We have been talking a lot about making TV personal – creating a unique experience for each individual viewer so they stay longer in front of the screen, big or small, and come back for more.

Yet, the discussion is often limited to the personalization of the user interface, personalization of the advertising that reaches viewers or personalization of the TV content library available. But what about personalization of the TV content itself? That can be another powerful way to engage viewers by providing them with a unique experience.

Typically, channel graphic overlays play an essential role complementing TV channel programming by providing overview and additional information (news rolls, programme announcements, sports statistics etc.), commentary or advertising (banners, channel logos etc.). By personalizing these graphics, broadcasters can offer a tailored streaming experience to viewers and boost TV revenues and audience reach. But how can we do it?

With its latest research in the media and broadcasting area, Ericsson is trying to address several of the technology challenges for the personalization of linear TV graphics. The outcomes of the research were presented at the TVX2017 conference in Hilversum, the Netherlands, and I’d like to share some of the findings.


Graphics overlay personalization

Currently, TV graphics are encoded together with the content within the linear TV stream which makes any modification difficult afterwards. The typical procedure is to decode the stream, overlay the graphics and re-encode it in order to deliver it to mobile devices. As ABR (Adaptive Bitrate) technologies are the prevalent way of streaming content to mobile devices, bad network conditions can make the graphics unreadable when the ABR algorithm switches to low quality display. A possible solution of the problem is to decouple the graphics from the video stream by overlaying them on the media player, closer to the end viewer. This allows personalization of graphics and provides high quality overlays independent of the current video quality.

First of all, to implement graphics personalization, TV graphics have to be broadcast as separate objects from the rest of the content. Since graphics events happen seldom, graphics triggers are embedded as metadata into the media stream. The media client at the mobile device uses the metadata to fetch the graphics at the time of viewing. The metadata acts as a trigger point and carries instructions for the client to construct and overlay the graphics. These instructions contain the location of a graphics personalization server, which the client is contacting for the detailed description of the graphics. The server contains various data about each user (or user group) that is key for making the personalization decision. This server identifies the media client request and provides a file with the detailed description of the graphics location and necessary information for the media client to fetch and assemble the graphics correctly on top of the video. The media player analyses the file, downloads the graphic elements and renders it on the top of the video in the pre-specified positions on the screen.

The current proof of concept demonstrates the usage of events specified in the MPEG-DASH format to overlay personalized graphics on the top of a channel stream. Research work continues to develop a stable and reliable solution across various clients and browsers, including the HLS and Smooth Streaming ABR standards.


Delivering a unique experience for every viewer

With the transformation of the TV industry and its move towards personalization, time-shift viewing and OTT delivery, personalizing the graphics will increase the value of linear TV content by making it more relevant to viewers and engaging them in a unique way. Using information about a viewer’s profile, location, time of viewing or preferences can expand the monetization opportunities for broadcasters as well.

For example, sports statistics could change during a live sport event to reflect a viewer’s interest, showing more information on their favorite player or team. Another use-case is to modify the news roll with the latest news when the viewer is watching TV in time-shift or to include local news when a viewer is on the go. Graphics personalization can be used as an additional advertising tool, with only relevant channel announcements or recommended shows displayed to a particular group of viewers.

The unbundling of graphics from linear TV stream can create many other exciting opportunities for broadcasters that are yet to be seen as the technology evolves. Creating a unique experience for every viewer will be the way to build loyalty and closer relationships with TV audiences.

Stan Dimitrov, Product Marketing Manager, OTT Services and Sports Graphics