Thanks to the work of engineers at Google, Entertainment ID Registry (EIDR)-enabled assets are gaining more visibility in search results, as MESA reported in March.
There were already many benefits to having content registered with an EIDR ID. Among those benefits: eliminating costly translations between proprietary ID systems, lower risk of misidentification caused by duplication and lack of ID uniqueness, improved internal asset tracking, better matching of assets and metadata from different databases.
As of early March, over 2.5 million pieces of EIDR-enabled content registered with the system were showing up on top when those titles were searched for by Google users. And all future EIDR-registered titles are expected to be included immediately after they are registered, according to Google.
Jason Pena, program manager at Google TV, recently spoke with MESA about the collaboration between his company and EIDR.
Pena: I’ve been at Google for going on eight years now. Prior to my stint here at Google, I was at NBCUniversal for 10 years. That’s where I started my career and built my career in media.
While I was at Universal, I was the lead for integrating EIDR into the NBCUniversal title management system. I was the director of title management at the moment. So we were one of the first studios out to have a full-fledged API integration tapped into our SAP platform and every new title that Universal greenlit would go through a registration process.
Now, coming over to Google, I am a recipient of that EIDR ID now. So it’s really neat to kind of see the full kind of, from content creator to retailer, that bridge being filled with EIDRs flowing in.
When I first started at Google, I was with Google Play, which is the transactional video component of our business.
And so, I was very much involved in the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) avails and driving standardization there and making sure that EIDR was represented within that EMA avail. Henceforth, we went forward and did a massive registration project — that is Google — to register all the titles within our movie catalog. And that’s across all partnerships.
MESA: Speak to the amount of work this involved.
Pena: So, we’re talking lots of titles. I won’t quote the number. But the point there was to say we believe EIDR, as a unique identifier, can be a mechanism for us to improve our reconciliation. Reconciliation is defined as, on Monday, you send me a list of all your movies with the pricing and the availability dates, and then on Tuesday you change one price of one title.
That gap of information needs to be reconciled. And so if that title on Monday has an EIDR ID when that change comes on Tuesday, it’s a no-brainer. It’s fast, it’s easy, it’s automatic. As opposed to having a human literally look at that, identify that there was something different. What is different? Make the manual update.
These were the early days of Google Play. So, with the advent of the inclusion of the EIDR ID, we’re able to reconcile our data way faster and bring product to market faster. So why do our partners care? Why should content creators care? As a retailer, I can put your titles faster on my service, therefore make money sooner.
Okay, so that’s kind of a high level one. The second one, right below that, a driving force for content creators and retailers like myself was around transactional recording. So if I’m Disney and I’m sending my catalog to PlayStation, to Google, to Amazon, to Xbox the same title, Aladdin, is going out to all these folks. I want a unique ID so that when I get seven transactional reports back saying how that title performed, I want to be able to easily reconcile all of that disparate data under one ID, one umbrella. So we refer to that as the transactional report. EIDR refers to it as the round trip.
This was before Hollie [Choi’s] time [as EIDR executive director], by the way.
Don [Dulchinos, the former executive director of EIDR] and I did a lot of evangelizing. We traveled to Japan together to talk to our content partners in APAC about EIDR and trying to kind of break the Hollywood wall. That is that perception anyway, that this is a Hollywood-centric identifier.
Only fits U.S. — our battle was to say, ‘Look, it’s global; it’s wider.’
So, the second carrot again, was that transactional reporting. The ability to return that data back with an EIDR ID was a really big deal. We had some publications published on that. And it got a lot of good buzz. I received an EMA award for some of the work that we did there.
So the use case that we have for TVOD, as far as the reconciliation piece, that also now translates into SVOD. Okay. So SVOD is the big thing. It’s subscription VOD. And I’ve transitioned internally from Google Play to Google TV. There’s a formal transition to understand that I was very TIVOD-centric in the beginning.
