Rapid Adoption of ID System Speeds Multiscreen Rollouts

Darcy Antonellis, president, Warner Bros. technical operations

Darcy Antonellis, president, Warner Bros. technical operations

November 5, 2011 – A simple but essential new pan-industry method for keeping track of entertainment content and the metadata that’s essential to monitoring usage and enabling navigation and other applications is already paying off in activities across the digital landscape.
 
Known as EIDR (Entertainment ID Registry), the platform employs numerical IDs to provide a solution for identifying digital movie and TV content in commercial distribution, regardless of platform or distribution channel. “The film and TV industry hasn’t been very good at tracking compared to what we see in retail stores,” says Jud Cary, vice president and deputy general counsel at CableLabs, one of the founding entities in the EIDR initiative. “What we’re doing is very similar to UPC (the Universal Product Code barcode system) in dry goods.”

People and applications alike can search the registry via Web user interfaces or Web service APIs using the numerical ID that’s been assigned to a given piece of content submitted by a content owner or other registrant to immediately access all the metadata descriptions associated with that content. The numerical tags create a uniform basis for tracking content usage and developers can use the APIs to integrate the registry features with their applications and automated workflows.

“When you’re trying to deliver content in multiple formats to multiple devices, it gets exponentially complex to keep track of each movie or TV program and to make the back office work efficiently,” Cary says. “You can have hundreds of permutations of a given piece of content once you start talking about clips, different cuts, different encoding and distribution formats.”

EIDR, which began over two years ago as a development project spearheaded by MovieLabs, CableLabs, Comcast and Rovi Corporation with backing from many individual studios and other entities, launched in early 2011 and now is anchoring content initiatives across the ecosystem. “From a cable perspective one thing that piqued our interest is TV Everywhere and also the UltraViolet initiative, which Cox, CableLabs and Comcast are part of,” Cary says.

“Complete, accurate and consistent metadata is key to our products and features such as browse, search, filter and recommendations,” notes Steve Heeb, vice president of business development at Comcast. “The use of EIDR will enable us to develop a robust and accurate database of program metadata from multiple sources that can be used across multiple platforms, including VOD, linear and online.”

A big advantage for content producers is the impact EIDR is likely to have on monetization, leading to more aggressive use of online distribution. “EIDR makes it easier for content producers to track and get paid for ad impressions and the use of their assets,” Cary says.

For example, Warner Bros. has invested in several technology initiatives to streamline and automate online interactions with retailers, vendors and consumers, says Darcy Antonellis, president of Warner Bros. technical operations. “EIDR is a key component of these initiatives, providing a global, unique identifier for content assets as they move from creation to consumption,” Antonellis explains.

“Just as our advertising colleagues have seen a need to use a unique ID system for ads, the need for a unique ID to track media and entertainment flowing online also has become obvious,” she continues. “We are actively integrating EIDR into our content workflow and are working with retailers like Microsoft to incorporate the standard over the coming months.”

Similarly, Disney has made EIDR part of its infrastructure supporting multiple digital initiatives, says Arnaud Robert, Disney’s senior vice president of distribution technology. “We have implemented EIDR into our metadata and internal digital workflows, and, working with our distribution partners, we intend to extend its usage to our various distribution channels,” Robert says.

Rovi, a major holder of metadata from movies and programming going back to the dawn of broadcast TV, played a major role in contributing records to “prime the pump,” Cary says. Comcast and others with significant data bases contributed as well.

The non-profit EIDR operation is designed to draw as much content into the database as possible, he adds. “The idea is the fees to join are so ridiculously low anyone can participate,” he says, noting that costs are tiered for contributors to where the highest level is only $5,000, which “gives you unlimited access and registrations.” At the promoter level, where the fee is in the $35,000 range, entities are entitled to be on the EIDR board.

An important new factor in driving participation is the support of two influential industry organizations – The Digital Entertainment Group (DEG), a Hollywood marketing engine, and the Hollywood IT Society (HITS). The two are working together to help drive adoption among studios, post-production houses and service providers.