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VIDEO INSERTION: VIRTUAL ADS NEARING REALITY?
Published July 21, 1995
Princeton Electronic Billboards (PEB) of Princeton, NJ, has pioneered the concept of video insertion technology -- inserting ads into the backgrounds of television broadcasts. While these ads are clear to viewers, they cannot be seen by fans at the site. Comcast Cable, which produces Double-A Trenton Thunder games, is the only broadcaster currently using the system. However, PEB recently tested the system during a Marlins/Sunshine Network telecast, and is in negotiations with several teams and broadcasters. THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY spoke with PEB Dir of Marketing Sam McCleery about the state of the technology, the progress PEB has had selling the system and challenges the company faces. TECHNOLOGY: The video insertion system places video material into a live broadcast in real-time by memorizing features in a scene and placing images on that area. Players and objects pass in front of the image as if it was a permanent fixture. The images are brought to life by a machine that takes a live feed from a broadcast and inserts the image. McCleery says that unlike "burn-ins," or superimposed advertising, the video insertion system does not place any limitations on broadcast production -- camera angles are not compromised with the fear that a burn-in will cover a player's face or part of the action. The PEB machine is described as the "size of three VCR's stacked" on top of each other. However, fans won't see an electronic billboard on their favorite NFL QB anytime soon -- the technology is limited to non-moving objects. ADVANTAGES: One of the greatest advantages of the system, according to McCleery, is the ability to localize or regionalize advertising. Through the system, advertisers may purchase time on an electronic billboard for specific audiences. If GM buys time on a national baseball broadcast behind home plate, the video insertion system allows GM and the broadcaster to send different messages to different regions. For example, a Chevrolet Trucks ad could appear in Dallas, with a local dealer while a local Buick ad may appear in Detroit. McCleery: "It's intended to add value ... you can derive or generate more revenue out of that space because you are allowing many different advertisers to access the same space at the same time." CHALLENGES: The system has only been used four times, two tests in Trenton, one test in Florida and once using real ads for Comcast. Marlins VP/Broadcasting Dean Jordan told THE DAILY that while the team did test the system, "there are a lot of bugs to be worked out" and the team has no immediate plans to employ the technology. Jordan said issues such as cost, league rules and copyrights need to be worked out before it can be used in MLB. WHAT ABOUT JOE FAN? Fan reaction has yet to be fully gauged. Ed Pardini of Comcast told THE DAILY that fan and advertiser reaction was generally positive for the one Trenton broadcast. Pardini estimates that a video insertion ad for one- half inning costs around 1.5 times what a one 30-second ad costs on Comcast. Comcast plans on using the technology in Thunder games for the rest of the season. Pardini: "This is a way that program producers can increase their advertising revenues without making the broadcast look as though it is jam-packed with commercials." THE FUTURE: McCleery said his system has the potential to make games more enjoyable for viewers both at home and at the stadium. McCleery: "It has the advantage of possibly shortening the games. Less [TV] advertising can cut the game time down and keep the revenue the same. Also, because it's only seen by the viewing audience, you can keep areas of the stadium, the tennis court and so forth, signage-free." Dean Jordan of the Marlins, on the possible impact of the system on the marketplace: "This has the potential to be a big one" (THE DAILY).