Brian Roberts mentioned something on Comcast’s earnings call last week that reminded me of a conversation about disruptive technology that I had in 2014 with a top executive at This Technology LLC – a company that was acquired a year later by Comcast.
Comcast executive director Denise MacDonell was then VP of product management at This Technology, a technology provider that has invented personalized advertising and programming solutions that enable alternate content delivery.
During an interview at the annual NCTA convention, MacDonell told me alternate content delivery could one day allow broadcasters to create personalized live, linear networks, citing NBC as one example.
If I walked into my livingroom, my version of NBC would automatically play NBC Nightly News, The Blacklist and NBCUniversal classics like Knight Rider or Quantum Leap. If my 4-year-old son was in the room, it would automatically play NBCU kids programs he likes such as Pajanimals or Terrific Trucks.
Comcast CEO Roberts didn’t announce plans to launch personalized linear networks during the MSO’s second-quarter earnings call last week. But my own research on Comcast — coupled with what Roberts told analysts about the potential in offering consumers “additional content and random access and on multi-screens and all devices and whatever’s coming next,” has me thinking that personalized live, linear networks are in the works at Comcast and NBCUniversal.
Advances such as content recommendation engines and voice-powered remote controls have made it easier for Comcast’s X1 subscribers to channel surf. Interactive program guides have improved significantly. But the ultimate user interface may be a guide that knows exactly what to deliver on any screen without requiring the viewer to do anything.
How will companies like Comcast pull that off?
- Determine who is watching a TV or mobile device. Using mobile devices, connected TVs and remote controls that support near field communication (NFC) and Bluetooth is one approach. Wearable devices like smart watches and fitness trackers will also help distributors and content providers deliver personalized programming based on profiles of each viewer in a room. Eventually, facial recognition technology will help power the delivery of personalized programming and advertising.
- Alternate content delivery. Products like This Technology’s SwitchStream and VEX Manifest Manipulator will help Comcast deliver personalized programming and advertising. And This Tech, which is now owned by Comcast Wholesale, could do the same for other service providers and content owners.
- Auto Play: Comcast Labs has already introduced an “Auto Play Next Episode” feature that could help drive binge viewing. It is similar to the auto play features that YouTube, Netflix and Hulu rely on.