October 6, 2015
We are used to very sophisticated search for text, but when it comes to online video, search tools are quite primitive. Netflix allows users to search by titles, people and genres; Hulu powers search for titles and people; and HBO Now restricts search to titles. The potential for exquisitely granular search — and potential new revenue streams — can be found in each TV show or movie’s rich metadata. But how to unlock it, and how to structure search is still open to question and experimentation.
According to The New York Times, “the holy grail of video search is not just to return links to videos that contain the contents sought, but to link directly to the spot in the video where that content exists.”
Although no streaming video provider offers this, at least some of them are aware of its importance. HBO executive Diane Tryneski notes that, “search is a critical component of any video service, and our programming in particular.”
“When we’re producing a program, we create so much information even before a single frame is shot,” she says.
Mining data from TV shows and movies would provide endless opportunities for deepening connections with viewers and creating new revenue streams, but the path from today’s very rudimentary search to robust, multi-faceted search is a long one.
“Entering even the simplest search queries via a TV remote control can be a painstaking task — so that may partially explain why streaming video services pay relatively little attention to search,” says NYT.
Now, streaming services lean towards recommendation engines; Netflix told Wired in 2013 that 75 percent of its viewing was driven by recommendation. Some exceptions are arising. Google’s Chromecast allows the user to input search data with his or her smartphone and, likewise, Apple offers voice-activated Siri functionality for Apple TV.
According to NYT, Variety reports Siri will allow you to search for a TV episode that “features a specific guest star, or only the James Bond movies that star Sean Connery,” although the feature only works for content in the iTunes Store. It’s a start.