All platform operators and content owners are being offered the chance to harness ready-made AI/ML algorithms that have been proven at scale across Comcast, NBCUniversal and Sky and which support a range of video service enhancements including content chaptering, smart EPG thumbnails, DAI ad break detection and live-to-VOD summaries. Perhaps the most interesting application of the new Video Artificial Intelligence (VideoAI) solution is contextual advertising. This is where the programming content is analysed to better understand what people are seeing, including product categories that might appear. This knowledge can be used to sell relevant ads within the next available break, and the associated ad decisioning is automated.
VideoAI was released for general use by Comcast Technology Solutions (CTS) in January. It is a fully managed, 24/7 software-as-a-service offering, so media companies can pay for the applications on a per minute basis. According to Bart Spriester, VP & GM of Content & Streaming Providers Suite at CTS, the key differentiating point for VideoAI is the provision of pre-trained algorithms which mean the applications work out-of-the-box. Other vendors provide the AI detectors but leave media owners to work out their own algorithms, he claims. The VideoAI algorithms draw upon millions of hours of AI learning at Sky, Comcast and NBCUniversal.
VideoAI is also fully automated – there is no manual work involved when segmenting show introductions or credits once they have been detected, for example. “AI technology can be focused not only on enhancing the end consumer experience but on reducing the operational cost for content providers and operators,” Spriester points out.
The immediate applications available with VideoAI are:
- The solution can be used to generate specific metadata to support content chaptering with automated titles and summaries, plus smart thumbnails. Intros and credit rolls are detected to support this. VideoAI can also help detect ad breaks to support dynamic ad insertion.
- Contextual advertising. The content is analysed for brand opportunities and for advertiser sensitivities. CTS says this capability improves the value of every ad break.
- Live-to-VOD. Thumbnails, titles and summaries are created on-the-the-fly as a live event airs, ready for fast on-demand availability. Highlight reels can be automatically created during live sports events – and these are shown on-screen to enhance the sports viewing experience.
- QoE checks. Video assets can be automatically analysed to identify and tag key onscreen moments such as hard cuts, black frames and transitions, or audio silences or specific sounds. Alarms can be set to warn operations teams if something is wrong. If there is silence, for example, is there supposed to be silence in the programming or has the stream failed?
Comcast Technology Solutions says content owners, operators and even advertisers can work with the company to develop their own business use-cases. And Spriester promises that even small customers can influence the CTS development roadmap for the new product.
In terms of workflow, the VideoAI detectors sit downstream of audio and video encoding/decoding and closed captions creation. Customers with content in the cloud (and Spriester says this would be most of them) can provide low-resolution proxy assets for the VideoAI detectors to check, prior to the AI-based applications being performed. Enriched metadata is then sent back. It would also be possible to run detectors downstream of full video files, and it is possible to analyse live video as long as CTS can site its detectors in the cloud where the live signal comes from (proxies cannot be used with live).
CTS is in talks with several potential customers outside the Comcast group, with segmentation for auto-chaptering one of the most sought-after applications. Spriester emphasises: “This is not just another AI tool. We are bringing the pre-trained algorithms on a SaaS-based model. Our solutions have been proven and deployed at scale at some of the largest operators and content creators in the world.”
Fraser Stirling, Chief Product Officer at Sky, adds: “VideoAI from Comcast Technology Solutions is a potential game-changer. With VideoAI as a managed service, companies can quickly launch a range of AI-powered video services at scale, and benefit from investments we’ve made internally, to drive their own business objectives forward.”