Why Cable Needs Digital Identity

“Who are you; who-who, who-who?” The 1978 hit song from The Who, and theme of the long-running TV show CSI (a.k.a. Crime Scene Investigation), asks an important question, namely, who committed the crime? But here is the irony of the show and the use of that particular song — while the actors were trying to profile who committed the crime, nobody was creating a profile of who was actually watching the show. That’s because the service providers broadcasting the show haven’t really tried to get to know anything about their viewers, apart from their street address or phone number. Hopefully, that will change with the introduction of Digital Identity technology.

Digital Identity is in use already by the largest internet organizations. Facebook, Google, Amazon and many other tech companies ask us to sign in and provide a password when we begin to consume their content or utilize their search or shopping sites. They don’t ask us for any money, just that we sign in. That’s because sign-ins provide them with a profile of our likes and interests, our age and whom we consider to be our friends, and more important, what our choices are when it comes to entertainment.

This makes us a better target for advertisers, which seems like a small price to pay.

Getting to Know Digital Identity
Communication service providers (CSPs) are beginning to see the importance of Digital Identity. Veon, the company formerly known as Vimplecom, recently rolled out a “personal internet platform” in Italy that requires a login. They plan to personalize the service to each customer, offering music, entertainment, news and advertising that is targeted to each specific user.
If a telecom service provider like Veon can offer this kind of personalization through Digital Identity, why can’t the people who provide our TV entertainment do the same?

We all spend a lot of time watching TV each day. According to Statista.com, Americans are watching the most at 274 minutes per day (more than 4.5 hours); in Sweden, the country ranked No. 15, they are watching “only” 154 minutes per day (still more than 2.5 hours). With this much quality time spent with our TV provider each day, don’t we deserve a bit of personalized service?

They should know which movies we like — whether it’s Wonder Woman or xXx: Return of Xander Cage. They should know our habits and preferences when it comes to sports, news and videos, because it is in their interest to keep us engaged.

One way to keep us engaged would be to allow us into the world of voice-recognition search so we could easily find the content we are interested in. A recent survey of 17 major cable companies and satellite TV providers serving over 100 million customers asked about trends that would be coming up in the next three to five years; 65% said that voice-activated search would be a new feature coming soon, with 59% acknowledging that universal-content search would be necessary in the future. This would certainly help us find what we are looking for, and eliminate the channel surfing that we have all gotten so used to.

Another factor that should push our TV providers into action on Digital Identity is that the companies building profiles of us as customers, such as Google (YouTube) and Amazon, are starting to develop their own entertainment empires. Internet streaming companies such as Netflix and Hulu and other third-party over-the-top services have been developing series and are increasing both their domestic and international subscriber bases. These companies continue to invest heavily in original programming, and have positioned themselves as indispensable parts of a subscriber’s video spend. Maybe they will start their own internet-based networks one day, similar to Apple TV and the upcoming Facebook TV.

Time to Get Personal
Digital Identity is a technology that is being successfully used by many of the major internet companies to profile us, target us for advertisers and steer us toward the content we are interested in. It isn’t that great a technological leap for our TV providers to do the same.

If we are receiving TV or internet content via the TV set, a tablet or our phones, each one of us should be able to get personalized service. It is in their interest to keep us engaged. Over the years, these pay TV providers have been widely criticized by consumers for not providing intuitive and flexible user interfaces and for making content discovery extremely challenging. If they want to give us the entertainment experience that we ask for, then employing Digital Identity technology will be the right step forward.

Doug Fantuzzi is vice president of media and entertainment solutions at Amdocs, a global software and services provider. Image by Getty Images.