Cable operators and major film studios have agreed on a standardized system to encode every video asset with a unique identifier so that movies, TV shows and even video clips can be tracked.

CableLabs, MovieLabs, Comcast and Rovi drove the creation of the Entertainment Identifier Registry (EIDR) to track movies, TV shows and other assets.

Companies involved with the creation and distribution of video have lacked a single, standardized way to tag video in a manner similar to the way books, for example, are tagged with ISBN numbers. Such tagging will support the ability to search, track rights and report revenue based on an assets’ unique ID.

Members of EIDR will have open access to the registry and/or be able to supply their content to the registry for identification. Each asset will be assigned a unique number that includes a short EIDR identifier prefix, a 16-digit alphanumeric suffix and a check digit.

The means of encoding appears to be technology-agnostic.

Adam Powers, director of standards and emerging technology at Rovi, in response to a question from CED, wrote: “Depending on the use case, the identifier may be embedded as a watermark, be the result of a fingerprinting algorithm, embedded as metadata in an MPEG file, or be carried externally as part of the XML that describes an asset. We have considered setting best practices and documenting use cases around each, but that is still part of our potential future work.”

Potential benefits include increased accuracy of information flowing to consumers and lower cost and more efficient back office processes. Unique IDs are expected to help eliminate confusion between assets with same name or different cuts of the same video. For content producers, the ability to register all of their assets should help simplify their post-production process.

One of the issues left unaddressed is how to identify and tag content that has already been distributed.

Powers said: “There will be some adoption curve before all (or most) assets have EIDR numbers associated with them. A good portion of existing assets may be associated with the identifiers as EIDR becomes part of metadata feed from suppliers such as Rovi. In the long term, associating the identifiers with assets at the source, either as part of a formal standard (Blu-ray, MPEG, etc.) or through less formal methods, will be the most important to the adoption of EIDR.”

The non-profit global independent registry is also backed by Deluxe, Universal Pictures, Neustar, Paramount Pictures, Sonic Solutions, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Walt Disney Pictures, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Motion Picture Association of America, Civolution, Vobile, INA (L’institut national de l’audiovisuel) and others.

Mark Hess, senior vice president of advanced business and technology development at Comcast, said: “EIDR provides the much-needed foundation to present consistent data that will allow customers to discover and watch video on multiple platforms. We’re continually offering customers more content, and this is one of the tools that will help us build products to enhance their viewing experiences."

The registry is expected to be available to members in early 2011. EIDR will provide a set of APIs for developers of third-party applications and services, such as workflow integration, reporting and enhanced metadata.

Organized into a hierarchical reference system that links relevant pieces of content to one another, the registry is centralized in a single database that utilizes a sophisticated de-duplication system to ensure objects are registered under a unique ID.

It is being developed as an open, standards-based effort built on the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) system, created by the International DOI Foundation and based on the widely used Handle System persistent identifier technology, the IEDR said.

The registry is supported by member dues. The consortium is looking for far greater participation internationally.