Now I’m completely focused on SVOD and AVOD models on our GTV platform. We have the same problems. The same exact reconciliation issues, except in this way. It’s not an EMA avail, it’s a JSON feed. “So Disney Plus, not Disney proper, but Disney Plus as a streaming service is sending me a JSON file of the entire catalog every day, and we are ingesting that.
And representing those differences on our service. Same thing applies. If you have a unique ID that is dependable, never changes, is reliable and uniquely identifies the content, we make that reconciliation super fast. If it’s not there, it goes into a manual triage where a very expensive human has to look at it.
So more and more, we are further are inserting the EIDR ID into our SVOD services to help that reconciliation process. With that, EIDR has just recently garnered the attention of our search team. So when you think about Google, the 500-pound gorilla is the search team That’s our bread and butter. That’s where we make the money.
And so they said, ‘Hey, we can also use EIDR to help reconcile title information. We can reconcile Batman to everything in the world that is Batman. Not just the movies or the TV shows but different websites. We have a massive triple store of information that powers Google Search.
The ability to reconcile that single record from a content provider to the universe of information that is that subject matter is of prime importance for Google Search. The use case for you to understand is when you go to Google Search and you search for Batman, you are presented with ways to watch that content or ways to consume that content. So that makes it critically relevant for obviously the Google TV side. But now it’s also a critical use case for our search team.
MESA: Where do things stand now?
Pena: So that’s the key driver right now. There is a team assembled. We have engineering resources. People are working. Richard [Kroon with EIDR] is working with our service team now. The plan us to ingest the cache of the meta database into Google, reconcile all of the titles in EIDR to that central universal storage and information that is Google and then leverage that.
The other side of that is driving adoption with our partnerships so that WB puts the EIDR into the JSON feed so that when we ingest it, we have that ID to reconcile to the rest of the data.
So that’s a primary use case for us. You’d be surprised how many times we ingest ‘Scandal’ and we mistakenly reference a different series called ‘Scandal’ that’s Japan-cast. Different actors, directors, producers. Totally different show. It’s called ‘Scandal.’ For a week we had those two reconciled incorrectly.
MESA: Now is this applying only to film for now?
Pena: Movies and TV is kind of the scope. And then we are launching in full force our live TV components.
By process, that means we want to be able to ingest live events right into our platform and be able to represent that data properly.
I know that’s on the fringe of where EIDR is. I know we’ve talked about trying to understand how we create EIDRs for broadcast events.
It’s very challenging, right? But a single broadcast event can have many multicasts, simulcasts, different announcers per cast, different languages, and it gets crazy.
MESA: I can imagine like an NFL game would be almost impossible to do.
Pena: Maybe it’s possible because the structure’s there. But the timeliness and the turnaround for something like that is very challenging.
But I digress. That’s for later. But definitely movies and TV.
MESA: You covered quite a bit of it already. If you could speak a little bit more about the work that went into this, so the work that’s still ongoing into this to get all the EIDR IDs ingested?
Pena: It’s high level at the moment. But the resources are committed, which is important to say. We’ve committed resources to integrate EIDR into our Google TV platform and our search platform. I would put search first actually because that’s the headline: Google Search is going to be using EIDR period.
The reason why I’m engaged in working on it is because I want to put that on my performance review. By proxy, we’re talking about affecting the search algorithm Like the Google Search algorithm. That’s pretty big stuff from where I sit.
But the work going into it, let’s talk about it. So the work actually started the better part of two years ago. The first step really was to establish EIDR within the schema.org. So schema.org, you can look it up. It’s kind of a high level publish taxonomy if you will of entities, both media and entertainment.
As Google, we like to leverage standards. So the standard for that JSON feed that I mentioned is schema.org. So, my perspective, step one was let’s get EIDR into schema.org. If I can get EIDR into the schema, then the ask to partners becomes a lot easier, at least a lot more familiar. So that was about a six-month process of defining the EIDR ID.
So now there are two elements in schema.org. One called Title EIDR and the second one is called Edit EIDR. Those are now entities within schema.org that represent the EIDR ID that had to go through a round robin of GitHub evaluation, GitHub approvals. And there’s a whole committee that was sitting over at schema.org that had to review it, but finally it got through.
