In the video world, metadata is information applied to a movie, show or clip to describe what's being stored: who's in it, what it's about, how long it is, when it needs to be removed from a video-on-demand (VOD) server, for instance.
The metadata used by cable operators grew out of a specification issued by CableLabs in 2002. The curse of technical specifications is, though, their tendency to engender additions.
That brings us to "VOD metadata 2.0," a specification released by CableLabs in 2006.
Most of the goodness in the VOD metadata 2.0 spec happens way in the background — far from consumers, their couches, their TVs and their remotes.
If you ask a technical person to state the No. 1 most important thing about metadata 2.0, they'll probably explain how it eliminates the need to "double-pitch" a video asset (meaning a title and its accoutrements) if something changes.
In today's VOD world, when you want to change anything about a title that's already on a server, your only option is to ask for a resend of the whole thing. That wastes bandwidth. The new spec fixes that. More title volume, less bandwidth used.
If you pose the same question to a VOD operations person, they'll waste no time in telling you what a pain it is, pre 2.0, to correct metadata that comes in botched. Stuff like a listing where the title is repeated as the description, or the description is so long, it falls off the screen.
To correct just the botched metadata, without having to resend the entire show, is quite the hallelujah for systems people. (And yes, content owners, it does mean you'll be asked to resend your metadata if it comes in goofy.)
The third item of note about metadata 2.0 is the grace it imparts to packaging. Right now, if you've received and stored a title, it probably has specific rules attached to it about how long it can stay active and how to price it.
With 2.0, you could take that same title and bundle it into a double-feature, or a weekend special. You could switch out promos or advertisements, offer a 99-cent special, or do whatever you want (assuming you have permission) — again, without having to go through the process of requesting a re-pitch.
Plus, 2.0 improves search features, adds substantial multilingual support, and lets you use multiple display formats.
That comes in handy if, for instance, a title can be played out in HD, SD and a super-compressed mode, as may be needed by a handheld player.
The next step is for the supplier community to build 2.0 metadata features into actual applications, and for the content community to start marking its wares for 2.0.
It'll happen in the background, but it'll happen.