Jinni Promises Movie Magic

Might I suggest a vintage horror flick, sir?

Israeli startup Jinni Media took the honors for “best product idea” at the CableLabs Winter Conference 2010 last week with its demo of a content-discovery system that uses moods and emotions to let viewers find movies and television shows they would probably enjoy.

Attendees at the Denver conference picked Jinni in an informal poll out of 11 Innovation Showcase presentations. The Jinni recommendation engine analyzes video content by moods and plots by crawling the Web, and picks from among 2,000 different attributes to assign to a given title, according to CEO Mike Pohl. Typically, Jinni associates 10 to 15 attributes with a single title.

“We try to find the personality of a movie,” Pohl said on a conference call hosted by CableLabs. “Where Google's crawling for words, we're crawling for emotions.”

For example, moods Jinni associates with the film Little Miss Sunshine include “feel-good,” “humorous,” “offbeat” and “witty” — a combination that matched most closely with another quirky indie comedy, Juno. Jinni also tries to gauge the “entertainment personality” of individual users and suggest titles they would be interested in.

Pohl said Jinni is in varying stages of deployment with cable operators in the U.S. and overseas, and that the company expects to announce customers later this year.

Initially, Jinni is working to integrate the content-discovery application into operators' Web sites. Eventually, the technology could be migrated into a set-top as an integrated part of a video-on-demand system or as an Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF) application.

“With video portals that most operators have, [the Jinni application] can enable easier search and recommendations,” Charter Communications chief technology officer Marwan Fawaz said, also on the call. Compared with other products in the Innovation Showcase, “Jinni is a very pragmatic type of application.”

Pohl joined Jinni last year, after serving as vice president and general manager of on-demand systems at Arris, which bought C-COR in 2007.

Jinni has announced technology partnerships with SeaChange International, OpenTV and NDS. The startup is based in Yehud, Israel, while Pohl is based in Portland, Ore. The company's investors include DFJ Tamir Fishman and Startup Factory; in December, Jinni announced it had raised $1.4 million from those firms and angel investors.

CableLabs executive vice president and chief strategy officer David Reed said the Innovation Showcase presentations, each of which were given 10 minutes, generally revolved around three categories: multiroom digital video recording, social networking and enabling TV Everywhere online services.

The 10 other Innovation Showcase demos were presented by Clearleap and FourthWall Media; iLoop Mobile; IPgallery; Miniweb Interactive; Pace Americas; Related Content Database (RCDb); SeaChange International; Trailer Park and Jargon Technologies; Wowza Media Systems; and Zenverge.