Look around: it's no longer the Wild West out there. Yesterday's TV Everywhere experiments and pilot programs are morphing into today's company-wide business priorities for cable providers.
Digital delivery of premium video content is a real business, one that is generating real money for media companies. Those same companies need to get together with cable operators and other stakeholders to develop a uniform content identification standard.
The existing "system" -- not much of a system at all, really -- largely consists of manually identifying and logging individual television episodes or films. That workflow is simply unsustainable. With the volume of digital delivery set to rise exponentially over the next few months and years, it is imperative that media companies act soon.
By doing so they will save massive amounts of dollars, hours, and headaches.
Let's take "How I Met Your Mother" as an example. 20th Television produces the show, which airs on CBS and has recently been syndicated to Lifetime. This is a hit sitcom, and an extremely funny one at that. It will have a long life in syndication, overseas, and in the digital media realm.
When 20th and CBS deliver a new episode of "How I Met Your Mother," that half hour is bundled with basic, asset-level metadata: episode name, description of the storyline, guest stars, running time, etc.
That information lives in a data feed and is delivered to everybody receiving the episode - a list that includes programmers, cable operators and data providers like Tribune and Rovi, which need to accurately and regularly provide information to viewers for electronic programming guides. Sometimes, the providers create that data as well.
But here's the problem: with a broad and expanding universe of content delivery destinations, not having a consistent way to identify content causes unreliable metadata and an inability to traffic dynamic ads in an IP-based environment. Moreover, you can forget attempting to engage your audience through coherent search results and user experiences.
Let's do away with manual content identification. It is a downed tree lying across the express lane to progress.
The industry needs to automate content identification to ensure the same universal and accurate information travels with the content no matter where it is delivered (online, TV, On Demand, etc). This will streamline the process, increase accuracy, and approve the end user experience.
So, what would a future with a unified framework look like?
To create this digital "ID" for each piece of content, we would want to avoid watermarking, since these methods are considered destructive and alter the content by placing pixels into the digital asset. A separate, non-destructive, digital content ID could be an excellent choice.
That signature, housed externally to the digital content, would include a link to all of the contents' metadata (i.e. title, summary, and appearances). It would also have the content owner's digital signature verifying that this is indeed accurate episode information. Bottom line, the ID would enable instant and consistent access to the valuable metadata that facilitates ad placements, search, discovery and targeting across all IP platforms.
Universality of this kind would simply make life easier for any company or technology that is attempting to distribute video and generate revenue for media companies.
The more you know about your content, the easier it is to monetize and distribute. This is my "Yes we can!" challenge to the digital media ecosystem: let's get together, hammer out the details and make this happen. It will be a vast improvement for all concerned.