The importance of search and recommendation as the technology that underpins the personalization of TV on next-generation platforms like Horizon and TiVo was spelt out in London yesterday at Cable Congress. On a panel featuring the Chief Technology Officers from Kabel Deutschland,
Virgin Media, Liberty Global, Comcast and Time Warner Cable it became clear that this is considerably more than a ‘nice to have’ feature, and is central to their strategies to be the entertainment aggregator or curator of choice.
Dan Hennessy, CTO at Virgin Media explained how search and recommendation was one of the ways it could integrate apps like BBC iPlayer into its TiVo platform more completely, creating a better connected TV experience. “iPlayer could have been an isolated application but being able to surface content through search and recommendation is very powerful,” he said.
Four out of five TiVo users are using an application of some kind on the Virgin Media platform and the way they find content generally is changing thanks to more intelligent personalization. “Because the box understands you, we are getting to a place where some customers are going to ‘My Shows’ more than they are going to the EPG,” Hennessy revealed.
Balan Nair, CTO at Liberty Global, whose company uses the Think Analytics recommendation solution on its Horizon platform, told the audience: “We built one common recommdendation engine so that whatever you are watching on regular TV, the system figures out what to recommend to you, but it also collects information from the iPad app and builds profiles for the households.”
He revealed that although consumers could log-in to the Horizon experience with their own profile, and he had expected them to take advantage of that feature, they do not. This means recommendations have to be based on household usage rather than individual viewing. To make recommendations more relevant the Horizon system is therefore gearing them according to the time of day, so that the programmes recommended in the morning or early evening are different to what is recommended later at night.
Other interesting comments from this panel:
You can read more about what these leading CTOs had to say in our other stories from Cable Congress but here is a comment that was given almost as an aside, but which is worth repeating:
Lorenz Glatz, CTO at Kabel Deutschland, reminded the conference how the simple things in life are important. In his German market, where admittedly service providers and consumers are behind the curve in terms of digital TV technology, the primary selling point for his DVR, which is flying off the shelves and offers four tuners and HDTV, is….pausing live TV. What customers really appreciate is the ability to pause a programme while they answer the phone, he told the conference.