Lyndon Nixon: "With the hundreds of TV channels available, content selection becomes a significant challenge for users."
From June 9 – 11, 2010 the EuroITV Conference discusses latest advances and research of media technology, HCI, media studies, and the content creation community. Tassilo Pellegrini talked to Lyndon Nixon, STI International, about the future role of semantic technologies in the television industry and how a Social Semantic Web might influence the traditional television experience.
At this year’s EuroITV conference you will hold a workshop on the EU project NoTube. Can you give us a brief insight what this project is about?
NoTube is all about the future of television! We are seeing a significant shift in viewing patterns driven by the Web, which breaks the linear programming model and makes TV or video on demand a reality, whether it is being provided directly by the broadcasters or via a third party like Hulu or YouTube. The Web-based model taken up by viewers using their PC is being transferred back to the TV set in the lounge by IPTV applications running on Set Top Boxes or Internet TVs which come with Web access built into them. The strong interaction between the desires of users and technology has had its impact on the Web and as the gap between the Web and TV experience grows, we aim to translate features of the Web to TV, such as the personalised and community aspects. The NoTube European project puts the TV user back in the driver’s seat by generating user profiles from data the user creates on the Social Web, and in this way facilitating a personalised TV experience without an intrusive user profiling process.
What promises does the Social Semantic Web hold with respect to innovate the television experience? What is the vision?
With the hundreds of channels available via modern TV providers, content selection and dealing with the vast amount of TV-related information become significant challenges for users. TV metadata is created and distributed by a small group of people, as a result of the closed-source information exchange protocols that are the standard for providing electronic programme guide (EPG) data to users. Yet people often have several clusters of personal data on the Web, such as their profiles on social networks, or ratings of videos on YouTube and IMDB.
Analogously, there are many isolated clusters of broadcast data on the Web, such as broadcast data on EPGs and background information on Wikipedia. Within the NoTube vision context, we speculate that the conjunction of all these bits and pieces of data provide accurate information on someone’s interests, which is suitable for generating relevant recommendations on TV broadcasts. We see progress on opening up this data with open standards and APIs such as Google’s OpenSocial, Facebook’s OpenGraph, DBPedia, the BBC ontologies and FOAF. Further, we assume that Semantic Web technologies provide important building blocks for realizing this vision, as they enable the global identification mechanism of URIs and the means to define relations between data anywhere on the Web. By integrating these different pockets of data, we can provide TV viewers with personalised recommendations for their viewing.
What economic effects on the value chain do you expect from semantically empowered television? Will there be new revenue opportunities with respect to advertising or Pay TV models?
Our primary focus is on open source and open standards, so for example we are extending the open source MythTV media centre to develop first scenarios of personalised EPGs. However, down the road there are clearly commercialisation opportunities.
Another scenario in the project looks at personalised advertising, which is clearly somewhere where there are revenue opportunities. However, we take user privacy very seriously, and one aspect we need to tackle in NoTube is the fine line between analysing user activity (in order to personalise their TV experience) and using that analysis commercially.
The third NoTube scenario involves pushing personalised news streams to TV viewers. Here, one could imagine that such a service could be packaged within a Pay TV offer, and used to give competitive advantage or justify a higher fee.
Despite many attempts experience has shown that television is a rather conservative and innovation-averse medium. What can be done to stimulate the uptake of semantic technologies in the television sector?
That’s true; in the traditional broadcasting sector the larger companies are extremely slow to adopt new technologies. However, I think Web video and TV has really shook up the sector – traditional broadcasters are seeing that they lose viewer share to Web-based offers and have been quick to take their video material to the Web. There is a clear demand for this, look at the viewing numbers for BBC’s iPlayer in the UK for example.
IPTV also means that new applications and services can be built on top of traditional TV. I think once the broadcasters see the added value of offering applications and services tied into the content of their programming – such as through semantic analysis of the program metadata, which NoTube is doing – they will be encouraged to support better these efforts. The BBC is really taking a lead in this, publishing a lot of their data already in RDF.
The NoTube workshop on Future Television: integrating the Social and
Semantic Web will take place at the EuroITV 2010 conference in Tampere, Finland on June 9, 2010.
For more information please see
For more information about NoTube, please see
About Lyndon Nixon
Dr. Lyndon Nixon joined STI International as senior postdoctoral researcher in November 2008. Previously he was a researcher at the FU Berlin, where he acted as Industry Area Co-Manager of the EU Network of Excellence KnowledgeWeb and double Workpackage Leader in the EU project TripCom. In KnowledgeWeb, Dr. Nixon organized and led activities promoting the transfer of semantic technology to industry. He received his PhD in January 2007 with the topic ‘Semantic Web enabled Multimedia Presentation system’. His research focus is Web-based TV/video and the semantically guided integration of Web-based content, and he has several publications and has organized a number of workshops around related themes.