Comcast (CMCSA) wants to know what its customers are watching and help them discover their next favorite show.
In the latest move to expand its video search capabilities, the Philadelphia media giant on Tuesday said it had purchased video metadata technology company Watchwith. Comcast did not disclose terms of the deal, which it said closed in December.
Watchwith's 15 employees will be rolled into CoMPASS, Comcast's cloud-based platform that has metadata and content discovery features, and Watchwith CEO Zane Vella will serve as vice president of CoMPASS' cable division. Watchwith still will be able to work with outside clients, which in the past have included Comcast's NBC, 21st Century Fox's (FOXA) Fox and CBS (CBS) , among others.
Founded in 2012, Watchwith previously partnered with CoMPASS to integrate its play-by-play sports highlights component into Comcast's X1 cable box. Watchwith's play-by-play feature is one of several advanced metadata offerings the San Francisco company developed to analyze, tag and describe prerecorded and live video at a frame-by-frame level.
In its simplest form, advanced metadata can tell users more than just who's in the video or the video's duration, providing highly specific data such as when a certain actor appears on a screen or the location of a specific scene, Comcast spokesman David McGuire said. Watchwith's metadata technology can be controlled using an editorial tool, which allows users to tag elements themselves, or via an algorithmic tool.
Comcast hasn't yet decided how Watchwith's services will be further integrated into the X1 box, McGuire said. The metadata technology could be added to films in Comcast's library to enhance CoMPASS' content discovery capabilities.
"If you say something into the voice remote, like wanting to view kids TV shows, CoMPASS provides the back-end of discovering content," McGuire explained. "So the ability to deepen the metadata that we have available and have more information about the video we have is potentially really interesting."
When combined, the advanced metadata and content discovery components can help viewers navigate and search for things they want to see, McGuire added.
McGuire wouldn't comment on whether Comcast is exploring further deals with metadata companies.
The deal continues a series of recent M&A in the metadata technology space. Last month, Nielsen Holdings (NLSN) agreed to purchase the Gracenote video, music and sports data business from Tribune Media (TRCO) for $560 million. The marketing information and analytics services company will use Gracenote to monitor video and music played across multichannel video platforms, in-car media systems, streaming music services and other platforms.
In November, Hulu agreed to purchase video metadata company Video Genome Project to enhance its content recommendation capabilities. The service is expected to be integrated just in time for Hulu's live-TV offering, expected to roll out sometime in the coming months.
The deals come at a time when more and more media companies are investing in search recommendation and metadata technology features as a means of improving a user's experience on their platforms. Netflix (NFLX) , for example, has enabled a number of features that provide users with ultra-specific data on their viewing habits.
Jim Cramer, who manages the Action Alerts PLUS portfolio as a charitable trust, wrote in a recent post that Comcast "has positioned itself well to deal with competition given its diversified portfolio, and [we] expect shares to slowly command higher multiples under the shifting macro and potential for deregulation."
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