Regular viewers will know I have a major jones for Electronic Program Guides (EPGs) and digital television. Early Aussie pioneer IceTV is still hanging in there despite being dragged backwards through the hedge of the courts by the unlimited resources of the interests backing Channel Nine.
Now IceTV have finally launched their recommendation feature, iwatchthis.com.au (hmm... shouldn't that be "Youshouldwatchthis.com.au"?). Whatever it's called, it gets you to tell it which shows are your favourites (or you can let it watch what you record) and it'll come back with recommendations.
How well does it work? Well, my experience is limited because although I still have a login, my paid subscription to IceTV lapsed and I haven't renewed. Unluckily for IceTV, recently I fell in love with AppleTV and buying shows from the US iTunes Store and haven't had much time for Australian free-to-air television since then.
But my login allowed me to 'favourite' a few good shows in IceTV, including Foreign Correspondent, Lateline, Media Watch and Cutting Edge, just to test out the recommendations ('cos regular readers will recall, I also have a major jones for all things recommendations).
I expected IceTV's recommendations to be fairly good: highly engaged customers providing relatively accurate data, genre and cast relationships providing clear pointers to recommendable content, and most of all in Australia, a relative paucity of content to choose from!
So sure enough, IceTV scored a nice 5 out of 10 in terms of other shows I'd like to watch. But is that really helping me much? I mean, there's so little on free-to-air in Australia I don't really need recommendations at all, much less recommendations that are as likely to be wrong as right.
To really make the payoff, IceTV should be there to let me know when a new series of Top Gear is starting, because it knows I enjoyed the last series. It shouldn't be distracted by a repeat of a previous series, or the same series being screened a second time in a different time slot. Does it do this? Dunno, not possible to tell from my exploration.
Perhaps if IceTV offered me streaming previews, independent reviews rather than synopses, or even production stills. But the local commercial networks aren't about to help - they still see IceTV as stripping away revenue with ad-skipping features, when really they should see IceTV as one of the few things that can help them win and retain what remains of a viable media audience. Sigh.