Think about the last time you surfed the Web. Chances are that you received personalized content that may have taken the shape of a banner that promotes a product you were looking at earlier or an advertisement on Facebook for a new restaurant — the same restaurant you just visited on your Web browser.

But what about personalized content on your TV? In today’s multiscreen world, television is a pervasive part of our everyday lives. People are watching televised content anytime, anywhere, and on many different devices, and that has transformed TV viewing from a passive to a highly interactive and social experience. Should we be experiencing the same personalization on our TVs too?

It is hard to ignore the obvious recent shift in television viewing habits — According to the Consumer Electronics Association, nearly 8 in 10 second-screen consumersuse a companion device while they watch TV programming. Looking at the growing usage of second-screen devices such as smartphones and tablets, it makes sense and it is easy to realize that Internet-centric devices have a dramatic impact on television viewing because they offer consumers new levels of interactivity, personalization, and socialization.

Such personalized messages and content can be extended to the television viewing experience as well. Automated content recognition (ACR) technologies are helping pay-TV operators personalize content and the viewing experience for their customers, opening up a whole new world for both viewers and operators.

We can expect that ACR technologies will have a large impact on the television viewing experience as viewers today are looking to get a more unique, memorable, and enjoyable television experience that is  personal and engaging, much like what is already available on the Internet. In fact, according to a report from NextMarket Insights, ACR technology will be available on 2.5 billion devices by 2017, allowing for better synchronization with multi-devices and enriched viewer experience. Pay TV operators will be expected to deliver this as part of their services in the future if they want to succeed in a competitive marketplace.

So what is Automated Content Recognition (ACR)?

Automated content recognition  technology enables any smart device, such as a tablet, smartphone, or smart TV, to be “aware” of the content that is being watched by the viewer. Leveraging data provided by ACR technology, operators can then deliver complementary content to viewers based on their personal interests to enhance the television experience.

The two primary methods of ACR technology are fingerprinting and watermarking.Fingerprinting software identifies, extracts, and then compresses characteristic components of a video, enabling that video to be uniquely identified by its “fingerprint.”  Watermarking is a marker that is covertly embedded in a noise-tolerant signal such as audio or image data.

What’s In It for the TV Operators?  

It’s easy to understand the benefits of ACR from the viewers’ perspective, but what is the positive impact it can make on a pay TV operators business?  By providing personalized content recommendations, interactive applications on second-screen devices, and targeted advertising to their customers, operators can offer a television experience that is more compelling to viewers, ensuring that they stay engaged with content relevant to them.

How Do We Derive Revenue Out of It?

Here are the top 4 revenue-generating benefits that ACR brings to the television environment:

1. Interactivity: By intelligently directing operators in to what type of content TV viewers are interested in, ACR technology enables them to make the TV experience much more interactive. Operators can push apps relevant to previously viewed content, extended programming information, products through an e-commerce portal, and more. By enabling greater interactivity, ACR enhances the appeal of television viewing, which in turn leads to better revenue streams for the operator.

2. Personalization: Based on what viewers have watched in the past, ACR technologies can predict what type of content the user is likely to watch and make intelligent recommendations. ACR-enabled automatic personalization of content helps the operator to push appropriate relevant content to the viewer’s television set, offering an enriched viewing experience for the consumer and generating greater revenues.

3. Socialization: Apart from enabling the viewers more socialization while watching their favorite TV programs, through sending a message, posting a ”Like,” sharing content, or even a picture on Instagram about what they are watching, with ACR technologies, operators can show viewers what their friends are watching in real time. These exciting social features enable viewers to recommend content to friends, while interactive capabilities enable viewers to chat, communicate, and interact with each other live, from the comfort of their home. The possibilities are endless!

4. Increase in Revenue for Operators: ACR technologies provide operators with analytical data, based on the consumers’ viewing habits, enabling them to send micro-targeted advertising campaigns directly to the viewer. Additionally, operators can use ACR technologies to provide unique online services like e-commerce, providing an immersive and interactive experience to the viewer.

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With the good however, comes the less-so-beneficial. We need to look at the potential disadvantages too. Some consumers may not appreciate the lack of privacy that is involved in the monitoring process. In addition, once an operator begins utilizing ACR, it’s important that content and recommendations they provide to customers are as relevant and personal as possible.

Moreover, applying ACR requires additional bandwidth, therefore operators will need a large server infrastructure in order to be able to compare signatures. A solid CMS or backend platform is also required for synchronizing content with the recognition app and tracking back the usage over time.

Forward Looking

Automated content recognition technologies are an effective way for operators to address the demand for a television experience that is interactive, personalized, and social, allowing them to evolve to the changes and demands of today’s TV viewing habits. Yet, these technologies must be applied in a way that is unobtrusive to the overall viewing experience.

Ultimately, operators want to improve customers’ satisfaction. Increased viewer satisfaction and engagement means less subscriber churn, more premium content ordered, and subscribers who are actively talking to friends about the service, in turn, bringing about potential new business to boost revenue for them and their partners.

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