Gracenote begins cataloging short-form content as pay-TV operators eye YouTube's success

AMSTERDAM -- Gracenote, which supplies pay-TV program guides with metadata on TV shows and movies, said it is working to add what it calls "digital-first content" to its database. Richard Cusick, Gracenote's general manager for video, explained that the company's move is in reaction to interest by pay-TV operators in adding shorter, YouTube-style clips from the likes of Maker Studios and AweseomenessTV to their pay-TV offerings.

"That's new for us," Cusick said of the company's venture into digital, short-form content. He said the company is working to add the metadata -- such as the names of the people featured in the clips and descriptions of what they're doing -- to its existing database of movies, TV shows and music. The addition of the new metadata will allow pay-TV operators to list such content on their program guides, and to recommend clips that are related to what users are watching or searching for.

"We're definitely focused on the highest-end content," Cusick said of the company's initiative. He said Gracenote isn't simply scraping data from YouTube clips, where most such content resides, but is instead working with the companies that are producing the content and obtaining the metadata directly from them.

Cusick added that the company then performs its own checks on the clips and the metadata -- for example, he said Gracenote checks the content to determine whether it would be appropriate for children to watch. That way, pay-TV operators can offer the content to their subscribers alongside age-appropriate ratings.

Cusick said Gracenote has developed the product, populated with digital-first content, and is now presenting that offering to operators. He said he expects commercial deployments of content using the data to start next year. Gracenote counts a wide range of players in the pay-TV industry as customers, ranging from TiVo to Apple.

Gracenote's move to add short-form, YouTube-style clips to its metadata database coincides with a significant increase in interest among pay-TV operators in such content. For example, Verizon (NYSE: VZ) inked deals with Vice, AwesomenessTV and others for its forthcoming go90 service, and Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) has invested in the likes of Buzzfeed and Vox Media, likely for its rumored Watchable video service.

Cusick explained that operators don't want to simply direct their users to YouTube or other sites to watch the content since then they can't sell ads against the clips or otherwise profit from them. Thus, operators are working to add select clips and content suppliers to their pay-TV lineup as a way to address the impressive and growing popularity of such content. Indeed, YouTube personality PewDiePie recently crossed the 10-billion views threshold, an indication of how popular such content has become.

Gracenote's foray into short-form Internet content marks the company's latest effort to expand its metadata library. For example, earlier this year Gracenote spent $54 million on a handful of companies -- SportsDirect and Infostrada Sports, as well sports-betting data company Covers Media Group -- to add sports data to its service. Gracenote was acquired by Tribune Media in December 2013.

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