CozmoTV: Welcome to Television 2.0, Time to Supercharge the TiVo Part of Your Digital Lifestyle

Tuesday afternoon I had an opportunity to spend a few hours with Alex Rowland, founder and CEO of TV Technology upstart CozmoTV to demo their latest TV technology package for TiVo and talk about where the future of TV is going in the next few year.

Although Alex and his partner Jason Solinsky are a small company of two today, they have big plans to flickrize your TiVo, and in fact your entire video consumption experience.

The company’s product has recently been opened for open beta and you can sign up for it (and you may even win a free TiVo) at CozmoTV. You can view their online demo here.

CozmoTV Current Beta
Supercharge your TiVo Prowess with CozmoTV

So how does today’s CozmoTV work? Well, the current beta version is pretty simple. If you are familiar with scheduling your TiVo today online through TiVo Central or Yahoo you basically get the same functionality with Cozmo. First off, you enter in your TiVo email address and Cozmo finds your TiVo. You can have more than one TiVo tied to your account and you might, for instance, have one labeled TiVo bedroom and another labeled TiVo living room. It only works with Series 2 TiVos of course.

Once you have your TiVos set up you can then begin browsing for TV to watch. Like TiVo Cozmo will offer a wide variety of categories to browse from: history, documentary, science fiction, etc. and have full search capability. But this is where it gets interesting. In addition to searching by category, you are going to be able to tag television. Using a free form tagging system at Cozmo they are going to have users generate far more meta data which then will be searchable for deeper richer searches where you can find great new broadcast content.

Today if I want I can get a TiVo keyword search set up for certain words that show up in guide data or program titles. But what if something I’m looking for is not in the guide data? What if for instance (as actually was the case) my Flickrstream appeared on G4’s Attack of the Show? Nowhere in that episode’s guide data is “Thomas Hawk” listed — and I’m pretty confident “Thomas Hawk” has never shown up in any guide data period — but with Cozmo I could tag that episode “Thomas Hawk” and then anyone doing a search for “Thomas Hawk” would show that show as a result. The same episode could be tagged “Steve Rubel” whose blog post they were describing on Attack of the Show where my Flickrstream was mentioned, and it could also be tagged Flickr and RSS and photography and well the list is endless. There are so many ways beyond guide data to tag television and this will build up a rich body of metadata associated with TV shows. This will be especially helpful when an episode repeats and I can set up various tag filters that will catch that new TV that I’m interested in.

But this is only the first version of Cozmo which is available for use today.

Where Cozmo is going to get even more exciting is in their next version due out early next year. Let’s call it TV2.0.

Combining broadcast TV, internet video (through places like Google Video and YouTube), pay microconent offerings through people like Brightcove, Cozmo’s own microcontent publishing platform, and essentially any video content that people can find on the internet and point to them (and yes Virginia, this includes both things like video on the Internet Archive and our old friend BitTorrent), Cozmo is building the definitive tagged library of both mainstream broadcast TV *and* long tail micro content. They will intermix the two allowing even deeper richer searching, ranking and categorization.

CozmoTV, Version 2.0
CozmoTV, Version 2.0

The social networking part is where Cozmo is really TV2.0ing it up. While in the first version you can tag TV, in the next version you are going to be able to combine these features with powerful social network functionality.

On an *opt in* basis (don’t worry you tinfoil hat privacy nuts) you will be able to publish what you watch to the world on your Cozmo including all your TiVo activity. Want to share your fine taste in TV? Go for it. You will also be able to add channels of people who have similar taste in TV and check out what they are watching and downloading via internet video.

Want to know what that hot admin at the office watches in her free time at home on her TiVo so you’ll have something better to chat her up with around the watercooler (yeah, me too)? Well then you’d better tell her about Cozmo and hope she opts in.

Although I don’t watch a lot of TV per se myself, Davis Freeberg, who writes for this site, is a TV hound. He lives for TV and if anyone is going to find some hot new show it’s him (although much of what he watches is super lame too). With this new technology Davis and I could become “friends” on Cozmo and I could check out what he is watching via the site to see if maybe there might be something I might like. Back in the day when the original Napster was around I used to love to find users who had great taste in music and digg through their library looking for bands I’d never heard of. I found a lot of great music that way. Cozmo will essentially allow you to do this with TV and video. TiVo diving will take on a whole new meaning.

