How New AI Technology Is Revolutionizing TV Viewing (Guest Blog)

“AI is now being used to tailor recommendations to individual viewers,” TiVo chief intellectual property officer Arvin Patel writes

Live TV, traditional cable channels, streaming services, YouTube, Instagram stories. Today’s consumers have a staggering number of ways to consume video content — and new services seem to hit the market in real time. What’s more, the types of content available are wildly diverse, ranging from reliable blockbuster dramas (“Game of Thrones,” anyone?) to quirky cake-decorating how-to videos.

Just this month, Disney revealed details about its new streaming service, which will debut a live-action “Star Wars” series. Another new service, Quibi, is a Hollywood-meets-Silicon Valley collaboration led by entertainment and digital veterans Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman that will offer quit-hit, big-budget content catering to mobile users. And consider that on Netflix alone, categories are no longer limited to familiar favorites like Comedy, Action and Horror; they now also include uber-niche genres like Understated Courtroom Movies.

Wherever — or however — viewers get their video content and whatever they choose to watch, one thing is clear: We’re at a pivotal moment in the industry.

This sea change may bring some confusion for viewers, as they face an ever-growing avalanche of options. But as a veteran in the technology and media business, I see a host of exciting possibilities ahead — including the chance to shape video-entertainment viewing for the next generation of consumers.

The technologies that industry leaders will bring to bear, along with the business models we are evolving right now, will be essential to guiding viewers through an increasingly fragmented but rich media landscape. With the right tools, we can help consumers navigate an avalanche of content and find the TV, movies, and other videos they care about most, whenever they want them. To that end, Tivo is currently pioneering an interface that will aggregate live TV, linear cable content and streaming video in one guide.

As the overall paradigm for video viewing shifts and more platforms and content creators enter the market, data, media, social and technology companies are all jumping into the game. For example, AI is now being used to tailor recommendations to individual viewers. As one primary tool for helping consumers surface personalized content, AI helps refine the recommendation engine by using metadata to track customer preferences.

So, a viewer who faithfully watches “This Is Us” might see similar family dramas like “Parenthood” pop up in her queue. This rapidly evolving technology is only getting more refined, expanding from curation toward using information to determine the types of content creators should consider.

Would a “Law & Order” die-hard who also likes Bruce Willis movies want to see the actor in a cop or courtroom drama? Those are the types of questions AI can surface — and address. In a future scenario, AI might even provide the information to tailor the ending of certain shows to particular viewers. The content and viewing guide possibilities are mind-boggling. And they’re in the works.

While it’s thrilling to consider the new frontier of video viewing, several technological and business-model challenges remain. These include:

  • All of these great new content sources have disparate and at least seemingly incompatible business models. What is the incentive, for example, for Disney to offer its content over Amazon Prime or through a cable network?
  • Even if viewers can access Netflix over their cable service, for example, it’s still a subscription program. If a customer is not subscribed, they could perhaps see all the titles but not view the content.

Despite these obstacles, I believe that interface technology is a powerful force to change business models, especially when doing so unlocks amazing content — the way Google worked to transform the internet. Current and emerging technology is already revolutionizing the TV viewing experience, ushering in an exciting new era for the industry and consumers alike.