The metadata situation sucks – What we need to do to fix the ‘plumbing’ in today’s video streaming experience (Bloom)

The past few weeks have seen a strange sort of gold rush in the streaming video industry, as seemingly every media-focused B2B news and research organization has held one or more live events, including many at least partly in person for the first time in two years.

The good news: these many gatherings – from august business groups such as DEG, NATPE and OTT.X and publishers such as Future, the parent of this very new operation – have helped everyone finally come together in one ( true) piece together and talk about some of the things holding back the streaming video industry as it moves into its next phase.

Simply put, many people in the industry believe we need to talk a lot more, to understand the issues that clog the industry’s most basic “plumbing”, the metadata that underpins the streaming video experience, from recommending the right shows to showing the right ads. .

To use the technical term used by many, the metadata situation sucks.

Monica Williams, NBCUniversal’s senior vice president of digital products and operations, used her bullying pulpit on a panel produced by Questex in Denver, and in a subsequent conversation with me, to point out that metadata program descriptions don’t don’t use language like normal people would. in search of something to watch.

Calling a show “comedy” is fine, but what kind of comedy? Is it “dark”? “Satirical? ” ” Torrid ? “Teen?” Is it a stand-up special or a scripted series? Shorts? Feature film? Animated?

Basically, humans have a much more sophisticated and nuanced language for describing what they want to watch than most metadata and search functions can, especially when shows are made in one place, distributed across many others and may be permitted at other outlets, Williams said. , whose work makes her something of a “glue” person in Comcast’s many video production and distribution operations.

Williams’ concerns about metadata usability sparked many other conversations as well. What a company deems important to describe its programming does not necessarily correspond to the formats of each distributor, which reduces the effectiveness and efficiency of programming and advertising in the industry.

And the platforms aren’t always so useful either. Sinclair’s Stirr can provide very granular data to its customers, while Roku’s much larger and more lucrative platform provides partners with a few lines of performance data, said Matt Smith, vice president of business development for the data analytics company. Symphony Media AI. Businesses that rely on this Roku scope need a lot more feedback on how their programs work.

But what if companies paid Roku or others to access all that great data, in something like a cable replay fee, Smith suggested. It would at least be the start of negotiations that would change the industry.

Elsewhere in the burgeoning ad-supported streaming industry, the problem may be too complex rather than too little.

Simplifying the buying process became a major focus for ad-supported Future Today, whose co-founder Vikrant Mathur was on one of my panels. After operating dozens of highly specialized FAST channels for years, the company now only offers three: Fawesome, Happy Kids and iFood.tv. The company has also just launched a dedicated sales team, called FTI+, to guide brands and traditional buyers through the confusing and multilayered world of video streaming.

“What we want to do is simplify the message and make it easier for these people to understand,” Mathur told me. “Digital buyers are used to a very, very fragmented landscape. A big goal for us is to simplify. Ultimately, (traditional buyers) want clean, family-friendly programming that sits on a big screen.

Executives at other streaming services have echoed the same kind of sales-simplification approach as they welcome an influx of new advertising dollars. But will the approach also reduce the power of targeted advertising as shoppers bypass large parts of the ecosystem for simplicity and brand safety? This may be a temporary problem as buyers become more sophisticated and the ad stack consolidates middlemen.

All of this is happening at a difficult time for the streaming industry. Netflix’s big recalibration changes many industry truths and investor expectations.

Meanwhile, Wells Fargo analysts predict a cold advertising market even as the industry turns to the ad-supported side of the business. A possible recession darkens the near-term outlook, especially for ad-fueled companies such as Roku, Tubi and Pluto.

“The length and depth of the downturn in the recession will determine whether the pain spreads to longer-cycle areas of the advertising market,” Wells Fargo analysts wrote.

And then there was the heavy fact bombshell dropped over the weekend by researchers at ad buying giant GroupM and ad measurement firm iSpot.TV, which is now working with NBCU on alternatives to Nielsen notation.

The organizations reported that some streaming devices had what The Information kindly called “a fun quirk,” though it’s a quirk that may also enrage ad buyers.

It appears millions of dongles, pucks, game consoles and other external streaming devices continue to stream shows and commercials even after the TV they’re connected to is turned off, according to the study. For brands, that means up to 17% of ads served on connected devices could be served to, uh, nobody. Weirdly funny indeed.

Ghosting ads aren’t a problem with smart TVs, like those from Vizio tested in the study (they then try out LG’s platform). With the streaming interface built into the TV itself, both are turned off at the same time. But the situation elsewhere won’t assuage brands’ skepticism about the tens of millions of streaming devices streaming ads into the abyss.

Expect a lot more scrutiny on questions like these in the months to come.

As Jana Arbanas, Deloitte vice president and head of the technology sector, said: “In times of abundance, there is less scrutiny when it comes to the individual performance of different types of media, or different products, if you will. But in a recession, it becomes laser-focused on product goals and whether they are meeting them.

The wave of in-person industry gatherings can help start the process of addressing these issues across the ecosystem. Many people see where the streaming video industry needs to grow. Now is the time to start talking. As the era of easy subscriber growth and increased advertising revenue enters history, industry-wide cooperation and conversations on these issues will be critical to fueling future growth.

NB: More chaos in the house of the mouse?

Last week I wrote about the hotly contested bidding scheduled for Sunday for the media rights to Indian Premier League cricket matches over the next five years. This is a very big deal in one of the biggest streaming markets in the world, and will likely have a big impact on the ability of Disney, the incumbent rights holder, to reach its stated target of 230 million to 260 million. streaming subscribers by the end of 2024. .

IPL media rights were eventually split, with streaming going to Viacom18 – a joint venture of Paramount Global, local giant Reliance Industries and investment firm Bodhi Tree Systems – for $2.6 billion. That price is $100 million more than Disney’s Star India unit paid for all media rights in 2017.

This time around, Disney has retained the broadcasting rights, for a hefty $3 billion over five years, which will power its dozens of broadcast stations across the subcontinent. Other international non-exclusive rand rights are still up for auction, meaning the combined payouts for the 410 IPL matches each year will be well over double that of the current deal.

For Disney CEO Bob Chapek, the impending loss of major content from his Indian streaming services presents another headache at a difficult time.

Chapek punctuated the week by unexpectedly firing Peter Rice, the former Fox executive who was Disney’s top television executive. Rice was considered a possible replacement for Chapek if Disney’s board decides not to renew the CEO’s contract before it expires in eight months.

It is, of course, standard operating procedure in the Corporate Lifeboat manual to throw your captain’s most likely successors overboard. Insiders said it had absolutely nothing to do with his firing. Instead, the beloved Rice was let go — three years after joining Disney and months after signing a new three-year contract — because he wasn’t collaborative enough and wasn’t a ” good candidate”. Maybe this lifeboat suddenly felt a little crowded.

For her part, Disney Board Chair Susan Arnold released an unusual statement saying that Chapek and “his management team have the support and confidence of the board.” I’m sure they do.