Will internet-TV have a  go-to guide?

I recently received an invitation to attend a “trek” to TV Guide organized by the Technology and New Media group at NYU’s business school. I asked the panel, led by middle managers in departments ranging from product management to finance to human resources, “What do you see as your core competency and who’s positioned to compete?”

The question seemed to baffle the panelists – which I find sort of baffling – but an answer ultimately emerged: “Nobody.”  Ha.

This begs a series of questions: what’s TV Guide’s strategy, what other companies are positioned to compete, and is the historically editorial-driven TV Guide (which owns some potentially important patents) ready to deliver?  I’m going to harness a few guesses. 


In October, TV Guide was acquired by Macrovision, a DRM-technology provider.As part of its new strategy, TV Guide Network plans to deploy several thousand digital video-processing devices that will let it enhance programming for individual operators by providing new features for inserting localized content and transcoding video.  This will “allow the TV Guide Network to offer operator-specific content for even very small cable systems.”

Like Hulu, Joost, Veoh, X-Box, TiVo and Apple TV, TV Guide will aim to develop THE market-leading interface and collaborating filtering technology that “combines the best of TV and the best of the Internet by offering viewers a unique, TV-like experience enhanced with the choice, control and flexibility of Web 2.0.”

Though Joost claimed it prematurely, nobody’s done it yet, and I don’t see a clear winner emerging, not even TV Guide. 

Why not?  The fundamental benefit of TV distributed over IP is its openness, the ability for anyone to access and post anything.  And that’s also its pitfall.  How do you filter the cr@p?   The problem is that, aside from Apple TV, each of these systems is a walled-garden (presumably, TV Guide will follow suit) and all, including Apple, are competing as much on content deals as they are on technology.  Also, media giants like Time Warner and Comcast have an interest in maintaining the status quo.  What ‘s emerging is a fragmented labyrinth of content offerings

The eventual winners will create an open standard platforms with a functional lean-back interface and a recommendation engine.  Presumably, this technology will be based primarily on users’ behavioral data, so collecting user-data on already trafficked websites will be a key to success.  Here’s an early snapshot:

Hulu is noteably young, but, in my opinion, has the best content and most elegant interface, which will drive exponential month-on-month traffic increases.  TV-Guide  will benefit by remaining platform agnostic. Joost’s website traffic is probably not an accurate indicator of its standing, because it’s a downloaded application, but the company seems to have fumbled big time

In lieu of a catch-all recommendation behemoth, former TV Guide critic and creator of Entertainment Weekly, Jeff Jarvis, seems to anticipate the adoption of human-powered micro-guides, the first and best of which is his own PrezVid.


It’s a hotly competitive space, but I question whether a Google-like hegemon will emerge. 

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