News & Views

Tim Waddingham on the complexity of personalization

Embracing the kaleidoscope

At the OTT Executive Summit of December 11-13, 2023, Tim Waddingham engaged in a very insightful panel talk with Alex Campos (TelevisaUnivision) and Michael Nagle (Streaming Gannett/USA Today) about perfecting personalization to match viewers to the ideal content and viewing experience.

Tim Waddingham initiates a thought-provoking conversation, suggesting that achieving true personalization might be challenging and even somewhat illusory. He highlights the difficulty of creating unique content for each individual and questions whether viewers would sit through extended programs solely based on personalized recommendations. Tim advocates for the approach to focus on catering to specific viewer groups.

According to the panellists, the complexity arises when determining what content to schedule, on which channel, and at what time. Creating linear schedules for a mass audience requires efficient tools and systems, and managing large portfolios across multiple digital channels presents a formidable challenge.

The approach involves understanding user preferences, utilizing robust metadata for on-demand content, leveraging real-time data for personalization, and incorporating recommendation engines and AI strategies. The panellists emphasize the importance of involving consumers in the decision-making process to avoid imposing solutions that might not align with their preferences.


As the discussion deepens, the panellists express a shared sentiment that returning to bundling could simplify the consumer experience. Tim highlights the potential of television as a versatile portal for various content, from commerce to crucial information. He advocates for a reevaluation of media, urging a shift in perspective. He stresses the importance of quick experimentation and learning from data, urging the industry to adapt swiftly to changing dynamics, and emphasizes the need to discard ineffective strategies and legacy processes to pave the way for innovation.

Data transparency

Data transparency emerges as a common issue, impacting the ability to achieve effective personalization. Lack of agreement on terminology and metrics hinders the seamless exchange of information. Platforms need to assist the viewers in making decisions based on data.

The conversation delves into the significance of data in measuring audience engagement and making informed decisions in live programming. Tim highlights a solution that utilizes actionable data to supercharge content distribution, ensuring content is scheduled based on past performance and predicted future success.

While personalization has made significant strides in music streaming, the panellists note that a similar level of personalization is yet to be achieved in television and content scheduling. While platforms like Netflix may suggest genres based on past viewing, the industry is still navigating the complexities of tailoring content recommendations individually.


The debate emphasized the challenges and strategies involved in achieving effective personalization in content scheduling, highlighting the critical role of data, metadata, and advanced tools in meeting the diverse preferences of a broad audience. The panellists gave their perspectives on reimagining media experiences through bundling, effective platform use, and the delicate balance between personalization and scalability. They underscored the need for a customer-centric approach and generating new choices rather than forcing predefined solutions. The overarching theme is one of adaptability, experimentation, and providing audiences with the flexibility to choose the content experience that suits them best.

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