Audio Watermarking Advances OTA TV Today And Tomorrow

LEAWOOD, KAN.—While TV broadcasters in Phoenix announced earlier this month their plans to deploy ATSC 3.0 by spring 2018 to serve as a model for peers around the country, they along with broadcasters in Orlando, Fla., Montgomery, Ala., and Hartford, Conn., are already testing an audio watermarking technology that will play an important role in audience measurement, personalization and interactivity for next-gen TV.

That technology, Verance’s Aspect, is the underlying technology behind ATSC 3.0’s audio watermarking standard. It also can be integrated into legacy ATSC 1.0 transmission as is the case in today’s test markets.

“For the past six or seven months, we have had watermark readers in the market with between 300 and 400 households,” says Nil Shah, company CEO.

Pearl TV members, NBC Universal, NBC Connecticut, Univision and Fox Television Stations participating in the test are embedding their programing with the watermark for the readers to capture. Third-party demographic data is then appended to the captured watermark data to “provide a robust set of reports” to participating stations, says Shah.

For the trial, the watermark receivers are standalone devices, but ultimately the goal is see the technology incorporated into the design of new televisions, he adds.

Interest from the CE community has grown in Verance Aspect since the company in May released the findings of research put together by SmithGeiger. The researchers found consumers say they will spend as much as $200 more for sets with ATSC 3.0 features—especially interactivity, which is driven by Aspect—as well as accelerate their purchase plans for next-gen TVs.

“We have seen a lot of interest from television manufacturers to incorporate the technology now into their sets so they can start delivering the benefits that are contemplated for 3.0 but deliver those benefits earlier [via ATSC 1.0 with the watermark],” said Shah.

While the FCC vote this month to authorize ATSC 3.0 is welcomed news, Shah reiterated that uptake of the audio watermarking technology is not predicated on the action.

“The standard creates a pretext for eventual adoption, but we are seeing broadcasters and television manufacturers already make movement towards using the technology and implementing it today,” said Shah. “The FCC vote didn’t really change that calculus and that dynamic.”

For the moment, the ongoing trial of Verance Aspect has been focused on audience measurement. However, subsequent iterations could see interactivity and delivery of personalized TV added to the test, he added.

For a comprehensive list of TV Technology’s ATSC 3.0 coverage, see our ATSC3 silo.

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.