When I want to go to the movies I head over to rottentomates.com to get a sense of the choices. It isn’t nearly as accurate at netflix.com since the tomatometer is a general population of reviews as opposed to matching other users to my reviews and tastes. I find that even though I pay for so many TV stations (Verizon FIOS mid-tier plan with HBO, including all HBO movies and shows free on demand) I still gravitate to streaming Netflix because of the quality rating structure even if their selection is modest these days. I just don’t know if that HBO movie is going to be my taste, and I don’t want to waste time finding out. How can my reliance on review data be leveraged to totally control my viewing habits?

I should start by saying that in this form this would certainly violate the TOS for each company. The methods would need to be massaged.

Plan 1: Mashup with Rotten Tomatoes at the core

The TV listings are available online, albeit difficult to find a simple feed, it can be obtained. Once you have, say, HBO listings, the next step is to determine the quality of this movie. A script needs to log into RottenTomatoes or connect via their API and retrieve each HBO movie in turn. Provided the movie isn’t older than RottenTomatoes there will be a tomatometer rating. Showing rating metadata next to the HBO listing can make browsing the HBO choices more pleasurable.

Plan 2: Mashup with Netflix at the core

Again, once you have HBO listings, the next step is to determine the quality of this movie, but make it the quality for the individual. A script needs to log into your Netflix account (ideally you would use their API but I think this would violate the terms), and browse to each HBO movie in turn. Because Netflix has data for all DVDs there will be a recommendation for almost everything, and since it is browsing under the user’s account it has the personalized user’s preference data. Adding this personal estimating rating metadata to the HBO listings would be an even greater boon.

Plan 3: Mashup with Both, Settle on the Highest Bidder

It seems to me that Netflix and RottenTomatoes should be at war. Their ratings data is worth a fortune and to realize their fortunes they need to play in the same space. I don’t think they’ve realized yet that they are mortal enemies as of yet.

Constructing the system described above to work with both data sets would allow for selling out to the highest bidder and then dumping the looser’s metadata, propelling one or the other to dominance.

Plan 4: Flixter or Netflix FTW

Although written as an evil business plan for a 3rd party, this would be a brilliant move on the part of either company.

I believe Flixter, the owners of RottenTomatoes, is heading in this direction. They have recognized that their data can be sold while not harming their web presence and increasing their name recognition. Having tomatometer icons embedded in listings is a good thing all around.

Netflix has even more to gain. With an extended Netflix app they could usurp the guide listing from the cable companies. They would intermix Netflix and broadcast content, but by including a default “commercial free” and “not modified from original” option it would eliminate any revenue stream for the cable providers. Netflix would be a hero to the consumer appearing to play nice with others, and it would give the illusion of more content options since it presents cable broadcast options. Finally it offloads some of their carrier fees to the telcos by suggesting watching free “on demand” shows. And since Netflix data is personal it is naturally higher quality than RottenTomatoes. A move like this would limit RottenTomatoes dataset to new releases, where they would still be king, only selling their catalog of data to second tier listings services.

Although Netflix is totally dominant in streaming app quality and ubiquity, the listings and seamless channel changing is the main challenge. They could do a licence deal with TiVo or do their own CableCard hardware. Alternately they could initially enhance the current Netflix app on various supported devices (Roku, AppleTV, Google TV, possibly Nexus Q or OUWA) , with the listings but skip  the automatic channel changing, or restrict it to tablet/phone/pc at first.

In any case, he who owns the mashup of personalized reviews and listings will own my viewing life.

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