Zone-TV has created a platform which allows service providers to create personalized thematic TV channels with their content. It is using the technology to run the zone·ify app, a multi-channel video service powered by artificial intelligence (A.I.) Humans program the 13 channels provided in the Zone-ify app while A.I. manages the personalization.
I sat down with Zone-TV’s CEO Jeff Weber to understand the company’s experience with A.I. What he says reveals how it already has made a significant positive impact and that he expects the technology to contribute much more.
A.I. provides a significant boost in engagement
Consumers using the Zone-ify app can pick from 13 theme channels, including inform, foodies, and styler. While viewers are watching a video on one of the channels, they can touch the screen, and the Zone-ify button appears. Pressing the button instantly creates a customized playlist drawing upon the themes, style, and subject matter of the video they are watching at that moment. A user’s past viewing history also influences the playlist. A.I. is the key technology driving Zone-ify functionality.
According to Mr. Weber, the Zone-ify approach has a galvanizing impact on engagement:
“Those customers that Zone-ify are engaged at three-times as much usage as those that don’t.”
A.I. a significant part of the overall solution
To gauge how important AI is to the success of Zone-TV’s business, I asked Mr. Weber if he could manage without it. His answer was a cautious ‘yes’:
“We could attempt to personalize without AI, but it wouldn’t be in real-time, and the results would not be as personal.”
He was quick to point out that he sees A.I. as a part of the overall Zone-TV solution:
“Part of our answer is human programmers; part of our answer is a great UI; part of our answer is the personalization driven by AI.”
A work in progress
I asked Mr. Weber how things were going with the current system of personalization driven by AI. He said that it was working well, but that he expected to be doing much more with the technology over time. By way of explanation, he gave an example of how the system might begin to take local events into account in the personalization of a channel:
“If you’re sitting in NY watching the Styler channel, as you watch and skip programs normal personalization takes place. However, if Fashion Week is taking place in NY, does that change what you see in your feed?”
Advice to those thinking of using AI
I asked Mr. Weber what advice he could offer to any video content or service provider thinking of using AI in their business. The first thing he said is sage guidance to anyone considering a new tool for their business:
“Be clear why you are using it and what you want to get out of it. How does AI help you get there?”
The second piece of advice harks back to his earlier statement that he expects to be doing a lot of sophisticated things with A.I. in the future:
“Know that this is a journey.”
Finally, Mr. Weber was quick to admit that Zone-TV is not an AI. The technology is merely a part of the solution. However, A.I. is very sophisticated, so he recommends any company considering using it “hire talent” that understands how it works and how to use it.
Why it matters
A.I. is just beginning to be rolled out in video service businesses.
The Zone-TV experience shows that A.I. boosts video engagement.
It also shows that we are only scratching the surface of what the technology can do.