Making Metadata Into an Art Form If you’re anything like me, you’re always amazed and dazzled by the cable innovations showcased at our annual confab, and this Cable Show is no exception. Over the years, when cable visionaries like John Malone confidently predicted the future, it was sometimes hard to imagine those big ideas coming to fruition. But we’ve surpassed those predictions and built a world where consumers are able to access and control (even create) all their entertainment and communications needs through cable. Big ideas may come easy for some. But as you may know first-hand, it’s the execution that’s the real challenge, especially in today’s fast-paced world. That’s one of the things we’re supporting with our initiatives at CTAM, particularly in the world of cable On Demand. It was once a big idea too: Consumers able to watch favorite TV shows and movies totally on their own terms. Now it’s a reality in millions of cable homes. But there are numerous "behind the screen" execution issues being addressed by the CTAM On Demand Consortium. In fact, one little-considered and most pesky detail has been managing the way hundreds of content choices are shown to the viewer. In the world of linear television, remote-control-wielding viewers sample what’s on by actually seeing it on the screen. Simple. In contrast, in the On Demand environment, the first presentation to the viewer is relatively uninteresting text. In the hands of skilled writers and designers, content descriptions can persuade a customer to choose a particular program. Handled poorly, it can have the opposite effect. And as if that’s not enough, the text supplied to the EPG in the form of metadata can look different on each of the multiple guides used by cable companies. Picture this: A perfectly designed listing on one EPG can disintegrate (and does) into a mishmash of truncated titles and copy on another. So, how does a content provider turn metadata into persuasive art? In partnership with Anystream Media, the Consortium developed an answer: The EPG Simulator. It’s an online platform that lets creative people working at cable networks view their On Demand metadata exactly as it will appear down the line. At a glance, over a secure Internet connection, copywriters and graphic artists can see whether and where they need to adjust language, abbreviations, copy and design formats so their creations look and perform perfectly, across the entire cable On Demand universe. According to Eric Kessler, the president of sales and marketing for HBO, the EPG Simulator is "a huge step forward in allowing networks to finally see exactly what the viewer will see." We describe it as a shared resource that advances the On Demand business for everybody who participates—and that’s a beautiful thing. On Demand is a big idea that has opened up an endless realm of possibilities in television, but realizing its promise depends on solving the seemingly minor, but oh-so-critical implementation challenges. The CTAM Consortium is proud to present this solution, giving the artists of On Demand a better canvas on which to create and further enhancing the customer experience. Now it’s on to the next innovation.