While Cozmo won’t allow people to cross the line and actually *share* individual TV files, you will be able to share what that information which will allow you to schedule the same programming in the case of broadcast TV or download the same file in the case of internet TV.

As members gain popularity on Cozmo they will become human taste filters that you can use to further filter out not only cool stuff on broadcast TV but cool stuff in the long tail as well.

Cozmo will also build an innovative ranking system that combines both broadcast TV and long tail internet video stuff and using a proprietary algorithm rank their video library so that you can search through the highest regarded video by all their users with a sort of authority weighting thing built in for more “CozMojo” respected members of the community.

So how much money will this cost me you ask? Here’s the best part. It’s free today and Cozmo plans on it being free in the future. Cozmo plans to be profitable in the future when in version 2.0 they feature advertising tied to content that content creators point to their site. They have an advertising sharing model in place which will essentially allow content creators to split revenue using an AdSense like bidding model which will automatically tie short advertisements to the beginning of micro content that is incorporated in the next version of the show. They also plan on allowing content providers to position a small trailer box on their main home page to promote their show as advertising.

Although the service is only available for Series 2 TiVos through the beta today, between the current version and version 2.0 they are going to add both Series 3 TiVos (when they are out), Media Center PCs (and by extension XBox extenders), Playstation portables and you will even be able to s
chedule video for your video iPod (Apple’s going to love that one — they’re service should be a big iTunes competitor).

At first the lower res internet video may be more restrictive (much of it would look horrible on your TV) and limited to PC, Playstation portable or iPod Video, but as better transcoding tools are created allowing content creators easier and easier ways to transcode into MPEG2, MPEG4, and wmv you will begin seeing more and more of this content make it’s way onto TiVo and Media Center platforms through Cozmo.

I think where Cozmo will potentially be huge is in getting a lot of great microcontent ultimately on your TV. While TiVo has RocketBoom today and plans more microcontent in the future, their current system is largely closed. Cozmo is creating an open system. If I wanted to, for instance, I could take a high def video (and those cameras are getting cheaper and cheaper every day) of my son’s little league game. Post it up somewhere. Point Cozmo to it. Tag the show “little league” baseball “tiny mavs” etc. Allow advertisers who might be interested to bid on auto inserting an ad at the beginning of it. And then my friends and family could see the video in my lineup and download it for themselves and watch it.

In terms of copyrighted stuff, Cozmo will operated under the basic premises of DMCA and will comply with requests to take down copyrighted links (including BitTorrent) as they are reported to them.

Overall pretty exciting things are afoot over at Cozmo. And it’s pretty ambitious and impressive what they’ve built up literally as just two guys working out of their home offices. They do plan on expanding and hiring in the near future but plan on keeping a lean and mean team as they build out their business. Check the current beta version out for yourself and get ready for a whole new way for you and your flickr/delicious/digg/myspace connected friends to watch TV together in the future.

Also if you want to keep track of what’s going on at Cozmo you might want to check out their blog. They are also looking for feedback on their product at present so feel free to offer your opinons on how the technology works for you and what you’d like to see in the next version there.

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  1. Alex says:

    I have a skype meeting setup with Alex tonight. I’ll let everybody know what I think. The software looks pretty promising.

  2. Dave Zatz says:

    I have some security concerns with this service… and I imagine TiVo will as well. Registration requires the email address and password you provided TiVo for full functionality. That authentication info allows access to and modification of your home address, phone number, TiVo service numbers, info related to your billing credit card, the ability to activate service on expired accounts, etc. I’m not comfortable in trading CozmoTV functionality for unrestricted access to my TiVo account.

  3. Alex Rowland says:

    Dave, I understand your concerns. We certainly have no intention of using your information for anything other than scheduling shows that you have requested on your TiVo. That would be terminal to our business.

