Intro to ‘Search and Rec’

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In the world of over-the-top video, it was a big deal when hardware provider Roku turned on a feature that lets consumers search across all available OTT services on that device — Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc.

Say you’re totally hooked on House of Cards (speaking of Netflix), and you want to see what else is available from the Kevin Spacey repertoire. Most OTT video streamers today require searching each service, one by one. With the Roku update (to be fair, TiVo has it too, and had it first), a “Kevin Spacey” search would return an aggregated list of titles — what Netflix has, what Amazon has and so on.

Every time you search, you’ve informed the “rec” side of the Big Thing that is “search and recommendations.” For instance, it is now known that you like Kevin Spacey. (Especially when he looks at the camera with that “told you so” look.) Next time you search, it’s pretty likely that a Spacey option pops up.

But if your household is like most others, lots of people besides you watch that TV. And they’re searching for completely different things. Maybe the babysitter searches on Teletubbies, while your spouse is more into Nova.

Guess what happens? Recommendations get wildly skewed. It’s the equivalent of saying “give me something puerile, intellectual and suspenseful.” Uh, OK. (Do elections count?)

Which is precisely where the “personalization” component of the equation snaps in. You don’t have to “log in” to your set-top box — something no one wants to do.

“Personalized video” is using your tablet, computer or phone to go into your account and set up the “who’s who” of your household. Because there’s a keyboard under your fingers, not a TV remote, it’s way more doable. I’d market it as “don’t let your spouse’s, shall we say, tastes gunk up what we can find just for you.”

The tech talk around search, recommendations and personalization is predictably Web-ish: RESTful APIs. EIDR. Hadoop. Here’s an example from a recent batch of notes: “We surface everything with RESTful APIs.”

How might cable respond to this particular feature set — searching across services? The ability to search across linear, on-demand and streaming inventory would be a fabulous start. Hint, hint.

Stumped by gibberish? Visit Leslie Ellis at translation-please.comor