HITS 2023: Gracenote Details Future of Entertainment Discovery

The lines are blurring between entertainment types and the experiences of consumers who seek to engage with that content, according to Trent Wheeler, chief product officer at Gracenote, who explored the future of entertainment discovery on May 23, during  the Entertainment Identifier Registry (EIDR) Annual Participant Meeting (APM) at the Hollywood Innovation and Transformation Summit (HITS) at The Culver Theater.

Video game and comic book intellectual property (IP) are spawning new TV franchises. Musicians and athletes are producing and starring in feature films. Podcasts are linked to all types of entertainment.

A wide variety of video and audio content is reaching consumers at any time and location via smart TVs in the mornings and evenings at home, and connected cars and mobile devices everywhere in between. Meanwhile, celebrities and other influencers are driving new ways for media to reach people in all aspects of their daily lives.

“The entertainment landscape is incredibly complex,” Wheeler said during the keynote, “Over the Horizon – The Future of Entertainment Discovery.”

“At this point in time, and as you’ve seen some of the economic pressures, a lot of what the media companies have done is to go to a familiar IP and to build out around the intellectual property, not just a series of movies but a series of movies, television shows, video games that all link to kind of these common sources,” he told attendees.

He noted that he has worked at Gracenote for about nine years. Before that, he worked at Rovi. “I actually remember when EIDR was being created. It was something that we walked around, kind of talking about. So I have worked in the metadata field for about 15 years at this point in time and across the gamut of global data, consumer electronic products, audio, sports, video, kind of entertainment.”

Across the industry, there’s a real kind of feeling of: “I know that I’ve looked at these problems before,” he said.

But “what we’re going to discuss today is what are we trying to tackle here: What are we trying to resolve in the area of taking all this content and all this kind of opportunity that we have in making it better for consumers to find amazing programs that the media companies are producing that excite and delight them,” he noted.

Several Challenges

However, “as we can see from the complexities that we have in our industry, we’ve also created some challenges for the consumers as well,” Wheeler said.

“We’ll talk about, in the course of our conversation today, where we can go, where we as a group need to help to lead them to, and what that future could look like overall,” he added.

Guy Finley, president and CEO at MESA, who interviewed Wheeler during the keynote, asked Wheeler: “What are you seeing out there in the content discovery field that’s exciting?”

In response, Wheeler explained: “At Gracenote, we work with a hundred thousand different sources of content,” including small ones, global ones and companies in Japan and in Korea. “We integrate that data and then provide it to the largest kind of customer discovery platforms out there. We really get to have a unique position in the ecosystem to see what’s kind of going on, when there’s new trends, new ways of discovering content.”

And “one of the first challenges is: How do we aggregate and bring that metadata together and how do we power that use case? And Gracenote usually kind of has a strong kind of understanding of that,” he said.

Gracenote worked on the initial subscription video on demand (SVOD) launches; “we’ve worked on fast channels; we’ve worked on building curated Olympics experiences,” he pointed out.

Today, there’s “tons of data and we, as companies, are very good at making it but we’re perhaps not always as good at deciphering it in terms of what the consumer experience should be like,” he conceded.

“Every single person in this room” has likely “had to help recommend a show to a family member and then spend the next 30 minutes recommending how they find that particular show,” he guessed.

“We can kind of understand some of the complexity here,” he said. “We … are producing amazing global content. There’s a program out there right now, a video game, a sporting event, that would absolutely delight you at this particular moment.” If they could find it, that is.

But it’s important to “bring the signals both from the user and from the data level to connect those together and to make that something that you can find easily,” he said.

Content Discoverability Hurdle

Viewers, meanwhile, are “increasingly content agnostic, especially if you go to younger generations,” Wheeler said. “We’re not talking about these kind of huge gaps” anymore between the viewer saying, “It’s Friday night, I have time to sit down and watch this particular movie, or I catch this show on Thursday afternoons.”

Driven by influencers, there are many consumers playing a video game and then also watching the “movies and television shows that that video game is based on,” he pointed out.

However, there is a major issue, he noted: “Our content discovery experiences don’t deal with this well. We’ve got channels that our kind of technology and data drives things into overall that says you need to make some of those decisions up front. And it’s why mobile discovery and really discovery on the web works for a lot of people because it allows them the flexibility to move between those things seamlessly. But it doesn’t really help them to discover the content.”

Now, the “TV platforms that are the center of many homes still drive such a large percentage of that,” he said.

Viewers are “focused on certain content types and that needs to expand [and] become more integrated because people who love a video game, you know what? They love the soundtrack for that video game. They love the songs attached to that video game,” he pointed out. “And if you can understand that, you can provide a better kind of content that will help them to continue with the journey in your platform, through your applications and not have them immediately jump to somewhere else,” he said.

A Need for More Curated Experiences

“As a media company, linking your data so that it is easier to move between them and building experiences that are more curated, not just on the individual content type but around the type of the experience that you’re trying to drive for that content, is, I think, where the industry kind of needs to go,” Wheeler added. “But we have to solve some key problems first.”

­­­­­­­­“As we are thinking about the future of discoverability, we need to be building more curated experiences and acknowledge the context the user is coming from,” Wheeler went on to say.

“There are large platforms out there,” including Google, in which “aggregation is most important to them,” he noted. “The ones who are truly content aggregators … what they should strive to do is to cover the rich breadth of content that’s out there and people who are producing, who have nuanced, detailed information about content should focus on building more curated, unique experiences to drive the consumers to engage with that content,” he said.

That content, however, is “buried right now in this kind of massive aggregation that makes it very hard for people to find” the content they want most, he added.

“And that’s just video and television content,” he pointed out.

There are also many “challenges we see around live content and particularly sports,” he said. “As streaming content has become kind of more popular, all of a sudden, sports fanatics can, if you love the World Cup, you can watch World Cup qualifiers.”

But it is “very hard to find that content right now,” he said. “It’s very hard to find that kind of unique sports content that’s out there in the streaming world, and so a lot of us have fallen into, well, ‘let’s just do what we know what to do, which is let’s just produce” an electronic programming guide (EPG) and “we’ll put the content in there and we’ll hope people will find that.”

That is a shame because “sports drives such a premium; live content has such an opportunity in terms of advertising,” he noted. “We need to ensure that our aggregation covers it and tells users not just when it’s on, which we’re okay at, but tells them when it will be on and that they might be interested in that. And that is an area that we’re not very good at as an industry at this point in time.”

That is why “live content has such a huge promise,” he added.

“As an industry,” meanwhile, “we seem to keep building apps over and over again that offer the same experience without much differentiation,” he noted. The end result is “not a great consumer experience,” he said. “That’s just really confusing.”

The Hollywood Innovation and Transformation Summit event was produced by MESA in association with the Hollywood IT Society and presented by Amazon Studios Technology, with sponsorship by Fortinet, Genpact, Prime Focus Technologies, Signiant, Softtek, Convergent, Gracenote, Altman Solon, AppTek, Ascendion, Coresite, EPAM, MicroStrategy, Veritone, CDSA, EIDR and PDG Consulting.