“Content is king” has long been a mantra of the media world. With myriad content delivery channels and services saturating the media landscape, content discovery has become just as important as the content itself. Some forms of media have accessible ways to discover new content. TV content, however, lags behind other media in terms of content discovery capabilities.
What makes a modern content discovery engine? The answer, at least for TV, might be in content metadata.
Take Youtube and Netflix, for instance. Play a video on Youtube, and the right-hand sidebar is populated with recommended videos. Once the video ends, the video window recommends even more viewing options. Netflix lists previously watched content, and includes a number of “like [show or movie the viewer has watched recently]” categories.
Online video platforms allow viewers to discover content they might be interested in, based on what their viewing habits are.
Users’ real-time interactions with recommendations coming from content metadata enable content discovery. On Youtube, if a user sees a video he thinks might be interesting, he can stop what he’s watching and click on the new video or open the new video in a tab or window. With Netflix, the same user can add movies to a queue, where they’re easily accessible later.
The traditional TV-watching experience does not currently allow for interactive content discovery.
Consider a viewer watching the latest Desperate Housewives episode on TV. The show cuts to a commercial, where Bravo announces the premiere of a new show that will air at the end of the month. Short of jotting down the date and time of the new show, and maybe putting a reminder in her calendar, the viewer can only watch the commercial, and hope she remembers – in a few weeks’ time – to record or watch the premiere.
Not only do traditional TV viewers lack the ability to interact with what they’re watching, they aren’t able to discover content in the same way online and OTT viewers can as a result of that lack of interaction.
But imagine if a set-top-box or connected TV could read the metadata in the advertisement for the new show premiere. The device can ask the viewer if she’d like to set the show to record in the future. Maybe the DVR menu can recommend new shows based on what she has already recorded.
Interactivity and content discovery go hand in hand. Right now, traditional TV viewers can’t discover new content in the same way online video consumers can.
Programmers have metadata for advertisements; they have program IDs, so they know when to insert a certain commercial. I think it would be beneficial to open up advertisement and TV show metadata to set-top-box and connected TV manufacturers, create standards for content IDs, and enable customer utility in the traditional TV content they watch.
Part of the reason viewers keep returning to OTT providers like Youtube, Hulu, and Netflix, is that they are able to easily discover new content. Companies in the traditional pay TV pipeline stand to learn from their competitors, and should work to evolve their content to allow for better content discovery.