The future of video search, recommendation and personalisation solutions


On the 1st March 2017, executives attended the Technology Pathfinders forum to discuss the developments of Search & Recommendation Personalisation (SRP), assisted by five expert panellists:
  1. Sarah Milton, All4 Head of Product, Channel 4
  2. Phil Sellick, Lead Architect/Technologist, Advanced Video, Innovations and Trials, Liberty Global
  3. Josh Wiggins, Chief Commercial Officer, GrayMeta
  4. Greg Valiquette, VP Europe, at Accedo
  5. Andrew Scott, Launch Director myBBC, BBC

The discussion was moderated by Karin Bergvall and Jon Watts, Senior Consultant and Managing Partner at MTM. The evening provided a clearer picture of the position and future of SRP solutions.

Effective SRP solutions are vital for broadcasters and video platforms

Search, recommendation, and personalisation are distinct concepts; altering the way we consume online content. The effectiveness of SRP solutions can be measured by various consumption metrics; from efficiency measures – how many searches are needed before viewers find what they want? – to engagement measures – how long did the viewer watch the second episode? Most important to the panellists in creating effective SRP solutions is breadth of consumption catalogue:

 “To my mind, in this world of immense choice, a great depth and breadth of content is essential to deliver a relevant and inspiring experience”

The complexity of viewer categorisation
Panellists stressed the importance of changing consumer behaviour across all ages, not just the youth. Therefore, rather than basing viewer categorisation on demographics, the categories of selection should be type of content, platform, time of viewing, or viewer tastes and behaviours. These points sparked interesting questions such as: do we need different SRP solutions across different platforms, devices or viewer categories?
“Everyone’s behaviour is changing, not just the youth. We are growing up and consuming content differently.”

Content is king, but metadata builds empiresData on consumer behaviour provides a deeper understanding of consumption needs. Collected together, this data intelligence and metadata can increase the quality of SRP solutions by improving framing and accuracy, delivering a more customised experience. The suggested use of contextual information to collect this kind of data opened up interesting discussions on some ethical considerations, for example how far can data collection go before it becomes too invasive?

“We are making use of a wealth of solid data and data science capability to develop personalised and targeted customised experiences”

There is still a key place for human curationThe panel agreed data and algorithms in SRP solutions is relevant and important. Yet, human curation in these solutions remains critical as algorithms were noted to create “bland channels” of “echo chambers” by surfacing similar content. Our panel agreed that humans will retain an important place within SRP, especially through editorial capacity. Overall, a combination of algorithmic and human curation in SRP solutions is crucial, with example solutions including the ability to curate the first few number of items generated by an algorithm, or a personalised, dynamic, live online schedule:

 “Our approach is to combine the two – a balance between editorial and science of data. We are looking at ways the taste of our audience can flex and bend beyond the obvious”

In the future, voice recognition will address semantics of TV search
The panel then discussed voice recognition in SRP solutions. Advancements in voice technology could develop SRP solutions from title-related searches to semantic-related searches. For example, searching for ‘the movie with the man in the green hat’ and being offered a range of solutions, all containing men in green hats. Our panel were excited by the capacity for SRP solution to develop a more sophisticated approach to responding to viewer needs and that soon voice recognition, and its semantic interpretation, will be the remote control of choice:

 “The point is that fundamentally human needs will not have changed in 10 years’ time. The mechanisms by which we satisfy those needs will have changed. I see speech as the thing that will advance this”


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About Elizabeth Bamford

Elizabeth joined MTM in February as an intern. She recently graduated from the University of Melbourne studying Psychology, and is interested in how media and particularly technology affect human behaviour.