So that was kind of step number one. Great. So now we can approach our partners and say, ‘Hey, you know the schema that we asked you for, well, there’s a new element there called Binder ID. Please add that to your schema that you’re sending to Google. And if you have the ID, include the ID.
Disney is the first to do it. It took them on the better part of five years to put together a master data system that now the whole company is working off of. So we love that. Secondly, they were also right next to NBCUniversal, right there in integrating EIDR API.
So every title, movies and TV from Disney is going through EIDR. Awesome. They are now at the present moment sending Google via the Disney Plus JSON feed they’re including EIDR IDs for everything. So cool.
So it made my job so much easier. So now we have a real feed with real IDs that our engineering team can now work with to really develop our scalable solution.
So that’s really promising stuff. So like we’re already on the road technically with a major partner. We have EIDRs coming in the JSON feed. Now what do we do with it? Now the engineers are looking on how to understand, how to parse that information, validate that against the EIDR cash that we’re bringing in and then leverage it to pre-business rules around how that EIDR ID should be used to reconcile data.
So there’s a lot of rules that can go into that. We’re doing string match comparisons. We’re doing contextual matching. There’s a bunch of different cool algorithms, algorithmic stuff that we’re doing to break that data down and then reconcile it to the universe of information that we know about that title.
Next steps are really up to the engineers. That’s where I’m kind of hands off right now working on other stuff. But I believe that they are again pulling the EIDR in.
So, for example, if you look at a Disney feed, it’s literally like 99 percent of the EIDR stuff has IDs.
Well, what about that 1 percent?
So we want to understand that delta and how to close that gap. Obviously, it rates more significant when you have a partner that is providing zero IDs and understanding how they improve over time. A lot of the second piece of this whole thing; The technical part is actually the easiest part because we’ve done that. The hardest part is the adoption.
So great. We have Disney Plus. That’s awesome. So for example, WB. They provide a hundred percent EIDRs to the TVOD business. That was the work that we did prior. Now I’m turning to WB and saying, Hey, you know that HBO Max feed that you’re sending us, can you include the EIDRs that you’re already registering, that you’re already sending to Google via the EMA avail? Can you include that in your JSON feed?
And so that is the work that has to happen now. The first tier is identifying who already has EIDRs and can we internally work with them to pipe that EIDR into the feed.
That’s actually the easiest part of the adoption because we know those people. We can explain the benefits.
Those are the partners that we have yet to develop a plan for what we did on the TVOD side. We registered those titles for them for free. We took it upon ourselves as members of EIDR in good standing. We did that for the better part of 50 partners or so. Registered thousands of titles. Gave those EIDRs back to said partners in the hopes that they would use it, adopt it, internalize it, bring it back to us. There was sparse adoption, I would say, at best.
There’s a top 10 that we have of partners that are contributing EIDR. It’s NBCUniversal, Disney, Fox, WB, Lionsgate, Paramount. That’s only six. I’m out of practice. But we know who those partners are and that’s going to be our focus for the MVP of this thing.
But the reality where I think it’s going to end up for us is that we’re going to end. It’s a primary key that doesn’t work unless it’s ubiquitous. If it’s only there in part, it only serves in part. So we want to have a hundred percent, and I think any steering the team towards a solution where we either outsource the registration. When we did it for TVOD we outsourced it to Premiere Digital.
We worked with them for months and they basically cherry picked our avails. And said, ‘Hey, if it has an EIDR, send it to us. If it doesn’t have an EIDR registered, then send it back to us. And that worked really well.
The question is: Do we stand up something like that again for the SVOD side, where they cherry pick our feeds and pull out EIDRs that aren’t represented in EIDR just yet and register those.
So a long road ahead, to say the least. But with the carrot of search, a lot of people care about search. WB they care very much about how the EIDR titles are represented on Google, which makes a lot of sense. That’s where people come to search for movies and stuff. They want to be able to tie that back to content.