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If R2D2 Controlled the Remote

Movies and TV programs have featured their share of robots over the years: R2D2 is the ultimate buddy and co-pilot, and Lt. Commander Data, from Star Trek: The Next Generation, is a computational wiz and overall great COO. These bots are always ready to lend a hand.

If we lived in a world with robots like R2D2 and Data, we could call on them to help us out with a lot of things — including entertainment. We could rely on their robot intelligence to intuitively know our entertainment tastes and preferences and calculate just what we wanted to watch.

We may be light years from having personal robots, but we’re closer to one-to-one personalized TV and video. Today, most major broadcasters are using digital technologies to create personalized viewing experiences and help consumers search, manage and discover programming. As TV and video viewing options multiply and technology advances, what will personal TV look like?

Today, discovery technology goes beyond simple grid listings, suggestions and standard search categories (like “Westerns”). Discovery tech lets viewers browse and search based on more expansive criteria, including mood (I’m feeling nostalgic), genre, location, time period, plot and more. Viewers can create custom channel guides built around and across favorite TV channels, streaming video apps and websites.

Discovery technologies also provide broadcasters and publishers with powerful tools to improve their video business and drive revenue. Personalized content increases engagement time by giving viewers what they came for and more — relevant and appropriate entertainment. Case studies show recommendation engines increase viewer engagement upward of 20% and, in some cases, as high as 100%. This results in more revenue, in the form of content through advertising, subscriptions or individual transactions.

In the future, discovery will help broadcasters and publishers earn more revenue from videos while giving viewers a more personal experience. Advances may include discovery’s ability to show broadcasters how doubled ad loads impact viewing times or suggest the best place to insert a paywall in long-form content.

As digital programming and vewing devices continue proliferating, and discovery technologies improve, demand for personalized TV and video will also increase. According to ABI research, by 2018 North American consumer exposure to advanced recommendations engines will reach 75% of pay TV households on multiscreen services and 55% on set-top boxes (STBs).

Even before 2018, we’ll see changes in discovery. Recommendation engines will focus more on contextual data versus tagged-terms or analyzed categories. These advances will be driven by the rise of mobile devices and on-the-go viewing. Recommendation engines will analyze and interpret data regarding a viewer’s’ location, device and time of day. Some will recognize and recommend noteworthy events by location. Contextual data will differentiate between a viewer in San Francisco on a smartphone at noontime and a New Yorker on a tablet at 6 p.m. — even when both have similar profiles or search terms.

Discovery will personalize viewing in ways that will make us feel as though we do have a friendly robot assistant serving up exactly the entertainment we want, when we want it. R2, can you pass the chips and salsa too?

Caitlin Spaan is vice president of marketing at Mountain View, Calif.-based Ooyala.