The Washington Post

Why personalization of your TV experience will be awesome

A man holds a television remote control unit for a Virgin Media set top box in this arranged photograph at the company's store on Oxford Street in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013. (Chris Ratcliffe/BLOOMBERG)

Marc Price is Openet’s CTO for the Americas.

In today’s day and age, consumers like personalization. From tailored music selections on MP3 players to customized ringtones, people know what they want when it comes to digital content, and how they want to enjoy it.

It won’t be long before television is no different from music services, either. In fact, it’s already happening. An everyday task like watching TV will soon become personalized with the introduction of technological advancements such as flexible ad insertion systems that personalize TV commercials, and new TV platforms, like Airplay via Apple TV, that deliver “long-tail” video content to all screens – the big screen, tablets, smartphones, and more.

Here’s why consumers will embrace a personalized TV experience:

Soon, you’ll be able to request that your TV turn off commercials you despise and instead, play commercials you may actually want to watch, tailored to interests you choose to share. If you don’t have a cat, do you really want to watch ads for cat food? This applies to both live TV and time-shifted TV, where sometimes ads are no longer appropriate to recorded content. Imagine watching a show on your DVR, and being able to decide you don’t want to watch a commercial for a “sale on cars this weekend only” when the show was recorded last week. Gracenote is already set to bring this level of personalization into your living room, having debuted its ad replacement system at CES this year and is expected to ship hardware by the end of 2013.

Consumers distrust big brother when they don’t understand, or have control over, what data is being used, or how. Personalized TV services will take off when there are clear details around opt in and opt out mechanisms regarding how consumer data is to be collected and leveraged in creating a better service experience. For example, details have emerged on Intel’s smart TV platform that is said to display targeted ads based on facial recognition, gender, age range, etc. Although it won’t capture information down to the individual level, the general concept still has people skeptical. The more opt in and opt out elements that are placed under users’ control, the more they will be used, to the benefit of the consumer and the industry alike.

It will soon be possible for consumers to set up their own TV viewer profiles based on what they care about. And this is not just for ads! Consumers will be able to change their TV viewing experience around the electronic programming guide, recommendations, and even how search works and prioritizes responses. Apps like NextGuide from Dijit are currently available that enable users to find and browse shows on TV and online that are relevant to their interests. This concept, and the current apps available, will make content discovery of more relevant programming easier, as well as improve relevant advertising.

As consumers add more devices, the personalized TV experience will make it possible for tailored ads to be delivered in customized ways to each of these devices. Consumers’ appetite for ads on mobile devices is not the same as for the living room TV. Mobile, despite rapid growth, accounts for just 1 percent of total ad spending worldwide, according to eMarketer. Advertisers will gain a channel to more devices, as opt-in mechanisms enable more sophisticated users to decide what is acceptable to achieve the right service experience at the right price. At the same time, measurement across devices can be centralized. Tailored delivery will ultimately improve the user experience, reducing total ad time, and reducing or eliminating ads that aren’t relevant. This also provides value for service providers, enabling ads on platforms beyond the living room TV, and enabling comprehensive measurement – inclusive of broadband/online and mobile channels – an elusive goal today. Inevitably, consumers will soon be able to interact with brands on the devices of their choice.

Personalized TV is better TV, as the concept enables you to find and enjoy the content you want, on the devices you want, and with more relevant advertising when you want it. Soon, the days of six straight commercials focused on medications for seniors’ ailments during the 6 o’clock news will be a distant memory. Technology allows us to live in a world where one size does not fit all, and that includes television.

Marc Price is the chief technical officer for the Americas at Openet, and has more than 20 years of experience working extensively with customers to define strategies and deploy world-class solutions for mediation, charging, rating, billing, and policy. He has helped some of the largest North American and European service providers to achieve business success. Before joining Openet, Marc was the lead software architect for a market-leading convergent real-time rating and billing system for service providers. Marc holds degrees in mechanical engineering and international relations from the University of Pennsylvania.

Copyright 2013, VentureBeat

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