  4. Anonymous says:

    just wondering if I can register for this. I went to the website but having a bit of an issue with the registration form. I am not asking you to but is it available for Canadian Tivo Series 2 subscribers? hope it is

  5. Alex Rowland says:

    Unfortunately we do not support Canada… yet. Sorry about that.

  6. PR Machine says:

    Thanks for this info. If I could take a high definition video, post it in the blogosphere, tag the video, point Cozmo toward it – thus allowing advertisers interested in its genre to bid on auto inserting an ad at the beginning of it…I think it’s worth it. Ah..the future of ad sales media marketing online.

  7. Looking really good, Alex. The amount you can do with two guys is pretty amazing. Let’s talk again soon!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Little bit of cart before the horse isn’t it? You’ve got companies like Tribune that often botch listings, even when the providers bother to give them complete guide data. Guide data needs to evolve a little more.

  9. Alex Rowland says:

    Thanks, Patrick. I look forward to it, we’ve made a lot of progress on the back end of this thing…

    Agreed, the guide data is pretty weak at this point. It’s one of our major complaints with any of the listings available today through any of the services, they are thin to non-existent. We’re working pretty hard to open these descriptions up to our users. Once 2.0 rolls out (if all goes according to plan) you will be able to create shadow listings for each show when you aggregate that show into your “channel.” We believe user contributions under a wiki publishing mechanism is the only solution to the weak guide data, but we can’t get there without assembling the community first. I’m hoping that we have the horse in the right place…

  10. I think I see two pretty critical issues in this service. First and foremost is the lack of video support through the net. People want to tag things after they’ve watched them when they know whats in it rather then trying to guess about content. A good starting point for this would be to incorporate a media viewer for online content at a minimum. It would also be nice to be able to tag directly from the TV. There is no way that people are going to go back a day after they see something, in order to make it easier for people to search. Right now you can’t screen out the broadcast shows online, which are likely to offer OK guide data already. Getting at the microcontent needs to be easier.

    Secondly, I think that you may find that if this service takes off that there are going to be patent concerns from TV guide. TV Guide has historically defended their patents pretty aggressively and while I’m not a patent expert, everything that I’ve read about them indicates that they have some pretty strong patents as it relates to providing a guide and search for television services. I’m not saying I agree with them having a monopoly on TV listings, but they could certainly raise a fuss if they start to see you making money.

  11. Alex Rowland says:

    Thanks for the feedback, Davis. As a matter of fact, the version of CozmoTV currently up and running does not support ANY Web microcontent. We will be adding that later this year as we move towards version 2.0. Our feeling was that there were a lot of companies focusing on aggregating Web video, but not enough help in navigating through the 15,000 some-odd shows being broadcast to the average cable/satellite subscriber every week. I think most people still find cable/satellite content to be more valuable than the content they find on the Web (at least today), but the tools for finding those shows within that pile are pretty weak.

    Once we solve that problem we can begin working on the microcontent. In essence, start with the head of the curve and work down the tail rather than vice versa.

    As for ratings, you are right. Rating shows upon returning to the site is impossible right now. However, in the near future we will begin displaying historical recording information so that, like Netflix, you can see the shows that were just recorded when you check back into the site and rate/recommend/tag/comment them if you would like. Until that time the stars serve as more interest level indicators rather than post-consumption opinions. And yes, rating straight from the TV would be nice, but difficult to implement without much tighter integration with the device. It’s still at the bottom of a very long list.

    There may be concerns from TV Guide, although we are licensing data from TMS. I think it would be difficult to make a case that ANY use of guide data should result in a royalty paid to TV Guide. However, if we make enough money I’m sure they will try.

  12. Tim says:

    Why do you post stories on Digg that point to your own blog, as opposed to the actual website?

  13. dylane says:

    Alex, I signed up for the beta back in April when the site was first launched, but haven’t heard anything since then. Should I sign up again?

  14. solman says:

    If you signed up for Cozmo before and have not heard anything since, please go to CozmoTV and register.

    We apologize for the inconvenience. I believe that we accidentally overwrote one of the lists of people who pre-registered.

  15. Thomas Hawk says:

    Tim, I am providing commentary that is not available at the site. I do provide a link to the site in my story. Some people might appreciate the commentary to go with the link.