On Saturday at SXSW, I had the distinct pleasure of introducing two experts from the worlds of AI and entertainment. Manoj Saxena is CognitiveScale’s Chairman, founder of a $100M cognitive computing seed fund, and the first person to take IBM Watson out of the labs and apply it to business processes. The other gentleman, Cameron Davies, is SVP of Decision Sciences at NBCUniversal, responsible for the development and execution of advanced analytics, data and research strategies driving NBCU priorities. For over two decades, first at Disney and now NBC, Cameron has applied technology to make a difference in the world of creatives.
AI is Playing a Leading Role Behind the Scenes
As Cameron reminded the audience, storytelling is fundamental to who we are as a species. It was both educational and inspiring to hear him then describe the role of machine learning and AI in helping writers and producers craft their stories and find their audience. NBCU is the largest cable portfolio operating today. Their vast reach means that they have a trove of viewer data (including sentiment and behavior patterns) with which AI can be used to shape story narratives, and to identify the best NBCU property, day of the week and time of day for a particular kind of story to reach its most receptive audience.
AI as Collaborator
Cameron made clear that NBCU has never looked at AI as a replacement for talented individuals developing compelling story lines. “Creative is king,” he said. “There’s no substitute for great creatives. We think we can help enable them (creatives) by providing them information. It’s about augmenting creativity.”
Manoj then added that the notion of AI as assisting not replacing workers is at the very heart of CongitiveScale’s technology and market approach. “For us and inside our customer organizations AI means Augmented Intelligence,” he said. “This is about the pairing of mankind and machine, making employees smarter with AI not obsolete. I believe AI will uplift 1.2 billion jobs, far more than it will replace.”
AI as Business Partner
Of course entertainment is big business and AI is being used to make better business decisions too. The amount of money invested in every new show pilot, Cameron explained, is between $2.5-$5 million. And over the last five years across the television landscape, only three percent of shows saw their audiences grow from premiere to finale. Eighty percent of programs won’t make it to a fourth season.
With such long odds and large sums of money involved, AI’s contribution to increasing a program’s viewership means investments in production can be recouped and profitability increased.
“Even if we increase the odds by only a couple of percentage points it’s worth millions and millions of dollars to the network,” Cameron said. “Small changes drive big results.”
CognitiveScale is also being used by NBCU to driver better advertising engagement. NBCU recently asked CogntiveScale for help using AI to identify the attributes that make some Super Bowl commercials perform better than others. With the cost of a 30-second commercial during the game being $5 million, advertisers were obviously interested in this insight. Moreover, NBC wanted to provide this information to advertisers so that the network’s viewers would have a more favorable, engaging experience with ads.
The Best is Yet to Come
As exciting as the collaboration between CognitiveScale and NBCU has been, Manoj concluded the SXSW session by stressing the need for more “tools and technology to democratize AI.”
“Just like WordPress democratized web development we will see this same pattern unfold in AI,” Manoj said. “Today we’re enabling the machine learning experts, those who think big about the future of AI, and the software developers, the ones charged with putting it into production for business, to work together. In this way AI begins to live up to its potential as a business capability.”
I’ll have more from SXSW 2018 in the coming days. If you’re in Austin for the conference and interested in talking, you can reach me at email@example.com
If you want to know more about how AI can drive efficacies in advertising through digital media, check out our case study.