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Automatic Content Recognition Tech: How it Works

Mon, Feb. 13, 2017 | By: Tremor Video



Multi-screen content consumption has become almost ubiquitous among television viewing audiences. In fact, the Consumer Electronics Association reports that nearly 80% of TV viewers are on a companion device at the same time they are watching the big screen.

Connecting with multitasking viewers presents a challenge for marketers who are trying to engage viewers through TV. That's where Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) technology comes into play. ACR provides a solution for brands to engage with TV viewers on their second screens while they are also watching the big screen. As a recent blog post on the IBM Big Data and Analytics Hub explains: “ACR technology allows networks to measure a show's audience in real time and present viewers with second-screen content that's synced to the TV program."

ACR works by creating a digital fingerprint from content on the television screen. That information can then be used to identify the content on screen, and to sync with other ACR–enabled devices, such as phones and tablets.

Right now, ACR must be enabled by the viewer on secondary devices in order to bridge multiple devices. Once enabled, ACR unlocks a treasure trove of data for content providers and marketers. In fact, as the IBM report notes, with ACR enabled, content providers can measure viewer engagement, ranging from how long someone watches a program to which commercials they skip.

“For television networks, the real promise of ACR is accurate audience measurement," adds the IBM report. “Since ACR works with time-shifted content, networks could obtain more accurate estimates of a program's audience via all platforms."

ACR technology is being rapidly deployed in the marketplace. LG, and Samsung are among the manufacturers that have embedded ACR into their Smart TVs with the help of partners like Cognitive Networks, Enswers, and Gracenote. Those smart TVs can then monitor the content stream a viewer is watching. Underscoring just how hot ACR technology is, Nielsen is currently in the process of finalizing its acquisition of Gracenote from Tribune Media Services. Gracenote's technology is used to collect and analyze detailed information about engagement with TV shows, sports, movies, and music.

ACR is already being used by mainstream content providers to connect the dots between TVs and secondary devices. For example, according to Multichannel News, LG has worked with cable channel Showtime to synchronize on-screen extra content for popular series such as “Homeland" and “Shameless."

For marketers, ACR has the potential to transform TV-viewing analytics and to inform targeted advertising platforms that enable cross-promotion on multiple devices on which viewers are engaged.

Industry analysts see this tidal wave of growth already rising. Research firm Markets and Mentors predicts that the ACR market will grow from about $900 million in 2016 to $3.57 billion by 2021.

The implication for media companies, content providers, and advertisers is that increasing integration of ACR will open up a whole new world of possibilities for cross-promotion and for measuring audience engagement.

Moreover, adds ACR expert Ashish Chordia, CEO of Alphonso: “ACR offers brands the ability to extend their TV campaigns to digital, and measure engagement, attribution and effectiveness of their sync and retargeting campaigns across all platforms."

To learn more about ACR, read about our expanded partnership with Alphonso, a leader in leveraging Automatic Content Recognition technology.

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