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Rovi Comes Out Swinging at IBC; OTT Study Challenges Cord-Cutting Problem

Rovi opened up the International Broadcasting Conference in Amsterdam on Friday with a slew of new announcements, including a new natural language voice solution for content search, expanded metadata solutions and updates to Fan TV, the company’s software platform for live TV, VOD and streaming services.

Rovi Conversation Services — the company’s next-gen conversation interface for content search — promises to offer consumers the ability to find content using “free-flowing dialogue” via semantic search technology that’s capable of learning preferences. Rovi has added a Conversation Training Tool to the solution, allowing service providers to more easily customize the search feature.

Maybe more importantly, Rovi unveiled support for Spanish in the feature, making Conversation Services the first natural language conversational search solution available for the second-most spoken language in the world. The tool is powered by Rovi’s dynamic Knowledge Graph, which offers up real-time information on more than 100 million entertainment-related entities.

“As an industry leader in entertainment discovery, we are constantly seeking to uncover new ways to advance our voice-based semantic search and recommendation technology for Rovi Conversation Services,” said Michael Hawkey, SVP and GM of discovery for Rovi. “The new age of digital entertainment is opening a realm of possibilities to our customers, and our latest features further enhance the discovery experience by offering even more capabilities that provide support for our customers to customize and meet the needs of their consumers.

“By introducing industry first solutions and features, Rovi continues to push the boundaries in personalized entertainment discovery experiences.”

On the metadata front, Rovi announced its metadata products are “now more searchable, richer and smarter than before,” and now covers more than seven million programs, with up-to-date recommendations based on the latest search trends. Rovi Video has recently expanded into the Philippines, and is the only multi-national metadata provider covering emerging markets, including China, Russia, and Singapore.

Rovi has also enhanced its sports metadata with new information about leagues, teams and players for 320,000 events across 40 sports and 800 leagues in 50 countries.

“Metadata is the crucial foundation to creating an engaging discovery offering,” said Kathy Weidman, SVP and GM of metadata for Rovi. “Rovi Video is designed to offer granular entertainment metadata to brands across the globe. Rovi is the only provider to offer a unified solution of metadata, personalized search, recommendations, and natural-language conversation services for powerful entertainment discovery. With Rovi’s next-generation Personalized Discovery Services, our customers are uniquely positioned to deliver a truly engaging user experience.”

For Fan TV, Rovi shared that the software platform is now compatible with Android mobile devices, and is now available on Technicolor’s new hybrid IP 4K Android TV set-top box.

Separately, Rovi announced the results of a survey of pay-TV and over-the-top (OTT) content subscribers in the U.S., Europe and Asia, which found that despite all the headlines warning that consumers are cutting the cord, only about 3% have actually done so in the last few months.

“We wanted to understand how people look for content, how they use guides, and whether they were frustrated or satisfied with their services,” Paul Stathacopoulos, VP of strategy and execution for Rovi, told the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA).

Nearly 60% of respondents said they have given the idea of cord cutting some thought, and in the U.S., 7% said they have cut the cord. But in countries like Germany, France, India and China, only 2% in each had done the same.

What could help stem the tide — real or imagined — of cord cutters is better search tools, Rovi found. More than 70% of respondents said they were frustrated with search tools for both pay TV and OTT services, with respondents spending an average of 19 minutes a day looking for something to watch. A third said they often don’t find something they want, and 7% said that when that happens, they turn off their device or TV.

“There’s an opportunity, with that 19, 20 minutes [searching] per day, for advertising, merchandising of content,” Stathacopoulos said. “But the other way to look at it, is that viewers aren’t watching content during that time. There’s room for [search] optimization, there’s room to turn those minutes into content viewing time.”

Two thirds of those surveyed said they would be more likely to extend their contract, upgrade their service, or sign up with a provider if they offered better search and recommendations.

“We’re seeing in general with the market that if you introduce a powerful, graphically-rich discovery experience that helps you discover content faster, [consumers] stick around,” Stathacopoulos said. “There’s an opportunity for content providers to better reach customers, through technologies that deal with search and recommendations.”