“We’ve incorporated VOD search into the standard way consumers use the Passport Guide,” says Sharon Metz, vice president of vertical marketing at Rovi. “Now everything a viewer asks for in broadcast and on-demand programming is integrated into a single search process.”
Passport search allows users to look for information using a virtual on-screen “intelligent” keyboard that anticipates what they are looking for after just a few keyboard letters are clicked into the command field via the remote control, thereby minimizing the time it takes to “type” the search words. The inclusion of VOD content in the Passport search process was not a trivial step, even though it leveraged the return data channel and other aspects of the infrastructure Passport uses in broadcast search.
“We built our own VOD application as part of the Passport experience and added servers to bring VOD metadata into the mix,” Metz says. “It required quite an orchestrated dance between VOD vendors, cable system ecosystems and what Rovi brings to the table to do this.”
The ability to access VOD content via search on a wide range of topics provides a ready means of lifting an ever-mounting volume of time-shifted and motion-picture content out of the hard-to-find navigational pockets that have kept VOD in relative obscurity. “Today if I want to discover VOD content, I have to stop broadcast and go through a bunch of category lists,” Metz notes. “If I want to watch a broadcast show that’s available to view at no cost I have to go to on-demand, find the free category, get the list of free TV shows and go through several topic folders to find what I’m looking for. The integration of VOD into the search process allows me to avoid going through these steps.”
Demonstrating how the search works, Metz uses the example of the HGTV show Dear Genevieve. “When I search on the program the system tells me I can view the show live at 4 on Wednesday or view three episodes on demand,” she says. “I select okay for the show I want and it takes me right to that program – all in one step from search. And I have a filter to tell the system I only want broadcast titles or on-demand titles.”
Following introduction of the new VOD search Rovi has scheduled several new functions for Passport that will be rolled out in the first half of 2010, including an application that allows service providers to introduce customized interactive home pages as the starting point for consumers when they turn on their TV sets. SPs will also be able to send targeted messages directly to the subscriber’s set top box and designate the navigation path to direct their subscribers to an area of the service provider’s choice after an on-demand program has finished.
Other enhancements, all of which will work on the existing Passport platform via new software releases, include Primetime TV, which creates a built-in navigational space to accommodate new time-shifted programming options offered by SPs. “One button gives you access to VOD and another button to Primetime on demand,” Metz says. “There’s a lot of work that goes into real-time recording of Primetime as a service. Rovi dynamically recognizes instances of real-time recording and brings that content into the navigation system.”
Rovi is also taking the previously introduced multi-room DVR navigational functions to a new level with Whole Home VOD. This feature allows consumers to share programming between digital set top boxes so that a subscriber would be able to start a VOD program in one room on a Passport-enabled STB and then stop and resume play in another room on a different Passport-enabled STB. “You hit ‘save show’ when you’re ready to stop watching in the living room and pick up where you left off in the bedroom,” Metz explains.
Rovi is also bringing remote DVR scheduling to the Passport Guide. “Using any device that works with a Web browser you navigate to the show and set up the recording schedule on your DVR,” Metz says. Enabling this capability in a given service area requires a “one-time association of the DVR with the server and the list of programming that’s available on the SPs’ service,” she notes.