Today, Blinkx, a San Francisco-based video-search engine, announced a new search tool that it hopes will allow people to more easily find entire episodes of television shows such as Lost, 24, and Desperate Housewives. The tool, called Blinkx Remote, offers a quick, concise way to find TV shows–from content providers around the Web–and related information instead of having to wade through video-search results that include partial clips of shows, commentaries, and random collections of episodes in no particular order. Blinkx Remote appears at the top of Blinkx search results when a person searches for the title of a show, and it lets people pin down the exact season and episode that they want to find. In addition, the tool offers links to information about the shows from online sources such as Wikipedia and IMDB.com, as well as links to sites, including Amazon and iTunes, where users can purchase DVDs or high-quality downloads of the show. Essentially, Blinkx Remote is an attempt to create a one-stop shop for all online TV surfing.
Within the past six months, says Suranga Chandratillake, cofounder and CTO of Blinkx, more and more full-length television shows have arrived on the Web. And within the past three months, he says, people have started to change the way they search for online video. Instead of just looking for highlights from The Daily Show, for instance, people are looking for ways to watch the whole show. “There’s been a massive increase in TV content online,” says Chandratillake, “and users have caught up with that reality.”
Searching for a particular video online is tricky, and being able to identify shows by season and episode, as well as folding in other relevant information as Blinkx Remote does, is even more of a challenge, says Chandratillake. Typically, online video search relies on a handful of approaches, such as looking through text metadata associated with a video, which includes file names and extra bits of identifying information; looking at text labels, called tags, which users assign to clips; and looking at the text around the video on the site where it is displayed. But these approaches have drawbacks, says Chandratillake. For instance, metadata often doesn’t have enough information to identify a video, and the weakness of user tags, he says, is that anyone can label a video with “Britney Spears,” whether or not it has anything to do with the pop star. And increasingly, Chandratillake adds, sources of long-form shows such as ABC.com have very little information on the site around the video. “Many completely use Flash,” he says, “which makes for a cool-looking interface, but [it] makes it very hard for search engines.”