Gracenote on Thursday rolled out its first update under new owner Nielsen, which bought it for $560 million in December. The offering is an entertainment database that combines its video, music and sports metadata offerings.
The company is betting metadata will play a larger part in media monetization. Gracenote tags the programming content it tracks with its proprietary identifier called the Gracenote ID. The hope is to improve search and discovery across digital, audio and over-the-top TV services by associating content consumed with a single identifier.
Gracenote has had many parent companies in its short lifespan. Incubated by Sony, it was then sold to Tribune Media Services three years ago when it was a $70 million business doing automatic content recognition for music services like Apple’s iTunes. Today it brings in annual revenue of about $200 million.
Rich Cusick, chief product officer for Gracenote, spoke with AdExchanger about the new media implications for metadata.
AdExchanger: What’s the most practical output of metadata?
RICH CUSICK: The media companies that are winning have really unique discovery mechanisms. The reason you love Spotify is because you get these great, user-generated playlists customized for you. Spotify bought a company called The Echo Nest, which licenses data from us and ensures the right playlists get to the right person.
All the machinations happening in fantasy sports? And the way your cable set-top box and DVR knows how to do a series recording? That’s all metadata. Metadata is the underlying fuel for all of these interfaces. And we saw that the complexities required of this data would become even more pronounced.
Who are your clients?
Our client list is now every streaming music service and consumer electronics firms like Samsung, LG, Roku, Apple and a majority of the large cable operators like Charter and Time Warner.
Who benefits from metadata?
The most obvious are internet companies. We power all the right-rail content when you do a Google search for a TV program or movie. But companies like Roku (which uses us for universal search) and Apple are our primary clients. We provide them one single data format and database globally for content.
The same with music and video services – Apple and Samsung license TV, music and sports databases from us. You’re also seeing cable operators whose biggest competition now is Apple. If you want to be searchable on DirecTV, content has to be tagged with one of our IDs. We’re like the connective tissue for search in the entertainment space.
Do you work with advertisers, too?
Our services are really focused on content discovery. Nielsen is focused more on the measurement and monetization side of the business. Gracenote helps people find the content, and then Nielsen helps advertisers and media companies figure out what people actually watched to help monetize that content. On a more tactical level, because we’re so large in the discovery space and so embedded, the Gracenote ID is almost like the Dewey Decimal System for entertainment content.
Are you mainly sticking to content IDs or will you perform more matches against an ad ID?
There are definite synergies between us organizing ad space the way we organize regular entertainment information. Our database is structured, meaning it’s hyperlinking all entertainment content including advertising.
If you’re a set-top box manufacturer that’s got usage data you’re submitting to Nielsen, the ability to tie that to shows people watch seems really basic, but it solves a huge problem for the ecosystem by identifying what content is what and ensures everyone’s speaking a common language.
Beyond discovery, how is metadata used for personalization?
That’s a big data problem. Think of metadata as a core discovery mechanism meeting a TV listings grid. Personalized voice search is essentially the interface of the future, so we’ll be important to both. The more we know about how users interact with content, the better we think our personalization efforts will be.
We’re not ready to announce anything specifically with Nielsen today, but the promise between Nielsen and Gracenote is this virtuous loop of being both in discovery and knowing a lot about how consumers consume content. Those two should feed on each other in ways we haven’t even thought of yet.
Interview has been condensed and edited for clarity and length.