ACM - Computers in Entertainment

Using Rovi Metadata to Engineer Entertainment Discovery

By Brandon Conley

Today’s consumers expect seamless entertainment discovery experiences. They want to easily find information about a favorite TV program or movie and the related soundtrack and performing artists. They want the information quickly and on their device of choice. For engineers doing entertainment computing, enabling a discovery experience like this is fast becoming a high priority. A new application needs to enable discovery, and it’s the engineer’s job to make it happen. They need to facilitate broad strokes of discovery through intelligent search and recommendations functionality, and bring each search target to life through captivating metadata.  

Broadly defined, metadata is the descriptive, image-rich entertainment programming information that is a part of a TV program guide, on DVD/BluRay boxes, a movie’s end credits, scene shots, trailers—basically everything used to describe content. It’s all the information that companies use to market a movie or show’s content—title, actors, box art, description, release date, running time, rating, genre, etc.—and can reach consumers on their TV, laptop, mobile phone or other digital device.  Metadata can also include descriptive tags such as “mood” of the content: quirky, slapstick, irreverent, or rowdy, to name a few. With metadata, consumers can connect through discovery, recommendation, social interaction, advertising, etc.   

Finding connections between new and favorite artists, celebrities, music, and is an experience Rovi refers to as six degrees of entertainment discovery, where the consumer is surrounded by immersive and interrelated entertainment associations. The “six-degrees” discovery feature is driven by Rovi data, which serves as the connector between different pieces of content and makes it easy to move from one content piece to another.  Entertainment consumers thrive on the ability to dive deeper and learn biographical information about their favorite movie actors, what other movies they have been in, and find similar movies to their favorites or search based on their mood.

For example, as an entertainment lover, you might want to know that before “The Hunger Games” was a movie, it was a best-selling book, and the lead actress in the movie, Jennifer Lawrence, was also in “X-Men: First Class” and appeared as a regular cast member in the 2007-2009 TV sitcom, “The Bill Engvall Show.” She has also hosted “Saturday Night Live,” and has been a guest on “Late Show With David Letterman” multiple times. You might also want to know Taylor Swift’s “Safe and Sound” appeared on the soundtrack from “The Hunger Games.” The metadata behind each movie, book, and song link together to provide a rich, six-degree, entertainment discovery experience. And with access to metadata that leads to entertainment connections, consumers can discover new content, which can inspire them to buy more, spend more time browsing or renew a subscription.


Changing Role of Metadata

The role of metadata has evolved significantly as digital entertainment continues to expand its footprint across new devices, platforms, services, and applications. The transition of content discovery over the past 60 years has been nothing short of dramatic. While the 1950s saw the use of the paper guide help television viewers find what to watch, about 30 years later the electronic programming guide revolutionized the way that viewers searched to find out what shows were on by bringing the guide right to the television screen. A decade or so later, viewers began to access the interactive program guide, giving them more control to click on and read program descriptions, and find out information on actors starring in a given show. Then DVRs and streaming catch-up TV services provided the ability to time-shift and create custom, on-demand viewing experiences. Today, search and recommendations have emerged as critical components to the content discovery experience and moving forward, personalized entertainment experiences will drive an even quicker and easier way for consumers to interact and engage with content when and where they choose.     

Metadata has moved into new use cases including fueling social media interactions.  Metadata can serve a foundation to foster meaningful interactions between consumers and the content and brands they care most about. Metadata is the key to making the connections between people—the conversations that are taking place on a movie or TV show or celebrity—and can help organize the social conversations and surface the information people really want. Facebook, for example, is creating more social interactions around entertainment by building its base of entertainment data using Rovi Video, a database that includes in-depth information on movies, TV shows, and celebrities. This metadata provides the basis to make it easier for third-party app developers to build new services for the Facebook platform.  


Best Practices for Integrating Metadata

Populating an application with metadata can be done in several ways including manually. However, the DIY process is time consuming and cumbersome, resulting in limited information that quickly becomes outdated if not regularly updated. As functionality such as search and recommendations and personalization of entertainment becomes available across connected devices and applications, the foundation of deep, standardized entertainment data is critical to ensuring a satisfactory user experience. Data should be comprehensive, high quality, and normalized in order to obtain a robust, engaging entertainment experience across multiple screens. In more detail, when integrating metadata into an application or service these best practices should be observed:


  • Metadata should be comprehensive for all media, categories, and subcategories you offer. If users can’t quickly and easily find related content, they will give up the hunt. On the other hand, a satisfying experience means users are likely to make your application part of their entertainment consumption habits.
  • The content should be normalized. It should look the same, have the same organization, length and provide the same depth of detail, regardless how the consumer accesses it and whether or not it comes from numerous sources.
  • The data should be timely. Ideally, you should have the information on a hot TV show or new movie opening in theaters across the country before it premieres in order to respond to pre-sales buzz.
  • The data should be verified and updated regularly to ensure consumers get exactly what they’re searching for, and should provide connections to fuel recommendations and suggestions that drive extended use. 
  • Your infrastructure and data should be flexible. In today’s dynamic entertainment environment, it’s essential that the user interface you build today can accommodate yet-unanticipated options tomorrow. The data should be viewable on phones, tablets, and TVs via multiple versions and different character counts.

Rovi meets these criteria with a robust and agile data management infrastructure specifically designed to keep pace with the constant change of entertainment content.  Rovi Video encompasses data on more than 5 million TV programs, half a million movies, a million celebrities, cast and crew bios, photos, and content-related imagery covering 55 countries and available in more than 15 languages. Rovi aggregates, validates, and normalizes the data, offering millions of data points out of the box, backed with teams of subject matter experts writing reviews and bios. Through APIs, Rovi provides full access to engineers so they can develop, test, and review the data as needed. From there, Rovi’s dedicated technical support helps with on-boarding and implementation. The end result is a uniquely populated application that engineers are proud to deliver, and a cool application with six degrees of entertainment discovery that keeps consumers connected.


For more information on what metadata is and how it is created and then delivered to your program guide, watch “The Life of Data - Entertainment Metadata" produced by Rovi.


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