Out with the bad triggers

Software gives broadcasters control of enhanced content

Enhanced-TV firm RespondTV has developed software that allows broadcasters and cable networks to monitor and control the enhanced content they distribute, enabling programmers to enforce their enhanced-TV standards and prevent "viewer hijacking" to the Web.

The system, called Program Manager 1.0, will be tested at KBHK-TV San Francisco. The Chris-Craft station and UPN affiliate has been an early content partner for RespondTV, which provides tools that allow programmers and advertisers to insert within programming interactive triggers that easily link to Web sites. The RespondTV features can be accessed today by the 500,000 Web TV users in North America, and the company expects its ATVEF-based triggers to be supported by a number of digital set-top platforms.

What Program Manager 1.0 does, according to RespondTV President Richard Fisher, is perform "trigger management" and "trigger filtering." Running on a PC, it connects to a data decoder/encoder, such as a Norpak TES series, to capture ATVEF triggers embedded in the broadcast signal's vertical blanking interval (VBI). After capturing the triggers in real time, the software logs the time and date that the triggers are broadcast and the URLs they point to. That allows broadcasters to separate "good triggers," ones that point to enhanced content from the broadcaster's partners, from "bad triggers"-advertising triggers that haven't been paid for, point to unacceptable content, or sidetrack the viewer to the Web.

The Program Manager software can filter out the unwanted triggers from the broadcast stream, Fisher says, or modify triggers that need updating. It can also let broadcasters set automated enhancement standards, such as a minimum size or a maximum number of screens per enhancement.

In other news, RespondTV has signed up Scripps Networks as a content partner. Scripps will use the RespondTV technology to enhance up to 10 shows on HGTV, Food Network and Do-It-Yourself.

"The reason we're attracted to RespondTV is the nature of our programming," says Channing Dawson, senior vice president of Scripps Networks New Ventures. "We already have data streams sequenced to our on-air programming, as our Web sites are often dynamically linked to what's on-air. It's core product."