A search for “American Idol” on Google Video yields 66,280 results. The same video search on MySpace Video returns 500 results, most of which are users creating videos of themselves or of little kids—with search-engine-misleading titles like “The Next American Idol.” However, video search solutions have begun to emerge. The latest is a new product from Gemstar-TV Guide, which enables users to effectively search, browse, and watch clips from American Idol or any of their favorite television shows or movies.
Built on Microsoft technology and launched in mid-April, TV Guide’s online video guide is a video search and browse product that lives on the TV Guide website. “More and more people are accessing online video and it’s much higher if you’re looking at younger demos,” says Paul Greenberg, GM of TV Guide Online. So it is only natural that TV Guide sought a solution to help users find the videos they’re looking for.
The primary feature of TV Guide’s online video guide is a search-and-browse function. A search for an “American Idol” clip, for example, returns 698 specific results pertaining to the Fox Network’s reality singing competition. Mousing over a result shows its metadata, including the video type, whether it’s a clip or a full episode, when the clip was posted, what network posted the clip, and whether there’s a cost to view it.
Users who come to the site without a particular video in mind can browse by Top Videos, Top Shows and Movies, Top Celebrities, Genres, or Networks. Users can drill down even further and sort by Network, Clip, or Full Episode. “The problem is it’s no longer a linear world,” explains Greenberg. “You have to be able to sort by many different parameters and different axes to allow users to find what they want in an on-demand world.”
Once users find what they want, TV Guide links out to the source of the video—no videos are hosted on the site. “We’re showing users what videos other sites are showing,” says Greenberg. “If we did host, we would want to make deals with content providers but we think the idea of giving people an actual link to the site is pretty valuable.” In the American Idol example, if a user clicks on one of the 698 results, a new window opens up and the user’s media player starts the video.
The online video guide is very specific; it does not index sites containing user-generated content. “In looking at research, it seems that seventy percent of what users are looking for on YouTube are professional videos,” says Greenberg. According to Greenberg, TV Guide’s online video guide scrapes “the three major network sites (ABC.com, NBC.com, and CBS.com), iTunes, iFilms, MovieLink, and other sites with high-quality professional video.”
Since the online video guide is free for users, it is completely ad-supported. A TV Guide representative says, in the future, it would consider licensing this product in a similar fashion to how it currently licenses its listings grid to third parties, such as multi-systems operators (MSOs), cable companies that operate several systems throughout the country.
In the past, the searcher’s mentality may have been quantity over quality—the more results that show up for a particular search, the more information they can access. But as search has evolved to include an awesome amount of content, including audio and video, searchers need more relevant results to be efficient. “Video search is fragmented,” says Greenberg. “As it gets tougher to find what it is you’re looking for, as the amount of content proliferates, people need a way to cut through the clutter.”