Streaming the latest strokes - Broadcasting & Cable

Streaming the latest strokes

RealNetworks tops list of firms introducing innovative services at NAB
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New wrinkles in manipulating streamed video content will be in abundance at the NAB convention, including at least two new systems for inserting advertising spots in video streams on the Web.

RealNetworks introduces an ad-replacement system this week that enables TV stations to plug in video ads in streamed newscasts and other original video content to create another revenue stream online. It's an expansion of a system that RealNetworks introduced for audio streaming last fall.

Local TV and radio stations can license the requisite software from RealNetworks, which is working with WOKR(TV), the ABC affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., on a pilot project deploying the system next month, according to Jim Kreyenhagen, Real Broadcast Networks product manager for RealNetworks. "We integrate our system into their ad-insertion system at the TV station," said Kreyenhagen.

The result is seamless integration of ads within video streams at an average monthly cost of $7,000, depending on the volume of traffic the station's Web site sustains for its streamed newscasts, according to Kreyenhagen. Additional hardware may also be required in some cases to enable the station's ad-insertion system and RealNetworks'replacement-ad system to interact.

The RealNetworks system also offers stations a customized template to provide random streaming of different news segments after a newscast has aired, with the inserted ads streaming in those segments.

"We really want to explore how local TV news can exist and thrive with the Internet capability," said Chris Ackerley, co-president of the Ackerley Group, which owns wokr(tv).

Video ads can also be added as lead-ins to video segments. Audio ads can precede segments streamed from radio station sites, which can also use the system to insert rotating banner ads while PC users are streaming audio.

WKHX-FM Atlanta (ABC) and KAAK-FM Great Falls, Mont., are deploying the RealNetworks system in pilot programs on the radio side next month, according to Kreyenhagen.

RealNetworks is putting a co-marketing deal in place with Engage, an online ad-placement service, with both companies pushing the other's services. RealNetworks put a similar deal in place with DoubleClick last fall, when it first started doing audio insertion of ads in the online version of ABC Radio Network disc jockey Tom Joyner's show.

RealNetworks is in conversations with major TV station groups about the new product and expects to conduct a trial with radio stations in the ABC radio group.

Meanwhile, Activate.net, a unit of CMGI, is seeking to introduce a similar online ad-insertion service, aiming at a third-quarter launch. It's teaming with CMGI sister unit AdForce, another major online ad facilitator, to deliver ads inserted in streaming video for on-demand video sites and local stations streaming news online. "They can choose separate and targeted ads to stream with their nightly newscasts," said Brenae Brix, Activate.net marketing director for broadcast markets.

Activate.net will charge for its service based on the click-through rates the ads produce, according to Brix, who envisions TV rep firms'selling ads on a regional or national basis.

AdForce organizes the ads to be streamed, and its servers cue Activate.net's servers at one of several data centers to actually stream the ads at the appropriate junctures in the video streams.

On the content side, SeeItFirst.com is introducing its Glide (graphic link independent dynamic editor) technology, to synchronize targeted banner ads in video streams. The banners pop up as the video runs, providing links for users to access product information from other Web sites. Movie trailers and music videos offer the most promising content for the application, according to Craig Lynar, SeeItFirst.com vice president of marketing.

SeeItFirst.com's basic technology comprises a streaming scheme that incorporates VCR functionality, with the means to advance or review video clips one frame at a time, and offers the option of downloading, printing and transmission of still frames from the streams. Several local TV stations are currently using it, according to Lynar.

Internet Broadcasting System is introducing a feature for its site-hosting service called VideoBlast to provide enhanced windows for video content. Testing the new service on the site of its Los Angeles affiliate KCBS-TV, IBS produced coverage of the Academy Awards: news highlights from the awards show streamed in a window, while another window featured rotating movie posters of past Best Picture winners. Two other windows featured slide shows of the red-carpet celebrity arrivals and the most ostentatious Oscar-night jewelry.

IBS is also starting to incorporate a VideoSearch feature on its affiliate station sites, enabling access to enhanced versions of archived news stories.

IBS is currently producing station sites equipped for streaming news clips for the Hearst-Argyle Television and Post Newsweek station groups.

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