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Temporal Metadata, Zeebox, New Oil - Serendipity or Zemblanity?

Historically, TV metadata has been used to supply Electronic Programme Guides (EPGs) and therefore has been adequate for description at a show level. Typically when the industry talks about TV metadata, they talk about snippets of information and images provided by companies such as Rovi and Gracenote that can be used for the descriptive editorial information, images and multimedia on one show as a whole.

But what about at the scene level? And why do I think temporal metadata — or Tagging TV — is the new oil?

And why does this technology make UK startup Zeebox a global leader and the most innovative startup in the second screen social TV space?

Not to mention a valuation of 150 million dollar company based on selling ten per cent to Sky for 15 million... after a mere eight weeks of live operation.

Not bad.

Zeebox has changed the game and taken things to another level - globally - and it's now all about applying metadata not just to a whole piece of content, but individual chunks within it. Of course, this can be relevant both for production and search/ discovery... but the real value lies in providing contextual data on the second screen — whether that is curated or automated, factual or commercial... or automated as Zeebox is doing above, or it could be a combination of both.

Let me explain further.

The lack of both initiative from the incumbents and standards in TV temporal metadata poses increasing problems right through the TV value chain – and in this case, it's a third parties like Zeebox that is trying to solve this problem as temporal metadata is not being created at the script or playout level by production companies or broadcasters.

Neither the infrastructure nor the will is there. Yet.

The production workflow of the future needs to include some kind tagging platform based on XML which allows for creatives to identify the dress that is being worn, the car being driven, the brand that is tied to the scene. Product placement is new in the UK and this is a bit different - though somewhat related - because it temporal tagging also allows for context and commerce on the second screen triggers can be created which can, for example, offer the viewer the chance to buy the dress that Jennifer Aniston is wearing. Or test drive the car she is driving. Or win free petrol by answering a quiz. Or? Use your imagination...

But the infrastructure and common standards are just not there yet in the production workflow nor the broadcast playout systems. There needs to be a convergence of technology and creativity... a fusion of XML and script writing. Temporal tagging needs to become part of the process of creating audiovisual entertainment.

Creating a framework to 'tool' the second screen in relation to the main TV screen - to provide context, social TV, communication, commerce, community, gamification, transmedia and personalisation is the way forward. And the second screen will be the platform for both content discovery and dissemination in the future TV realm.

Click for full image.

Viewers are increasingly watching TV along with their portable devices, resulting in more and more viewer attention directed away from TV spots and towards their laptops, tablets and smartphones.  Nielson reported last year that 70 percent of Tablet owners and 68 per cent of smart phone owners use them while watching TV. Combine that factoid with Twitter spiking through the roof during commercials around prime time entertainment and it's not hard to see.

This means those 30 second linear TV spots that agencies convince brands are worth millions are very likely to become less valuable in the future. If they are not being watched. The second screen is some seriously valuable landscape.

As the second-screen mobile devices draw attention from commercials they will become hugely important in the future disruption of the current value chain in the industry... not only because viewers are drawn there to discover and share their content, gamify the TV experience, and engage in new ways. Like the web, it can and will give analytics hat the current TV value chain offering a deeper understanding of consumers and their behaviour.

The fact is... TV is linear. It's goes in one direction. The Future of TV will close the feedback loop and create infinite backchannels.

Is there life after the 30-Second Spot? Yes, and temporally-tagged TV metadata is a key.

There are essentially two ways to tag video entertainment: curated and automated. And both have their pros and cons. Manually tagging millions of programmes and shows is going to take a decade of Mechanical Turks but this really offers up the best metadata. Manually tagging shows at the production stage is the future.

On the other hand, there are companies like Zeebox that use technologies to automate the process such as Speech to Text, Video Recognition technologies, Audio Fingerprinting, Natural Language Processing techniques, and when available, Closed Caption data to create temporal tagging of content to provide a clear view of what is happening when within a piece of video.

The automatically culled data is then cleaned up with algorithms and output to an XML file which can be used in conjunction along the timeline of a video. And this can be done in real time with live video, believe it or not. The tags can then be further automatically linked by algorithms to companion content from reliable sources such as Wikipedia and IMDB. Or even linked to eCommerce sources such as Amazon, eBay or the App Store on the device itself. As is done by Zeebox.

Other than temporal metatagging in the production workflow, probably the best way is to use a combination of both types of tagging - automated then moderated/curated by humans.

Total automation is not perfect - artificial intelligence is not there yet. Algorithms are not sufficiently complex enough to trim out metadata that misses the boat contextually. When it works, it's pure serendipity. When it misses, it's utter zemblanity.

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