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  • Alex Vikati of TMS Explains How Metadata Powers Multi-Screen Viewing

    (Note: This is the second of several interviews I'm doing with speakers appearing at X Media Research's upcoming BroadbandTVCon in Hollywood on Nov. 5th and 6th, where I'll also be moderating. VideoNuze readers can save $75 on registration using the code "VideoNuze.")

    Following is an edited transcript of my interview with Alex Vikati, executive director of Tribune Media Services (TMS), and previously co-founder of CastTV, which TMS acquired in December, 2010.

    Describe TMS and its role in the ecosystem.

    TMS is the world's leading provider of entertainment metadata - information about TV shows and movies. When you turn on a TV or device, most likely the scheduling information is coming from TMS. We have over 4K customers in 40 countries and our customers reach over 100M people.

    You personally focus on online video and social data products at TMS. Can you explain more what TMS is doing?

    TMS started by looking at linear TV. A few years ago we realized our main customers (pay-TV operators, CE manufacturers, etc.) needed data about online video too. Online video is different than traditional TV in that it's mostly on-demand viewing. TMS acquired my company CastTV, which was focused on online video data, and we turned it into a TMS product called Online Video Data ("OVD"). It takes the concept of a TMS identifier for a TV show and matches it to location of copies of that show available on the web, at Netflix, Amazon and other places. We're seeing a lot of interest in OVD as more content is coming online.

    How about social?

    We're also looking at social data about a TV show or movie and mapping that data to the canonical TMS IDs, which are industry recognized standards for tracking content. Social is increasingly figuring into the experiences our customers are presenting to their customers, so we're helping our customers establish relationships between social activity and viewing.

    Are there differences between how TMS serves customers for device viewing vs. TV viewing?

    We recognize that viewing is happening on multiple devices and screens, but that the content offered by a  single provider can vary depending on their rights and other considerations. So the OVD product has different flavors for these devices, mapped to which shows are available by device. We also see a lot of customers who are interested in devices as an enhancement experience. So we provide core data about things like the cast that allow our customers to customize experiences.

    What's your take on binge-viewing?

    We're seeing binge-viewing becoming more mainstream to the point where viewers don't need to be educated anymore. So there's an interesting interplay between binge-viewing and live viewing. We take a content-centric view of the world, and recognize that often people want to find previous seasons and episodes in order to catch up quickly so they can watch live and participate in the social experience. Our OVD product helps aggregators like NextGuide and others to present information about where to view programs much more easily.

    What's ahead?

    The big question is how binge-viewing and other changes in behavior like viewing on devices potentially changes economic models. For example, original programs are now available in the summer, which is different than in the past. And that's just one of the ways that things are different.

    Alex will speak at 2:45pm on Nov. 5th at BroadbandTVCon on "Binge-Viewing: The New Normal Consumption Activity."

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