Angling to grease the skids for TV Everywhere-style services and other digital distribution models, an entertainment industry coalition that includes CableLabs, Comcast and MovieLabs has formed the Entertainment Identifier Registry for assigning unique ID codes to millions of video assets.
The EIDR project, set up as a non-profit, independent association, provides a uniform approach to cataloging movies, television shows, and other commercial audio/video assets with globally unique identifiers. Today, media companies use disparate systems to catalog their entertainment assets -- making the process of tracking content across multiple systems a difficult and often manual process.
The first production release of the registry is set to launch early 2011. EIDR's other backers include Rovi, Deluxe, Universal Pictures, Neustar, Paramount Pictures, Sonic Solutions, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Walt Disney Pictures, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Civolution, Vobile, INA (L'institut national de l'audiovisuel) and the Motion Picture Association of America.
"Anytime you dig into those metadata issues, we have 10 different identifiers -- every studio and cable programmer has their own," said Kip Welch, MovieLabs vice president of business development. "The goal is to oil the wheels for the distribution of movie and television assets, by forming a unique ID asset." MovieLabs is owned by Hollywood's six major studios: Disney, Paramount, Sony, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Universal.
The EIDR codes are analogous to the UPC (Universal Product Code) for packaged goods and book publishers' ISBN (International Standard Book Number), Welch said. The EIDR format can support hundreds of millions of unique IDs, he added.
"We need something for entertainment," Welch said. "For the movie industry we're still getting our act together around digital distribution... It would have been better to do this five or 10 years ago."
Mark Hess, Comcast senior vice president of advanced business and technology development, said in a statement, "We believe this standard will improve the flow of information among the companies we work with throughout the industry. EIDR provides the much-needed foundation to present consistent data that will allow customers to discover and watch video on multiple platforms."
CableLabs president and CEO Paul Liao added, "A standard, low-cost approach for content ID is needed as the industry continues to move towards providing consumers with access to content anywhere, anytime and on any device. EIDR will help our members deliver content to their subscribers through their video initiatives, including TV Everywhere."
UltraViolet, the multiparty content-authentication system developed by the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem consortium, also is looking to take advantage of the EIDR system.
"EIDR's mission of an industry-wide registry is synergistic with cross-industry efforts as we both look to bring freedom from proprietary formats, ultimately resulting in freedom of entertainment for consumers," said Mitch Singer, chief technology officer for Sony Pictures Entertainment and the president of DECE.
Dues-paying members of EIDR will have open access to the registry, and will also be able to supply their content to the registry for identification. According to the consortium, for content distributors, the unique IDs will help eliminate confusion between assets with same name or different cuts of the same video. Content producers will benefit from the ability to centrally register their assets, by simplifying their post-production process and potentially enabling increased distribution.
"This is not rocket science," said Jud Cary, CableLabs vice president of video technology policy and deputy general counsel. "If you're trying to deliver the same product to different devices, you need a way to coalesce that."
EIDR also will provide a way to let cable operators provide different choices for metadata as well, according to Cary. For example, in a TV Everywhere model, an MSO may want to pull up metadata information from IMDB using the EIDR code, he said.
The coalition is planning to prepopulate the EIDR database with IDs for thousands of American movies and TV before the launch, Welch said. EIDR's founders said they're actively looking to expand EIDR with new partners and participants internationally. More information is available at www.eidr.org.
The EIDR coalition is organized as an industry non-profit and will be run on a cost-recovery basis, Welch said. Rovi initially has been contracted to operate the registry database, under the guidance of an EIDR technical advisory board with representatives from members of the coalition.
As for whether EIDR could help movie studios and other content owners battle piracy, Welch said while that wasn't the primary intent of the project, the system could help in tracking and more quickly identifying illegally distributed material.
The EDIR registry is being developed as an open, standards-based effort built on the established Digital Object Identifier (DOI) system, created by the International DOI Foundation, and uses the open-source registry software from the Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI).
The registry will provide a way to identify assets at all levels -- from original productions to edits, translations, clips, composites, bundles and down to granular assets, such as different audio or video encodings intended for specific channels of distribution, according to EIDR. The ID format is organized in a hierarchical reference system that links relevant pieces of content to one another, and the registry uses a de-duplication system to ensure objects are registered under a unique ID.