10 Rules for the Next-Gen TV Guide


After 60 years in hibernation, the TV
guide is finally awakening to innovation. The static grid of
shows and airtimes is crumbling under the strain of hundreds
of linear channels, digital video recorders, video-ondemand,
over-the-top Internet streaming services and a
new generation of consumers who expect a fast, personalized
discovery experience. Providers can feel the winds
of change blowing and are investing top talent to
develop the next generation of guides. Here are 10
challenges and opportunities the industry must
master to build a future-proof guide:

1. The Couch Potato Is Here to Stay: This is not
an insult, simply a fact. When we sit down in front
of the TV we want to watch something good and
we expect it to be easy to find. After all, we’re not
in the mood to work. Finding something to watch
should be as effortless and enjoyable as watching.

2. Th e Paradox of Choice Requires Personalization:
Too much choice is overwhelming and is a barrier
to consumption. The guide must give quality, personalized
recommendations to help users overcome the fear of regret
and consume more.

3. Content Selection Is Meaning-Driven: Flat metadata
doesn’t help us decide want we want to watch. A
rich, human description of the mood, style and plot elements
gives us a real feeling for the content and gives
us the confidence to make a selection.

4. Future-Proof the Guide for an On-Demand World:
Fast growth of on-demand video requires that service providers
move quickly or risk choking future consumption
with an antiquated guide.

5. Build Trust Between Man and Machine: Trust is what
fuels recommendations to spur action. Humans will only
trust a discovery engine that is able to explain, in human
terms, every recommendation it makes.

6. No “Average Taste”: Human tastes are varied and can’t
be averaged out to get a mathematical estimation of taste.
Yet this is exactly what most recommendation engines do.
A truly personalized guide recognizes that each individual
is unique and enjoys several distinct types of content.

7. Keeping Content Fresh: Today’s users expect endless
fresh programming to fit their specific preferences and
match the exact mood they’re in at that moment.
If the guide fails to lead users quickly to the right
content, they will blame the provider and conclude
there is “nothing to watch.”

8. Humans Seek Meaning, Not Data: Human
communication is richer than keywords wound
into boolean strings. Ask Google to recommend a
“feel-good, witty movie about couple relations” —
you won’t get useful results. The next generation of
guides must speak in casual human language and
deliver relevant, accurate results.

9. Finding a Video “Lingua Franca”: To communicate in
natural language, guides must adopt a normalized unified
language or “lingua franca” for describing entertainment
content. This lingua franca will allow the breadth of entertainment
content to be described in a single descriptive language
allowing consumers to understand all content in the
same natural metaphor.

10. Smart Social TV: All the tweets, updates, “likes”
and “pluses” have created massive amounts of social media
data. But this kind of random chatter doesn’t drive consumption
and it doesn’t enhance the television experience.
Why? Because most friends don’t share taste in TV and movies.
Smart social TV must identify friends that have similar
tastes and use them as a source of high quality social recommendations.
That is social TV.

Yossi Glick is CEO and co-founder of Jinni.