DTI TVA reportA report for the UK government I co-wrote with Scott Gronmark and Jonathan Marshall on metadata provision for the UK to enable national video-on-demand and time shift using TV-Anytime has finally been published on the Department of Trade and Industry site. You can download the 1.25MB PDF here. The paper is 73 pages long and is both technically and commercially detailed but of course covers some broad on-demand and personalization themes. It was fun writing it and reviews so far have been very complimentary – it is designed to bring all broadcasters, advertisers and other key stakeholders kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Excerpt:

Television is entering its third main development phase. This phase incorporates three main themes:
• Mass take-up of time-shifted viewing using local storage.
• On-demand programming.
• Video content available on non-TV platforms.
At the same time, we are seeing an exponential increase in the amount of programming available. (snip)
Metadata is data that describes other data. Metadata about a TV programme describes, for example, the time the programme is to be broadcast, the subject, who created it and so on. To allow viewers to watch, find, download, store or swap programmes, the television industry needs to decide what sort of metadata should be attached to programmes.

and a section that highlights why broadcasters need to be using open standards for metadata:

In a market consisting of many different PVRs offering differing functionality, EPGs and PVR menu systems, broadcasters could start to lose control of their relationship with viewers, finding it mediated, not by the DTT equivalent of NTL or Sky, but by a host of manufacturers pursuing disparate agendas.
Content will remain ‘King’ as digital TV and mass storage spread, but the King will only be able to speak to his People to the extent that proprietary search mechanisms allow him to. Differing EPG and PVR menu implementations could bury certain broadcasters in a sea of noise, while favouring others. While it is incumbent on broadcasters to understand this new environment and adapt to it as best they can, there is a distinct possibility that certain broadcasters could in some way end up sponsoring specific devices to ensure that their programmes are the most watched and recorded. But the key problem for broadcasters in a world which contains multiple metadata standards is that they have to have a very complex mix of relationships with platform distributors and metadata providers to ensure that their content is easily accessible and that their metadata is working effectively across the board.

finally a couple of key areas explored as consumer benefits – of interest from a personalization point of view and the benefits a truly open standard across the UK and beyond would mean for consumers:

Viewer benefits include the improved ability to find the content they want down to a granular individual item level. In a bewilderingly rich media world, viewers will reward with loyalty broadcasters who label content to match their precise needs – whether they want an action movie starring Vin Diesel, an action movie that doesn’t feature Vin Diesel, an interactive quiz show, scenes featuring specific characters in a soap opera, a nature programme about giraffes, or the latest news item about pensions.
Enabling segmentation would allow viewers to bookmark items, making it easier to return to favourite scenes, clips or performances. This would also have implications for educational programmes (language learning, for instance). It would also allow viewers to assemble sections from other programmes into a new programme – say a number of performances by a certain artist, or the most recent news items about a long-running story.(snip)

Given that the implementation of TVA Broadband would be years away, no matter how quickly TVA Base and TVA Enhanced are implemented, we will give only a brief sketch of the possibilities enabled by TVA within a broadband-connected, heavilynetworked home entertainment environment. We have deliberately excluded the necessity for a permanent return-path when describing and costing TVA Base and TVA Enhanced. While we accept that, ultimately, all homes will be broadband-enabled, and while the planned introduction of BT broadband PVRs for the DTT platform next year will accelerate the number of Freeview boxes with a return path, this will not be standard in all homes by the start of analogue switch-off in 2008, and probably will still only be in a minority of DTT homes by 2012.
The third and final stage of TVA, though, will require return-path connectivity, and presumes the wide-scale deployment of connected devices and a combination of Video On Demand and the ability to capture broadcast programmes on hard disks.
This “connected” era will enable detailed information on viewers and their viewing habits to be sent back to platform owners, broadcasters and advertisers, with the viewer’s permission. This will enable these three groups, who currently often have to make decisions based on extremely crude user data, to better serve the viewing public. It also enables a whole range of new advertising and pay-per view models.

It was great to get back into TV-Anytime in this way having been one of the pioneers of the standard for 4 years and lets hope that this paper endorsed by the UK government to aid digital switch-over and provide consumers with much more personal relationships with content providers, does the trick!

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2005