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Red Bee Launches RedDiscover, for Social TV Content Discovery
The company has also created the U.K.'s first digital audio watermarking app, enabling interactive second-screen viewing.

Red Bee Media, a U.K.-based broadcast services company, has evolved a TV content discovery platform, RedDiscover, and publishing company Time Out is its first client. Red Bee has also created, with the help of network FX UK, a companion app using digital audio watermarking -- a first for the U.K. market. Both innovations stem from TV Genius, the search and recommendation technology company Red Bee acquired in August, 2011.

RedDiscover is described as ‘the first end-to-end portfolio of content discovery solutions built specifically for media." According to Steve Plunkett, director of technology and innovation at Red Bee, "RedDiscover combines the build and distribution of rich metadata, the search recommendation and personalisation technology we acquired from TV Genius, EPG development and design, and the creation of TV guides as companion apps on devices."

Its first application, integrating traditional TV listings with Facebook and Twitter, is with Time Out.

"Users will be able to login; ‘like' programmes and see what their friends ‘like'; share, recommend, and ‘favourite' content; see what programmes are trending on Twitter, what's being said about them; and interact with the Twittersphere," says Plunkett.

SBS Broadcasting's Dutch publishing house, Veronica Publishing, will launch an integrated social TV guide in the Netherlands using RedDiscover.

Veronica Publishing, which owns TV listings title Veronica magazine, is rolling out the new social TV guide via tablets and smartphones with functionality including Facebook check-in and Twitter integration.

Last June, Red Bee launched its own online video platform, dubbed RedPlayer, targeted at broadcasters, studios, and content owners looking to offer online video to their customers.

RedPlayer is available as a managed service. It handles the on-demand assets for most of the major broadcaster online video players in the U.K., including BBC iPlayer, Channel 4 4OD, Demand Five, ITV Player, and Virgin Media Player. 

The Walking Dead App

An interesting spin-off of Red Bee's technology is the ability to work with producers to use metadata to create supplementary editorial or monetization opportunities.

Along with FX UK, part of Fox International Channels, Red Bee has created and produced the network's first companion app to support the new season of The Walking Dead (premiering 17 February on Sky and Virgin).

The free app for Apple iPhones and iPads is triggered by digital audio watermarking technology (from Civolution) which identifies the programme being watched (either live or on-demand) via the device's microphone and syncs a second screen experience.

Digital audio watermarking embeds indelible metadata about each show, such as timecode, which is then extracted and interpreted onto the second screen device. This is the first time that digital audio watermarking technology has been deployed commercially as part of a TV companion app in the U.K..

"In this case the technology extends the viewing experience by, for example, allowing viewers to predict the number of zombie kills in each episode, but the possibilities of blending metadata for content discovery with creative application are intriguing and only just being explored," says Plunkett.

The GPS coordinates for a scene's location might be of interest to future fans who want to relive their favourite moments. If a business model could be worked out, producers could benefit from providing ecommerce shopping links for props used in a show.

While companies like TV Genius, Rovi, or Gracenote are paid by broadcasters to enrich the technical and basic scheduling metadata for their programmes and channels with cast lists, descriptive synopsis, themes, stills, or links to review sites, they are also calling for enriched metadata creation during production.

"We see ourselves working closely with creatives to extend content onto the second screen over and above brand awareness," says Plunkett.

Product placement is an obvious example where greater amounts of metadata could be applied as a matter of procedure in post production to include, not just half a dozen points for possible selection of ad-breaks for linear TV, but a whole range of information about scenes and themes which could be used in a VoD environment to bring in targeted advertising.

"The more metadata that can be created the better to help search down the line when people go looking for content," explains Plunkett. "A description of the programme is the most basic reason for doing it, but there are increasing opportunities with second screen viewing to allow metadata tied to a particular place in a programme to drive interaction. Rather than retrospectively going back to content and looking for a place to link an advert there are opportunities to do that at the beginning of the process, to go in depth and tag scenes and actions on clothing or location, for example, so that the process of searching that content and being able to monetise it becomes easier."

Searching subtitle data is one means of doing this in a manner which can be automated. Alternatively, logging and tagging procedures throughout the production from acquisition through post and onto QC could be better exploited.

"Showing the FX team what is possible has been really fascinating and they are so intrigued they are looking to go back and recut shows to make them better suited to off-screen activity," says Plunkett.

Cecilia Parker, general manager for FX UK, says, "The Walking Dead is such a fertile property online already that developing that discussion further on to the next level of engagement without compromising the viewing experience was a natural next step for us."

Universal Control at the BBC

Separately, the BBC's Research and Development team has demonstrated how a toy Dalek could be triggered into action by data issued over Wi-Fi during the replay of an episode of Doctor Who. In the future, such metadata could be embedded alongside timecode at the point of acquisition.

"Effectively, this puts another actor in the living room for which a production team can write a script and include it as part of the viewer experience," explains R&D North project director Adrian Woolard.

The prototype is part of a wider BBC R&D project called Universal Control, which is investigating how video played on a connected TV or internet-enabled set-top box can be used to control other devices in the living room.

"Universal Control is a way of exposing all the functionality of a platform onto alternate devices via a programming API," says Woolard. It is primarily aimed at transferring the functions of a platform like YouView to devices and user interfaces that are more user-friendly to people with physical disabilities, but it is also exploring the impact of dual-screen usage on content production at the points of acquisition and pre-production.

"We are interested in the production planning phase because a lot of rich media is generated there without being captured for potential future use," notes lead technologist Jon Rosser.

BBC R&D is also trialling Snippets, a project which provides subtitle matches (as well as audio and video) against all BBC programmes recorded over the last four years. A text search calls up a series of timecode-matched clips. Currently for internal production use, a further extension is to apply it to public search of BBC archives online.

Walking Dead App

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