Channel surfing in today's TV Everywhere world

Steve Tranter, NDSThe days of channel surfing are over. With TV operators going beyond traditional broadcast, offering content to the online, on-demand and wireless worlds, who has the time or energy?  When there are hundreds of viewing options available 24 hours a day, channel surfing doesn't even begin to sort through all of the content that is now available to consumers on multiple platforms.

In fact, this explosion of programming and platforms has virtually guaranteed that viewers need to no longer ask, "Is anything good on?" but rather, "I know something good is on, but what is it and where can I find it?"  If information is power and content is king, any innovative technology that can integrate the information and content from the myriad of TV distribution outlets, DVDs, VOD channels, mobile platforms and Internet sources will surely have its day in the sun.

A number of web-based solutions have been introduced to fill this void; however, one has not emerged as a household name providing a one-stop shop destination for consumers.  Each tool provides data on one platform, two at most--TV listings, online video listings and content, DVD availability, etc.  The set-top box can be viewed as a technology solution; however, it also only provides data for one viewing platform.

LocateTV online guideConsumers need more widespread "uber-guides," covering content on all devices, available from all sources, on all media platforms.  These free, easy-to-use guides would bring together TV listings, online content availability and DVDs.  Unlike conventional set-top or most TV-based guides, which tend to show only what's coming up in the next week or two, the uber-guide searches not just what's upcoming, but also what's already aired on TV, allowing the viewer to conduct a comprehensive search for past, present and future content.  The guide also has the ability to evolve with use by learning a viewer's likes and dislikes.  This learning process will allow the guide to provide customized program information to viewers, recommending the most relevant content amidst the countless program offerings that are available.  This automatic filtering will remind viewers that finding something to watch doesn't have to be a chore!

Such an uber-guide is something that NDS has developed with LocateTV.  While fine-tuning this product, NDS' research has shown that many people network using second devices while they're watching TV on their smart phone, laptop or iPhone.  The key in developing an uber-guide product is recognizing that viewers are not limited to the device they are currently on, and provide all of the options they may be looking for, in one destination. 

Cox programming guideThis includes an intuitive search function that allows the viewer to find information concerning favorite movie actors, shows, films, sporting events and even genres--as well as when they will be available for viewing on TV, DVD or the Internet.  Online availability information needs to include whether it can be streamed or downloaded, or if it is on such outlets as iTunes or Hulu. If multiple DVD sources are available, price comparisons also need to be provided.

In today's busy world, it is imperative that email reminders can be set based on any selection or search criteria, including content that is not currently on the schedule.  A DVR, for example, allows a viewer to schedule a recording or series of recordings as long as they are in a 14-day window or seven-day window guide.  A user-friendly uber-guide has the ability to schedule a reminder, even if a program may not be presently on the air. It may be a series which isn't available for six months, or there could be previous episodes online.

By tapping into social networking, this uber-guide becomes the water cooler of the internet, enabling family and friends to share program choices with one another, post reviews and interact with fellow fans.

Traditionally, the TV viewing and entertainment experience has been guided by a viewer's cable or satellite operator, as the provider's set-top box has solely aggregated and supplied content.  As television platforms continue to develop and launch, it becomes necessary for viewers to turn to an uber-guide as the gateway to all content, on all platforms.  In the near future, the guide will become the most sought after real estate in the television ecosystem, controlling the relationship with the viewer, programming and platforms.  With the click of a single remote control, a new kind of channel surfing will be born.

Steve Tranter is Vice President, Broadband and Interactive for NDS.

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