foregoing example was described in terms of a VCR, it is apparent that this method of highlighting menu items could be part of a video-on-demand or a media-on-demand subscriber service, or part of a GUI for a computer program. In addition, the icons and shifting text of the present invention may be used in combination with the traditional highlights that change foreground and background colors. In a preferred embodiment, the user can choose the foreground and background colors of the display. Techniques for displaying icons and implementing menus are well known in the art, and the skilled artisan can use these techniques to implement the present invention.

Claims

CLAIMSWHAT IS CLAIMED IS:
1. An apparatus for customizing and maintaining a user interface by a media service provider in a media-on- demand network connecting at least one user subscriber and at least one media service provider, said apparatus comprising : one or more templates for specifying at least one of an appearance or content preference for a user interface; means for a user to specify to the provider at least one of said one or more templates; means for the provider to store the at least one template upon receipt thereof from said user,- and means for the provider to utilize the at least one said template to generate a display menu and populate said menu with content selections chosen by the provider corresponding to the preferences specified in the at least one said template; and means for the provider to transmit said menu populated with content selections to the user.
2. The apparatus of claim 1, in which the means for transmitting said menu populated with content selections to the user comprises a server.
3. The apparatus of claim 1, in which the means for the user to specify at least one template comprises a data entry screen displayed by a set-top-box on a video display device, whereby the user indicates preferences in the data entry screen.
4. The apparatus of claim 1, in which the means for storing the at least one template comprises a database stored on a mass storage device.
5. The apparatus of claim 1, in which the means for generating the display menu and populating said menu with content comprises a computer program executing on the provider's server.
6. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising means for the service provider to override preferences indicated in the at least one said user template.
7. The apparatus of claim 6, in which the means for overriding user template preferences comprises a computer program executing on the provider's server.
8. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising means for the user to alter at least one display property of said at least one template.
9. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising means for the user to select a preferred template for a particular geographic locale.
10. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising means for the user to select a preferred template for a time of the year.
11. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising means for the user to select a preferred template for a time of day.
12. A method for a media service provider to customize and maintain a user interface in a media-on-demand network connecting at least one user subscriber and at least one media service provider, said method comprising the steps of: creating at least one template for a user interface; specifying content preference for said user interface; transmitting at least one said template from a service provider to a user's set -top-box; displaying a data entry screen on said set-top-box adapted for the specification of display and content preferences for the at least one template; specifying by said user display and content preferences for the at least one template; transmitting the at least one preference-containing template from said user back to the provider; storing the at least one preference containing template by said provider; wherein the provider utilizes at least one template to generate a display menu, populates said display menu with content, and transmits said populated display menu to a user in response to a subsequent user contact .
13. The method of claim 12, further comprising the step of the provider overriding the preferences indicated in a user's at least one template.
14. The method of claim 12, further comprising the step of the user altering at least one display property of the user's at least one template.
15. The method of claim 12, further comprising the step of selecting a preferred template for a particular geographic locale.
16. The method of claim 12, further comprising the step of selecting a preferred template for a time of the year .
17. The method of claim 12, further comprising the step of selecting a preferred template for a time of day.
18. A method for displaying selected items in a video display menu comprising the steps of: providing an aligned list of items capable of selection; selecting an item from said selection list; displacing an item out of alignment with said list when said item is selected; causing an icon associated with said selected item to appear when the item is selected; deselecting said selected item; displacing said item into alignment with said list when said item is deselected; and causing the associated icon to disappear when said item is deselected.
19. The method of claim 18, wherein said item is selected or deselected by animatedly shifting said item either into or out of alignment with the remaining menu items displayed on the display monitor.
20. The method of claim 18, wherein said icon associated with said item fades-in when said item is selected, and fades-out when said item is deselected.
21. The method of claim 18, further comprising a step whereby a user specifies the magnitude of the displacement.
22. The method of claim 18, further comprising a step whereby a user specifies said icon to be displayed.
23. The method of claim 18, further comprising a step whereby the selected item is visually highlighted by changing one or both of a foreground and background colors of said selected item.
24. The method of claim 23, further comprising a step whereby one or both of the foreground and background colors of the item are specified by the user.
25. The method of claim 18, wherein the selection list is aligned vertically.
26. The method of claim 18, wherein the selection list is aligned horizontally.
27. An apparatus for displaying selected items in a video display menu comprising: means for providing an aligned list of items capable of selection; means for selecting and deselecting an item; means for displacing an item out of alignment with said list when the item is selected; means for causing an icon associated with said selected item to appear when the item is selected; means for displacing an item into alignment with said list when said item is deselected; and means for causing the icon associated with said deselected item to disappear when said item is deselected.
28. The apparatus of claim 27, wherein the means for displacing an item comprises means for animatedly shifting said item either into or out of alignment with the remaining menu items displayed on the display monitor.
29. The apparatus of claim 27, wherein t±ie means for causing an icon to appear or disappear comprises means for fading- in or fading out said icon when said item is selected or deselected.
30. The apparatus of claim 27, further comprising means adapted to permit said user to specify the magnitude of the displacement.
31. The apparatus of claim 27, further comprising means adapted to permit the user to specify said icon to be displayed.
32. The apparatus of claim 27, further comprising: means for changing one or both of a foreground and background colors of an item when said item is selected or deselected.
33. The apparatus of claim 30, further comprising means adapted to permit the user to specify one or both of the foreground and background colors
PCT/US2000/032470 1999-11-29 2000-11-29 Method and apparatus for selecting on-demand content in a media-on-demand system WO2001038960A1 (en)

Priority Applications (6)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
US16775199P true 1999-11-29 1999-11-29
US16774599P true 1999-11-29 1999-11-29
US16786499P true 1999-11-29 1999-11-29
US60/167,745 1999-11-29
US60/167,751 1999-11-29
US60/167,864 1999-11-29

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AU19319/01A AU1931901A (en) 1999-11-29 2000-11-29 Method and apparatus for selecting on-demand content in a media-on-demand system

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