Time Machine shoehorns extra spots into shows

Nov 5, 2001  •  Post A Comment

About 100 TV stations have bought the Time Machine, a device manufactured by Prime Image that makes it easy for stations to shrink the size of programs to add in more commercial time.
The San Jose, Calif.-based company’s Web site says the latest Digital Time Machine “easily creates” up to 30 seconds of extra commercial time in a 20- to 30-minute program and “that options allow creation of as much as 21/2 minutes of extra commercial time. In all cases, the process occurs in real time, without pre-recording or pre-processing, does not reduce program content and is virtually undectable [sic] to viewers.
Jim Aldrich, VP of operations for Prime Image, said in an interview that he can teach someone to use the Time Machine in 10 minutes. The user would set three “parameters”: the overall length of the program, the amount of time by which the program is to be reduced and the time in which no reduction is to occur (which is where the added inventory would be placed).
Say a broadcaster wants to add a 30-second commercial before a program that is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. By routing the program through the Time Machine after the new commercial airs, the program would start 30 seconds late. The Time Machine then would analyze successive frames of the program, looking for two that are alike enough that one could be tossed out. Nine hundred frames have to be thrown away to create a 30-second hole.
The Time Machine could be pushed to take 30 seconds out of five minutes without pitch change, Mr. Aldrich said, although the tempo would be affected. “Anything over a minute in a half-hour program and Joe Sixpack may begin to notice a change in tempo,” he said. “I highly recommend that they keep it to 30 seconds per half-hour. I recommend not to overuse it.”
Using a “conservative” formula in which a 30-second commercial goes for $250, Mr. Aldrich said if a station used the Time Machine to create four 30-second spots per day, the Time Machine, which costs about $90,000, would pay for itself in one month.
“If you used it to generate one spot in the Super Bowl,” Mr. Aldrich said, “you’d probably pay for it in about five seconds.”