Rather than trawling through video libraries looking for something decent to watch, content discovery helps you plan a big night in.
In the beginning, watching television was what you’d call a “lean-back” user experience. You’d turn on the idiot box, sit back on the couch and let the network programmers decide what you’d watch. You might channel-surf if you grew bored, or occasionally head down to the cinema if you wanted to see a new movie.
Pay TV put more channels at our disposal, but the real game-changer was the arrival of the video cassette recorder. The laws of time and space no longer applied to entertainment – we could watch our favourite movies at home whenever we liked. Alternatively we could record our favourite TV shows and watch them when it suited us, rather than when it suited the networks to screen them. It put viewers in the driver’s seat and we’ve never looked back.
VHS tapes were superseded by DVD, Blu-ray and hard drive recorders, but the next really big entertainment revolution came via video-on-demand. Rather than drive to the video store, now you could rent movies via the likes of Apple’s iTunes store and Telstra’s Bigpond Movies without getting off the couch. Then came the all-you-can-eat subscription services like Netflix, Quickflix, Presto and Stan – putting an entire video library at your fingertips for only a few dollars per month.
With so many entertainment options at your disposal, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by choice. It’s also harder to sift through the rubbish to find the gems, but that’s where “content discovery” can come to your rescue on a quiet Friday night.
In a nutshell, content discovery keeps track of your viewing habits to recommend movies and TV shows that it thinks you’ll enjoy. It’s a bit like Amazon’s “people who bought this also bought..” concept. It might sound a bit creepy, but think of content discovery as your own personal entertainment critic, happy to offer up recommendations based on what you enjoy.
In Australia, Netflix offers one of the best examples of content discovery. When you sign up it asks you to nominate your favourite entertainment genres, then it gets to work serving up recommendations. You can even create different user profiles for the different people in your home, to ensure that your Netflix viewing habits don’t influence their recommendations, and vice versa.
Foxtel’s new iQ3 video recorder has a similar look and feel to Netflix, helping you find great shows rather than leave you to channel-flick in vain. You’ll also find smartphone apps like Gyde which can search across a wide range of online video services to recommend something worth watching.
Content discovery isn’t just for your benefit. Services like Netflix and Foxtel want you to feel like you’re getting value for monthly subscription. If you spend 20 minutes wading through rubbish to find a decent movie, you’ll start to wonder if your money would be better spent elsewhere. Content discovery anticipates your viewing habits so you’ll keep coming back for more.