The Metadata Diet: It’s how we satisfy consumers’ hunger for fast and reliable TV programme guides


If we are to meet today’s insatiable demands from the viewing public for high quality, readily available TV and video content information, then we are going to rely more and more on the experts in the field. As one of the leading TV metadata specialists serving the European marketplace, Media Press Group has the ideal recipe for catering for this consumer challenge.

In bygone times, we had a limited menu of terrestrial channels, seven-day week schedules occupied no more than a dozen or so pages of newsprint, and we could memorise the time-slots of our favourite shows for the week ahead, without any need to invest in a TV and radio guide.

Based on the enormous supply of current TV and OTT providers, we now sit in front of our TV sets and tablet screens mostly unprepared for what is being served up. We can only flip through channels, making instant choices on the spot, relying on morsels of information about what’s on and what’s coming up in an hour, before opting for the remote control for a quick taster of what’s on offer on the next channel.

What information do we need for making our selection? If we are to get started on a new serial, then for starters we need to know date and time of the first episode, how long the programme will run, some juicy ingredients that set out the genre, storyline and theme. Who are the main players? Who are the artists behind the scenes, from the writers to the directors and producers?

Choices are informed by the easy availability of reliable recommendations and volume of positive reviews. What recommendations do we have in terms of industry accolades, from details of awards to detailed listings of all the other shows, movies and productions that they have cooked up for audiences in the past?

Any decent business that cares about its customers would offer a sample of what’s on offer, so in the TV metadata world it’s a given that consumers should be able download pictures or watch a short trailer before they opt for their course of TV entertainment for their special night indoors.

Evolution conference

As the saying goes in action movies: Let’s cut to the chase. What consumers need is a mega-deal. Our mega-deal is metadata.


The beauty of metadata is that it can be grouped and categorised along multiple lines. If information can be cross-referenced, stored and accessed quickly and conveniently, then customers feel that they have received the five star treatment. For this purpose, a well-established and effectively operating database is indispensable. The question occurs: what are the characteristics of a well-established and effectively operating database?

First of all, it takes time to perfect a system. The longer it takes to create, the more valuable it becomes. Secondly, a database constructed by a real master craftsperson is more likely to be user friendly, with an independent and fully functioning platform and operating system.

As far as the major TV providers are concerned, the aim of the game is to alert the viewer to the timing of primetime programmes as close to the actual broadcast as possible. This means that editors of TV guides must keep a constant check on any last minute programming changes.

But it is not only transmission data that needs to be updated on a rolling basis. Filmographies, biographies, nominations and prizes are also important elements to keep up to date.

In any good database, the stored content is linked to content based on state of art principles: titles, cast crew information, descriptions, TV channel brands, sites and dates all of which combine to create a whole complex network. The end point is reached when each piece of metadata is connected to every other other piece of metadata.

What does this mean in practice? When the metadata is used to generate listings of the ninth season of “Two and a Half Men”, it generates a link to a separate entry explaining why Charlie Sheen was replaced after the eighth season in the series. The metadata database is also versatile. Information is stored and accessed in multiple languages, because that is how international content service providers expect to be served.

Major producers including Netflix rely on metadata more and more when creating content. They are experts at exploiting the benefits of metadata behaviour, in terms of popularity of shows and the viewership experience. “House of Cards” is one of the great examples of how metadata can not only increase consumption but write real success stories. Metadata features help to create complete storyboards, form pilot production and approval processes, and save time and money for those who make it their business to promote shows, serials, movies and programme guides.

Metadata is the essence of the TV content universe. Just as a banquet fit for a King is a carefully constructed collocation of ingredients and treats, blended into a pleasing whole, then the same is true of metadata. It is a concoction of information that leaves the viewer satisfied – and hungry for more.

Gyöngyvér Annus
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