Discovery channels

By Julian Clover
December 4, 2009 10.04 UK

Within the enthusiasm for the development of hybrid receivers, and the interlocking need to bring in movies that may have been downloaded into the PC, there is the underlying need to be able to find where everything is, writes Julian Clover.

Content discovery is the new black and over the next 12 months it is likely that we will increasingly see it as part of the mix of video services delivered into the consumer’s living room.

While the connected TV will undoubtedly play a part, it is the increasing importance of on demand services that drives the need for consumers to know where they are going. For the operator there is a desire to drive subscribers to that next PPV movie buy.

*** this week showcased some of the work it is doing in the area. The demonstration showed the interface from which operators can select their recommendation engine. In its simplest form there are two types of recommendation, the type that matches other movies with those of a similar style, or featuring the same leading actor, alternatively there is the social media approach typified by Amazon in its “Other people who bought this product went onto buy”.

Demonstrating its own system, TV Genius showed me a system in action. A cat’s cradle of lines linking individual programmes based on the email reminders that had been set on some of the company’s online services. It follows that a viewer of Big Brother might ultimately be interested in The X Factor and perhaps The Apprentice. If you watch Lost, you might also like Heroes. Even my own curious taste in viewing produced the names of some detective dramas I might watch were another day be added into the week.

The arrival of such recommendations does throw up all sorts of questions concerning cross marketing. How far should an operator go in promoting a movie new to their VOD library, and presumably more expensive to watch, over a free-to-air title? If you’ve just watched a police drama starring Martin Shaw, would a recommendation engine tell you about another series with the actor if it were on another channel? The *** approach is that honesty is the best policy, and your subscribers will love you more if you tell the truth. The problem might be in getting the correct data into the system in the first place, look through an EPG on any operator system and we all know that some channels provide better data than others.

The supply of the information, or at least the engine that pulls it altogether might well be next on the list of partnerships after middleware and conditional access, with the prospect of being able to choose from listings that best suit our personal tastes back on the agenda.